There Goes Salt Lake, Bulldozing My Memories Again. / Post.

The church I attended as a kid is being torn down, the people are now renting space from the Episcopal church down the street. As I’m now Episcopalian, but taking a break from weekly attendance, I’m feeling very off-balance about this.

They sold the property to an apartment developer, no surprise there. Salt Lake is undergoing a housing boom.

My mom served on the board for years; we were deeply involved with youth group, the annual picnic, the annual rummage sale and other events. My school years were the “high point” era, and I knew everyone quoted or given a photo credit in the article. It’s weird seeing those names in print.

Mom would be outraged by the one old stained-glass window being sold “across the divide,” but she’d be pragmatic about getting the best price.

She stopped attending regularly in about 1995, mostly because her friends had passed and she didn’t bond with the newer people and the new pastor. And she cut back on driving, too.

What social life I had in school was because we had a fun youth group; we went on trips and did service projects.

All that is long gone, and soon the building will be gone, too. It’s funny that some of the same people are there, though.

Click to open external link The Salt Lake Tribune As LDS and other Christian congregations shrink, what happens to their empty buildings? The First Congregational Church of Salt Lake City, started in 1865, has been housed in three different buildings. At its height in the 1970s, it had between 350 and 450 members. Now it’s fewer than 100, with average Sunday attendance between 25 and 30. Read the article on »
— Read on

Easy Fat Quarter Friendly Gift Bags

Make reusable gift bags instead of buying gift paper bags on the way to the event and frantically performing Carigami while your spousal/partneric unit drives. More sustainable, but you do need to plan a bit further ahead than “do we have time to stop at Da Jool for a card?”

Fabric gift bags

I made these for my adult nephew for his son, and my adult niece for her daughter. Successfully handed the first one off, then got into Procrastination Mode for the second one, as in “Oh, I want to put more stuff in it before I pack it up and mail it to her down there in WTF Jesusland, IL.”

So it’s still here, and I still don’t have it packed with more stuff. And I’m wondering if she’s in town this weekend, or if I’ll just have to send it priority mail because of course, it’s an 8-day holiday.

But definitely feeling this now, as there are candles in the bag:

Read on

Cut 2 outer, 2 inner, 2 Craft Fuse or light fusible 10H X 13W. Fuse outer first, then sew. Notch 2” bottom corners.

I used plain white flannel that I had kicking around for the lining to make a nice soft feel, The outer fabric is stiffer due to the fusible interfacing. Sew 3/8” side seams on outer, 1/2” side seams on inner, can choose to do 1/2” or 1/4” on the very bottom seam for both.

Based on a deconstructed paper bag for the proportions and scratch measurements and this tutorial from

I thought about adding some sew-in hook-and-loop fastenings or a button/elastic closure, but in the end I liked how they looked like Southwestern luminaria with a Judaica twist. A friend gave me the fabric, which was by Riley Blake according to the selvage label.

I Begin Blogging Again To Resist The Melon Husk

With Twitter being ruined and hamstrung by well-known rich man-baby Melon Husk, I’ve been considering options and preparing several lifeboats.

This tweet – the whole beginning of the thread, really – encapsulates what I feel is my way forward.

The mention of Google Reader’s much-lamented loss was also the beginning of trying to find a quick, easy way to “microblog” via G+ (also gone) and Twitter (going) for me.

So I finished a draft post about last week’s trip to Salt Lake. Published.

I had Thursday and Friday off, thank God, so I spent it working on the T-shirt quilt which is turning out to be quite heavy, and I had a number of “learning experiences” during construction (okay, “mistakes were made.”) It will be a wall hanging so the ugly back won’t be visible. Next time I make one, will use a normal woven cotton backing! But it has been fun remembering the various trips (and figuring out how to turn the stains and bad seam intersections into fun appliqué bits). I did a lot of anxiety-reducing procrastinating, never fear. And ordered some fabric for my next few projects, too. 

Thanksgiving Day was spent baking a couple of loaves of sourdough/oat bread, cooking sweet potatoes, prepping carrots to steam, and packing them all into crocks and Dutch ovens into this insulated bag thing I bought from Amazon. The bag will eventually be a bread proofer, as I also got a seed warming mat and a thermostat controller, much cheaper than a Brod and Taylor proofer and multitaskers, too. Anyway, dinner was at my in-law’s new place, which is all of 5 minutes’ drive from us. So easy.

Other family members gathered for brunch that morning before dispersing to various other branches of their extended families; for us it was nice to just be the 4 of us plus one guest who is part of the family but didn’t have dinner plans other than going to the earlier brunch to see some of the young ones. 

One of my Illinois nieces seems to be needing to assert independence or something and did her own thing; not sure what’s up with that but drama has always been her M.O. – now  it appears that she’ll also skip an upcoming birthday for a very young lad, and holiday gatherings because “reasons.” We have something for her and her daughter but keep putting off presenting it to her, either because we didn’t want to pull focus in front of her ex-husband’s family, or because she teases her birth family with a possible appearance at a planned event, and then doesn’t show up (again, “reasons”).

One thing for sure, I won’t be making any more elaborate (or amateurish) attempts at sewing projects for her, because she’ll just throw them out.

Meanwhile, Twitter is in the news, and not for good reasons. Supposedly Husk is letting Herr Drumpf and some other horribles back in. Trolls running wild! Spam galore! Advertisers leaving in droves! Hackers shitposting! Oh, the inhumanity!

You may think that I’m grousing unnecessarily about Twitter’s decline under the overshitlordship of the Melon Husk, but events in Iran, China, Ukraine, and everywhere in the world where freedom of the press and of self-expression is not assured show that Twitter has been an invaluable resource. The Husker Duh has been gutting the security and human rights teams, not to mention the “banging on stuff” teams. It’s not good.

I’m exploring footholds on Counter.Social (run by an anonymous hacker dude, so hardly sketchy at all) and (all the cool newsies are waitlisted) and some instance of Mastodon (where a RL friend, Jette, plus some Resistance crewmates have landed). 
And I’ve been engaging more on Facebook with friends and family. It seems like blogging here, and having IFTTT handle crosspositing, may be my way forward. I like Twitter, but can try to retrain my brain to write long-form instead of short form again. 

You Can’t Go Home, Or To The Cabin, Again

Old Log Cabin, Lamb’s Canyon

The family cabin is slowly collapsing… this photo is from 2005, so things have probably gotten even more dilapidated. My cousins own it and though we used to have access, apparently that’s no longer as simple as asking for the key and checking the calendar. My oldest cousin tried to sell it a few years back, causing shock and dismay. Yet it’s a pretty big tax payment each year, so I can see why he’d want to sell.

Reportedly he sold off the piece of the property where I stood to take this… there’s a fancy new vacation home there now. There’s some sad memories associated with that spot, but some of us consider the property almost sacred ground. So it’s painful. I still have dreams where I’m in the mountains, trying to get to The Cabin.

My mom’s old house still looks much the same; on last weekend’s visit to Salt Lake, I didn’t need to drive by, but my niece did, and took this photo.

Both buildings have seen better days. Both contain memories of people long gone. I spent last weekend with family and had fun, but felt this pull to look for places I remembered (so much of Salt Lake is being rebuilt, it’s hard to find those old familiar places).

My room was the dormer window. They’ve put in window-mounted AC there and in the dining room window… the weaklings. And the only visible change is the fence on the side, and they took all the stinky “Trees of Heaven” down. Good riddance, they rot from the inside out and drop a mess of branches after the smallest storms.

What I wouldn’t give to smell the scent of those trees on a sticky, hot night again… or to lie awake in an old Coleman sleeping bag at The Cabin, listening to the faint hooting of owls and the stealthy fluttering of the resident bat.

It was good to see my side of the family last week – both sisters, all four nieces and most of their spouses. It wasn’t a super planned long weekend; we hung out at Holly’s house to reconnect Thursday and Friday, we managed to meet up with Raeanne and her husband Ron at Hogle Zoo (Ranny and I were raised together and we’re closer in age than I am to my sisters; same with all of my nieces).

We even had a chance to meet some of David’s co-workers face-to-face for dinner at a suburban Italian joint, a very enjoyable evening. Who knew that one couple would turn out to be avid parachutists??

Salt lake has changed and is changing so much. We stayed downtown near the City-County Building, now surrounded by a nice park and a lot of Trax light rail lines. I chuckled as we passed the corner where Mom got a ticket for pulling a “U-ey” in the middle of the road. “Ma’am, I’m afraid I have to ticket you, you can’t do that right in front of the main police station.” Heh.

Every time we went somewhere, I felt a need to spot familiar buildings and landmarks and reconnect to forgotten memories. However, though we drove down the neighborhood arterial street near Mom’s house, I didn’t need to drive by (although Raeanne did later to take her picture). It was somehow comforting to see some of my neighborhood remains as I remember it, and some shops and houses have been nicely updated.

Holly’s party was held at Trolley Square and it was fabulous – the local arts alliance have a theater and event space and the food was catered by a local Brazilian restaurant and butcher, so good. I even danced with my sister and nieces, though the band was a Grateful Dead tribute outfit and definitely not my favorite party music. It was interesting though in that the keyboard player was Mike Lookinland, yep, from The Brady Bunch.

David and I drove up the canyons – ALL of them. Emigration, Parley’s, Mill Creek, Little Cottonwood, Big Cottonwood. But we mostly had to go to Lamb’s Canyon to see how far up we could drive in our rented SUV. Turns out, not far at all, there’s a new gate at the mouth of the canyon, just off I-80.

On Birthdays, And Continuing To Have Them

More than a week ago, it was my birthday, so once again, what is it to me?

Wedding at The Alps, Boulder Canyon Inn September 6, 1997

25 years ago, at a very advanced and nearly-spinsterly age, I married the love of my life, David. We met in Colorado, and a little more than a year later, we got married in Colorado, at a B&B that’s now closed and for sale. Much has changed since this photo was taken – my mom on the left died in 2006, and my mother-in-law Leah died in 2012. The Alps closed a few years ago; we stopped by on our June road trip to Colorado and spent a rather sad hour walking around seeing if the owners were there to condole with. We had stayed there a half-dozen times over the years and in its prime, it was the nicest B&B on the Western Slope, IMNSHO.

The Alps Boulder Canyon Inn – closed but not forgotten

So it was my birthday, and I’m not having it. Meaning, I didn’t want to make plans, or be the center of attention. And yet attention is insisting on being paid, as my in-laws dropped by with a card and their cat in a carrier (their house is on the market and was being shown).

Linda and the Aged Person

This is Linda, my step-MIL, and me looking about how you do on 20 minutes’ notice that company is coming and maybe one might want to brush hair and put something on other than pajamas. So I chose my “unicorn travel consultant” T-shirt because I’m all about formality and shit. Gracie the cat stayed in her carrier, she’s somewhat grouchy on decanting and would deffo be disenchanted to be encanted after only about an hour.

Sheldon, my pop-in-law, brought Dunkin because he had a gift card.

I was all set to have a nice lazy Saturday morning, bloggity blathering about my natal day indifference, when we got the call. WBEZ was comfortably into Saturday Edition, we had coffee, I had my lap desk and iPad and wireless keyboard set, WordPress set, and… “ring ring, can we drop something off for the birthday person in about half an hour?”

There was consternation, vigorous miming of reluctance, eventual acceptance, and then David leapt heroically into the shower while I bustled around finding something to wear and tidying the living room.

I’ve been very, very anti-social this year, some of which I detailed in a recent blogpost, but when they arrived, they had Gracie in a carrier and just wanted to hug, hand off the card, and go sit in their car at Dunkin and wait while the realtor showed a prospective buyer around their house. I came out to see Gracie, barefoot on a cool, autumnal day, and thought “Oh, for hell’s sake, why not just make coffee?” They brandished Dunkin Donuts gift cards and said they weren’t planning on staying. I suggested that I could make a pot of coffee, they could go get donuts, and come back to hang out in comfort, with Gracie in the carrier.

It worked out fine. By the time they got back I had a coffee tray all set up with creamer and mugs and a carafe, and even a bottle of Bailey’s that I usually set out on Christmas brunch. What the hell, socializing isn’t so bad even for a near-recluse. So they came, and we had a pleasant time discussing the sale of houses and the renovation of houses, and now they’re off home to wait to hear if there will be an offer or not.

Today’s plan: have to get some stuff together to go down to Aurora for the Tour de Cure, which I’ve been very quiet about this year, too. I spent the last 5 years begging for donations to my fundraiser for TdC and this year…. I just didn’t want to keep begging on Facebook or at church, didn’t want to go to church at all, didn’t want to post anything on Facebook at all, and so on. I do have some gift checks to log. The ride is tomorrow and I haven’t ridden more than a few miles this year, because Reasons.

UPDATE, a week later, because I had some important reclusing to do.

Eric Spade, Laurie Scheffers, Carlos Gravis, and me. PICKLE JUICE

Tour de Cure was Sunday, September 25th, but the night before, we went down to Aurora to stay overnight because David was riding the metric century and had an early start. He ended up riding 67.49 miles – he said “bonus miles” which usually means a) he made a wrong turn or b) the official route had “mileage creep” once they finally positioned the rest stops and finalized the route

We had dinner at Two Brothers Roundhouse with Rita Barksdale, who came in from Virginia to ride with us. David leant her one of his spare steeds, and she also had bonus miles because she couldn’t decide which route to ride and freelanced her way to the shorter route after deciding the metric century was biting off more than she could chew on a borrowed bike.

Rita Barksdale, me, David, and Kate Cogswell after everyone finished.

I came in earlier than the others so I had the fun of cheering for people crossing the line and dancing by myself to the musical stylings of an okay Heart/Styx/Cheap Trick cover band. I ached the next day more from all the gyrating on a hard surface than a piddly little 14 mile ride. I’m way out of training, and also I stubbed my toe badly on Saturday so I didn’t want to risk losing the toenail. Ugh.

It was good to see friends that we hadn’t been with in years; I spent a lot of time jabbering with Eric Christy, who used to be a chairperson of the planning committee. We groused quite a bit about how things were organized for this first year back post-Covid, but we weren’t involved in planning (in previous years David was on the planning committee and headed Team Red Chicago). We’ve all drawn back the last few years.

Attendance was down; the event was moved to September from June during Covid when they thought there was still a chance of putting on an in-person event the first year. In 2019 we had a rainout due to a severe thunderstorm that forced a cancellation as we were all ready to start; it’s severely impacted the Tour de Cure ever since.

You can still donate to my fundraiser for a month, here’s the link if interested.

Ride With Ginny

Anyway, I wore my Red Rider jersey and yelled “Go Red Rider” every time I saw someone else wearing one, but it was so cold and windy that I had my windbreaker on for the first half of the ride. So I didn’t hear any callouts in kind.

I have to get serious about riding and nutrition again, because for the last few years I’ve been really slack on doing regular blood glucose tests and my weight has crept up. So after my experience last week, feeling sort of let down, I decided to start testing consistently again.

And it’s clear my numbers have crept up again along with my weight. I seem to go into remission when I’m fitter, so it’s time to get my indoor trainer tidied up and figure out how to get Zwift started again.

I prefer indoor riding to outdoor, anyway; I get more consistent results and I completely avoid issues with road-riding nerves.

I do want to continue having birthdays as it’s kind of a requirement for living. As I’ve reached the advanced age that confers Medicare coverage (yes, I signed up) and I see and hear my friends’ stories of various health problems, it seems like a dumb idea to ride the couch instead of my bike.

Also, in November we’re going to Shit Lake Salty to help my niece Holly celebrate a big birthday and her retirement (she’s a VA nurse-practitioner muckety-muck of some kind, goes to international conferences sometimes). My whole family will be there so I’d like to be looking and feeling fitter. Need to get a few things done before then, too

I may not like celebrating my own birthday, but it’ll be fun helping Holly celebrate hers. Many happy returns!

Coolio, ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ Rapper, Dies at 59 –

From a bookish, asthmatic child to crack addict to mainstream recording powerhouse, Coolio charted a path to hip-hop superstardom like no other.
— Read on

Sad news for music fans. Fans of fine action movies will look up his Wikipedia listing and wonder if they should watch his movie “Submerged” out of respect.

They should not. Nil nisi bonum, my dudes.


I’ve been remembering a lot of things today and in the days since the Queen’s passing, and today being the anniversary of 9/11, remembering that, too.

The British are very, very good at remembering things. We’re… not but there are some memorials that we do well. Pearl Harbor is one. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is another. Some of the 9/11 memorials are meaningful to me personally (as I’m in travel, today always brings back memories of the terrible days of silence in the skies above Chicagoland during the nationwide ground hold).

In November 2010, David and I took a trip to the UK. It wasn’t the best time of the year, but it was what I could get. We were staying near Buckingham Palace, so Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square were within walking distance.

There were poppies everywhere. So on a more recent vacation, I took this picture with my plain old iPhone. I stopped using my Canon about the time we were in England. These were growing on the edge of somebody’s family Chautauqua cottage, down hill from their property and likely volunteers from a very old planting, because I was hiking along a fire road below the houses.

Poppies, Boulder CO 2022

During the November 2010 UK trip, we were in London during the Armistice Day observances. The crowds were immense, packed in 5 and 10 deep all along the streets along the route of the parade.. We picked a spot near where the royal cars went into the back of the government buildings closest to the Cenotaph where all the royals were to lay wreaths. We didn’t have a hope of making our way through the crowds to see that, so we stayed on the edge of Parliament Square, near some protesters, but we got lots of great views of some of the veterans marching in their uniforms as they swung around the corner toward the end of the route at the Abbey..

Armistice Day marching group, November 2010

This group struck me – there were so many like this, in different uniforms, walking or rolling along in motorized carts, solemn and proud. I loved them in their kilts and tartan trousers and wondered how many they had lost in their group over the years.

Some of them may still be with us, and if they are able, they will be there somewhere in the crowds during the Queen’s long progress toward her resting place in the Abbey. Some may stand near the roadside in Scotland, if they could get there, or pay their respects at Holyrood, where she will lie in repose until Tuesday.

When the observances get to London, I expect the streets will be completely full of people, the Tube will be jammed, and it will be much like the Armistice crowds from our visit – quiet, sad, respectful.

Naturally, it’s a logistical and security nightmare, and I’ll heave a huge sigh of relief when it’s decently done and everyone of the heads of state are safely home.

I took a lot of fairly good photos with that Canon 30D but lost interest in lugging it around when I realized it was hard to get really sharp focus while wearing glasses. The photos were all filed using an old Google app called PIcasa, but they’re still up on a web archive. Some of them ended up as banners on the blog.

There are lots of kinds of remembrance today, here in the US and over there in the UK. It’s a sad, dark, murky day here and the light makes everything outside look like it’s underwater. It’s not like the incredibly bright, sunny day 21 years ago at all. The murk suits the mood.

Easily Resize Your Photos With This Simple iOS Shortcut

OMG it’s working…

Scene from a woodland walk

This image should be resized as a 800px wide PNG, if I did this right. I’ve never bothered to use the Shortcuts feature on the iPhone but I encountered a problem with an oversized image.

Easily Resize Your Photos With This Simple iOS Shortcut
— Read on

Vaccine Dreams

At approximately 1020am this morning, I was sitting in a CVS Pharmacy getting a Moderna Covid19 bivalent booster vaccine, along with a flu shot. Within 3 hours, I was having the weirdest, semi-conscious, somewhat lucid dream of my life. I may be needing tea and sympathy tomorrow if, by some reports, the second day is the kicker.

Because we’re Team Moderna here, I had been looking at the various pharmacy sites ever since the new boosters were approved by the CDC, trying to find Moderna vaccine available near me. Once again I had to go pretty far afield to find it; not as far as the very first time when I had to drive about an hour south for my first 2 vaccines. This time I only had to go 30 minutes away, which is a 50% improvement, I guess. But for my previous booster, we got to go to breakfast with family at a a nearby restaurant and then fan out to multiple pharmacies after to get our boosters.


FINALLY. Team Moderna FTW!

David was off on a group gravel ride with friends, I had the morning free. So off I went, got my jabs, and on my way home caught up with a family friend via (hands free) phone as I drove.

During this call, I learned that a young family member’s toddler was never vaccinated, and is now ill from Covid for the second time. And the young family member sent a photo of a Covid test to others, asking “Does the faint line mean I have Covid too?”


That is some world-class duh-nial there, kiddo. And it’s not the first time that this family member has questioned the evidence of her own eyes on a Covid test. She also wasn’t fully boosted, though with Omicron’s ability to evade previous versions of the vaccines, that’s not surprising. I’m just irked at her for putting her kid at risk, and wonder if she’s been hanging out with other vaccine duh-nialists and listening to the other insanities.

Anyway, after getting home and toddling around, I started to feel a slight headache, so I took a couple of Ibuprofen and settled down on the couch to relax.

While in the middle of composing a tweet, for God’s sake, I was suddenly aware that my consciousness was sinking deep into the couch and taking me with it. I remember thinking “This is a hell of a side effect, like a drug. Might as well enjoy it.” I couldn’t move, but I could think, and it was dark. I was comfortable and not scared, but it seemed like a very long time went by while I was… deeply cushioned and stuff was going on around me. It seemed like there were voices. For some reason, there was something about a dog or a coyote (NOT the cartoon kind).  At the time, I didn’t think I was asleep or dreaming, but the couch itself was rotated 90 degrees from its normal position and was against the living room windows.

After quite a long time in this altered state, my consciousness… resurfaced up from within the cushioning darkness and I gradually realized it was still full daylight, and then realized I was “awake” and could “move.” 

It took about 5 minutes or more to figure out that I must have been asleep and having a semi-lucid dream, but it was more a kind of twilight with some ability to think. I’ve had vivid lucid dreams before and this wasn’t that. Actually, I normally don’t experience the sensation of falling asleep; it has to sort of sneak up on me while my mind is distracted (usually via music or an audiobook and sleep headphones). Today I think I actually experienced the loss of consciousness to sleep. Very weird. 

I also spent a further 5 minutes or so trying to figure out if I really had been asleep, and if so, for how long. I woke up about 2pm, and had stopped for lunch before coming home, so I think I lost about 2 hours. 

As for other post-booster side effects, my shoulder muscles are a bit sore and my nose is runny, but that’s about it. 

David got back from his ride, totally wiped out, so we opted not to go out again for dinner with his dad (we went to a local brewpub last night on a whim). Tomorrow David has to get up ungodly early for an airport drop off; we’re hosting Guest Cat Gracie again for a week as a consequence. It’s nice to have a cat about the house. 


Homescapes: Time Suck, Coin Suck, Energy Suck, Yet I Can’t Stop Playing

Homescapes Level 7602, “The Wood Estate Mystery” – is it time to move on?

Homescapes is a video game for smartphones and tablets that’s designed to remove money from your wallet, time from your day, and you from engagement with everything else that’s going on in your life.

Match 3 – what to do? Hyper bombs, jets, or rockets?

It’s a match-3 type of game, very similar to Bejeweled (which I used to like a lot) or Candy Crush. It has levels to pass, and to break up the repetitiveness, it’s also an exploration, makeover, redesign game. There are periodic events where you compete head to head, within your team, or against other teams. There are also “seasons” lasting about 4 weeks where you are supposed to gather tokens to trade in to redesign areas of the game, or to change the appearance of an in-game character. There’s a fair amount of exploration; as you progress through the levels you first renovate and redecorate the main character’s family home, then a lake cabin that he buys, then an estate belonging to an estranged family member. Along the way you help “Austin,” the main character, make his parents’ lives better and fix their mysteriously neglected mansion. There’s a whole storyline with characters, separate from the simple match-3 mechanics where you gather tokens and stars to advance the “plot.”

Team Freckle Juice

I’m on a pretty good “team,” Freckle Juice. I thought the name was funny when I joined but I hope it doesn’t put off prospective new members who might suspect that it’s for pale people only. When I joined, it was new and I was the second or third person. The team leader is pretty engaged and expects team members to be minimally engaged, which is better than my last team. Homescapes has a “limited lives” system – you get 5 turns and then have to wait for your lives to refill… unless you pay extra for more lives. But you can ask for and give turns to teammates, and Facebook friends who connect to you in-game. Occasionally, we’re pretty successful as a a team in the weekly competitions. We won the one above for example. We got a lot of coin out of that.

Coins are the in-game currency; you can buy extra lives and power-ups (called boosters in-game). Stars are awarded for every level you clear – 1 level, one star. Hard levels, you get more coins. And then there’s various kinds of tokens; sometimes it’s a different kind of object that you match, like red bow ties (Austin the butler is famous for always wearing a bow tie) or some seasonal object (Christmas balls during the Christmas seasonal redesign event, etc.).

Homescapes: The Wood Estate Mystery. Energy suck, coin suck, time suck

Currently, we’re in a sort of short seasonal event called Mysteries of Wood Escape. Here’s a walkthrough on You Tube that makes it look easy and achievable in the short time you’re given (about 10-14 days on this one). Newsflash: it’s not possible to complete unless you cheat.

YouTube: Mysteries of Wood Escape Walkthrough

Here’s a good example of Time Suck: while working on this blogpost, I absent-mindedly opened the game, forgetting that today is my “seventh day” in a row, that comes with some timed bonus power-ups. They only last 30 minutes. Can’t waste time blogging when I was stuck on a level!

Time’s a wastin’! Only 26 more minutes of unlimited boosters!
Instant Showdown! Explode more bombs than the opponent!

But first, I’m offered an Instant Showdown against someone who may be a real player… all I have to do is create more bombs than they do in the next 6 hours. With the bombs booster activated, I’m pretty good at creating “carpet bombing” with the “disco ball” (like a Hypercube in Bejeweled). This is actually one I win at pretty regularly when I get a good start. Notice the extra bonus icon for an extra charge in dollars.

So, I clear quite a few of the standard match-3 levels, gaining just 9 of the blue energy bolts required by this “Wood Estate Mystery” event. During my run through the levels, I get irritated by the fact that having “double jet planes” which clear 4 spaces on landing” don’t always mean 2 separate planes hitting 2 separate targets – in this case, both planes went to the same target twice, forcing me to repeat the level at least once to finish it. The game design sometimes seems to “cheat” you out of a play. I mess myself up sometimes, too.

Boosters are counting down. Next challenge: cats and cocktails!

So I make good progress and clear as many levels as I can in the time allotted, gaining more energy to clear the Wood game, coins to buy my way out of trouble if necessary, and stars to advance the “main narrative” of helping Austin renovate the family homes.

Ads based on the mini game are banned in the UK.

But wait! I’m offered yet another side challenge, an easy looking mini-game that looks like the original ad that drew me into the Homescapes universal time/energy/star/coin black hole. Ads like this are reportedly banned in the UK as misleading as they’re not representative of normal gameplay. I knew this, very quickly, when I started about a year and a half ago (I started playing a few months before my furlough from work finally ended and I was assigned to a new set of accounts to support).

This side challenge, and many other distractions that come up, only appears when in the middle of a timed event that benefits the player.

I usually skip these as they waste time while the timer keeps ticking down, for a reward of only 50 coins and just 1 star, unless I’m close to finishing an “area” or a “day” in the main narrative and need stars.

Great! Coins, stars, and event token earned. I had zero stars. Now I have 1.

“Woo-hoo!”, as Austin the bullet is fond of saying. I cleared a “super hard” level worth 150 coins, 12 energy bolts, and… just one star. It’s always just one star, no matter how hard the level is. At this moment, an “infinite lives” timer has just expired, but I have boosters due to the “kite event” being active as long as I keep winning on the first attempt.

Energy Suck: so I go into the “Wood Estate Mystery” with more than 220 energy bolts. The premise is you have to clear brush and fog in order to reach objectives in the story (“chapters”) and along the way, pick up coins and energy and boosters from various bushes and chests that have glowing beacons. But most of these booster bushes and chests must be accessed by a very convoluted route requiring huge amounts of energy. They rarely show up in the normal course of clearing a path in the “chapter” narrative. And sometimes, you encounter a red bomb package that clears a LOT of fog at once… but costs you 1,000 coins. And in the normal game, it costs 9,00 coins to get just 5 extra moves in a level, or if outside a level, to get 5 more lives (better value unless you’re desperate to pass a difficult level).

Just buy your way out of a jam…

Energy is hard to earn, but easy… oh so easy to buy. Fortunately, Homescapes has been set so that I can’t buy anything in-game without getting David to agree to the purchase from one of his devices. This is the ONLY game or purchase that is set up like this; it’s a safety feature and I’m actually glad it’s there. I would have drained various gift debit cards otherwise.

Coin Suck: There’s ALWAYS something buy in this game. There’s a safe stuff with coins, that I earned the right to buy at a a reduced rate… 2 days into the game. I thought I was earning FREE coins. Nope.

There’s this bonus event thing that gives you boosters and coins and lives and so on as you clear levels. The goals are easy to achieve at first, and then IMPOSSIBLE to complete as you go. All to get a special “pet” that wanders around the estate, or a special profile picture. These events change monthly except that right now, it’s a weekly payment and thus is about 4 times the cost of the previous monthly bonus deals. About 3 or 4 months ago, I resolved to NOT buy my way out of hard levels any more, because I was constantly too “broke” to afford 900 coins. I also resolved longer ago than that not to buy any of the extra bonus event benefits like 8 lives instead of 5 plus more loot, because the owners of the Playrix games company are obscenely rich Russians now based in either the UK or Ireland, and I wasn’t comfortable with giving them MORE money.

So since my Homescapes team regularly seems to win or place or show in the “coin challenges” that come up every week, I’ve literally been saving my coins and not using them unless there’s a very good reason, and I keep raising my “hard deck” below which I will not go, which is currently at least 5,000 coins, but often raised to at least 8,000 coins. I’ve got pretty good strategies for not having to buy my way out of a hard level now; these include “ABC” (“always be clearing”) moves, and “XYZ” (“examine your moveZ”) for either a combination of boosters, or a move that achieves at least 2 and preferably 3 actions toward that level’s goal.

My advice to new players interested in this game is this: Don’t get sucked into it, unless you set yourself some rules to live by first. Don’t spend money. Don’t go looking for game cheats that’ll only get you banned. But do find a good team to start out with to help you with lives and tips (Facebook groups are probably the safest place to look). If you know someone who plays it, ask them if their team has an opening. Do ignore the events and redecorating that don’t interest you; they’re frustrating as you go up the levels because they’re so hard to complete and the payoff in boosters and coins isn’t worth it. Do set timers to remind you to close the game and go outside and do something else.

At some point if I keep going up the levels in my current location in-game, I’ll be in the “Tournament of Champions,” the level where people have to wait for Playrix to release new levels and eventually, new “estates” and areas around the fictional lakeside community. This isn’t ideal because as you play in “TOC” you’re not accumulating stars in order to advance quickly once a brand new area is opened (there are 3 so far). But at least I don’t plan to spend a lot of real world money from this point forward, and you shouldn’t, either.