My First Holiday Alone: New Zealand!

Guess what! This time next week I will be in New Zealand! It’s been a bit of a mixed bag of emotions booking this holiday: I’m very excited, but also very anxious as it is the first holiday that I’ve ever done alone (technically, I will be in a group but still, I have to get there alone and I don’t know anyone). I really like to throw myself in the deep end with these things. I could have just gone to Cardiff for the weekend and worked my way up but no, other side of the world it is. I’ll be sharing posts when I get back about my time there but I thought I would share how I got to this point before I go as it’s a bit of a short story in itself. I’d also love some last minute travel tips if you have any to share.

A couple of years ago, when the pandemic was in full swing, I binge watched the Lord of the Rings movies with my then-partner and I was completely blown away by how beautiful they still looked, greatly in part due to their setting in New Zealand. I’d also heard a lot of good things about the country and always felt like it was somewhere that I would enjoy visiting. After a bit of research we agreed that we would go and I began looking at itineraries, travel advice, the best time of year to go etc. I was very excited. As New Zealand was being very sensible about lockdown I bought an extra week of holiday from work for the coming year so that I could book it as soon as they opened their doors again. The plan was that we would hire a campervan and drive around both islands. However, once the discussion of putting money into the trip became a reality, my ex backtracked saying that they didn’t realise I’d meant for the year coming (despite discussing buying the extra holiday together), they thought I had meant in two years time, which I simply didn’t believe as this seemed to happen whenever we made plans to go anywhere. You can’t force someone to go on an expensive, long vacation with you though. I was very disappointed but I never let go of the idea of the trip.

Fast forward about a year, I had bought a house with this now-ex, we’d moved in and had been in our house for about 10 months when we broke up (that’s a story for another time). I left and moved in with friends and he had to buy me out of the house. Suddenly, for the first time in a long time I was in a position where I had no big responsibilities, I wasn’t tied to anyone, and I had money. The opportunity was too good to waste and as soon as the house money came through I put some aside some for a trip to New Zealand. The added bonus of it representing a big middle finger to my ex was pretty nice too.

With opportunity however also came the need for action, and this is where I started to chicken out. I don’t usually do things spontaneously and I have never been on holiday anywhere by myself before, let alone to the other side of the world. I tried to convince a couple of people to come with me but it’s a huge amount of money and a long time to be away so I didn’t want to push too hard. Knowing myself well, and therefore knowing that this would happen, my past self had intentionally told a lot of people about my plans to force my future self to do it. I knew that people would ask about the trip. The longer time went on without me making any progress, the less people would believe that I was actually going to go. Eventually, I would reach a point where I would rather buy my flight tickets than face having to admit that I got scared and decided not to go. It may be an unorthodox and self-manipulative way of doing it, but it worked.

My intention had been to keep my original plan and do the campervan trip by myself, but I weighed up the pros and cons of travelling alone vs in an organised tour group and in the end general safety and having everything organised for me won out against shyness and personal space. I booked a two week tour through Kiwi Experience where we will visit both the North and South islands in a group of 18. It is now a week before my trip and unfortunately Kiwi Experience haven’t done a lot to quell my anxiety. Firstly, there was a problem with my trip planner where I was unable to book my extra activities (such as Hobbiton, or whale watching) for a long time. Secondly, I thought that there would be a bit more contact than just an initial confirmation email, maybe a list of what to pack or a ‘just two weeks to go!’ note. I eventually had to phone them to see what was going on and they fixed my planner issue and didn’t seem fazed when I mentioned I had only received the confirmation, they seemed a bit confused as to why I was nervous but maybe I’m just too high-strung for New Zealanders.

My main concerns are primarily around the other people on the trip and being around them for so long. I can be very sociable and enjoy spending time with people but after a while I need to re-charge my social batteries and be alone for a while. I’ve also never stayed in a hostel with shared accommodation before but I know a lot of people (generally my more outgoing friends) that have done so and are incredibly nonchalant about it, so I’m sure it’s fine. I think my worst case scenario will be that I get there and I will be with a large group of outgoing, energetic 18 year olds, but it should be a mixed bag of people.

I’ll definitely follow this post up with details about my trip so keep an eye out for that in the future! In the mean time though my blog will be quiet for the next few weeks while I’m away.

If you have ever been to New Zealand what were your favourite parts? Have you got any travel tips? I love trying new food when I’m abroad, what’s something I should definitely eat while I’m there? If you also get a little anxious around people but you have travelled, how did you deal with it?

Some pics for illustrative purposes from my last trip to Barcelona:

Learning to love a lost hobby

Do you ever reminisce about an old hobby you used to have when you were younger? Something you were so passionate about but now you can’t seem to get it to work in your current lifestyle, or it doesn’t interest you as much, but you remember how much you loved it and want that passion back. You may even have tried to pick it back up again many years later and maybe you have stuck with it, or maybe it fell by the wayside again. For me, one of those lost hobbies is reading. I used to read all the time, I’d stay up late to read and would sometimes have multiple books on the go. I never imagined it would be something that I would stop but in the last few years my reading time has declined significantly to the point where almost the only time I do actively put aside time to do it is when I’m on holiday. Meanwhile, my shameful stack of unread, but ‘definitely-will-read-I-promise’ books in my room keeps growing. I know I’m not alone in this struggle, people often mention something they used to be into but don’t anymore, and it made me wonder why so many people find it hard to pick something back up that they used to enjoy so much.

What makes us stop doing the things we enjoy?

According to some interesting articles on Google (I’m not going to pretend to be some sort of hobby-recovering life coach), many things can affect our relationships with our hobbies: the hobby itself may become boring and repetitive, you might be embarrassed or scared of failing, spending time on social media is just easier, it could be that it’s a more serious issue with mental health, and finally, as you get older your life changes, you have more responsibilities and much less free time to spend.

Personally, I was most affected by changes in my daily routine and social media; I used to read on the train and tube on my way to work, then I moved and started driving instead. I would read on my lunch break, but now that I work from home I use that time to do things around the house. I’d read before bed, but then I started struggling to fall asleep and I found that listening to YouTube or podcasts helped to stop my mind from thinking 20 different things as the same time. I spend a chunk of time that I normally would have spent reading scrolling through social media, which I don’t get much from really but it’s addictive. So now it seems that I have to make time for reading, or alter my behaviour.

Learning to love again

First of all, ask yourself if it’s disinterest or avoidance, why you started the hobby in the first place, and why you stopped. Then consider how to get around these obstacles. Schedule time in to do the activity every day (if possible), not for a long time, it can be as little as 5 minutes. Or if it’s something more active find a club or a class that you can attend.

I’ve tried various ways of starting to read again in the last few years and you may be thinking that a simple solution to my reading dilemma would be to listen to audio books but I have tried and unfortunately, I don’t like them. For some reason they give me horrendous second-hand embarrassment, similar to when you go to an event that has actors and they have to interact with you and be over-the-top, it makes me want to curl up into a ball and hide. This is even the case when they are read by some of the best actors. On top of that, when I do find one that doesn’t make me cringe I struggle to pay attention. I tried really hard with Small Gods by Terry Pratchett, (read by Andy Serkis) but my mind kept wandering off and by the time I mentally tuned back in I had no idea what was going on.

Fortunately, I think I may finally have cracked it. I decided I needed to frame reading as a game or challenge to give myself a sort of rewards-based system, though I’m slightly appalled to think that I need to psychologically trick myself into doing something that I enjoy. To help with this I signed up to Goodreads and set myself the challenge of reading 24 books this year. I felt like 24 was a good number and that two books per month was challenging yet achievable. I started off well with Persuasion by Jane Austen, but then hit an obstacle on book two: The Garden of Unearthly Delights by Robert Rankin. I’ve never read any of his books before but I love Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and I’d heard he has a similar style. Unfortunately, it was not for me and rather than just put it down and move on to something else I stubbornly insisted on powering through. This backfired as it just meant that I put off reading it instead by scrolling more on my phone or watching more YouTube before begrudgingly reading a couple of pages, just to say that I had. I stopped reading for good about halfway through when (mild spoiler) the main character’s soul was stolen and I realised that I didn’t care whether he got it back or not.

My Rankin experience in The Garden of Mediocre Male Protagonists annoyed me and made me feel like I’d failed at my challenge, and by extension failed at becoming the well-read person that I want to be. Thankfully, advice came from an unexpected (but very welcome) source: Alexis from Schitts Creek; It was an episode where her stressed-out brother David is worried about his driving test and she bluntly tells him “nobody cares. No one thinks about you the way that you’re thinking about you. You always overthink everything and that’s why you fail all the time”. It may have been a bit mean but, as a big overthinker, it appealed to me. Who cares if I don’t finish every book I read? Who cares if I don’t like that book when it had some good reviews? It doesn’t make me any less of a reader and it certainly doesn’t mean that I’ve failed. I had been unconsciously putting pressure on what is supposed to be a relaxing activity and once I realised that I put the book in the charity shop pile and immediately felt happier.

Going forward, if I’m not enjoying something I’m simply going to stop. That applies to all hobbies and activities, not just reading. Have you got any lost hobbies that you want to take up again? Have you ever tries to pick one up again? How did you start again? Do you have any book recommendations for me?

My Avoriaz Ski Experience

Every year I go skiing with a group of friends. It’s become a tradition that I really love and value, and I look forward to it every time. When I say every year, this was unfortunately stopped for three because of the pandemic, but this year we got to go again. As the years have gone by our group has got smaller, my friend used to organise it through his work and would invite myself and a few other friends along, but as time passed less people from his work came and now it’s just us friends. That has worked out well as when we started going I was in my early twenties, I was able to go out and drink all night then get up reasonably early in the morning and ski most of the day. Now that I’m pushing thirty, and have come out the other side of a pandemic where I couldn’t go to bars and clubs, I don’t have that energy and having a smaller group where we are all happy to go have a nice dinner, drink wine, play some board games and be in bed by 11 is really nice.

I wish I could say that I had something to do with choosing the location and the organisation of the trip but I was very lazy this year and left it to my friends. I’m very glad that I did though because they know a lot more about different resorts than I do and this year they chose Avoriaz, France. I had never been there before and besides the piste map I didn’t do a lot of research before we went. However, my ignorance made my initial reaction to the resort all the better when we arrived; There was a ‘taxi rank’ of horse-drawn sleighs waiting to take people to their hotels (unfortunately we had too much luggage and we were towed behind a snowmobile instead) and as we were driven through the town the Christmas lights were still up, all of the buildings were made of wood with some of the roofs built into a strange, angular style that I hadn’t really seen before, it looked like we had stepped into a Hallmark Christmas movie. My friend informed me that the horses and snowmobile transportation were in place because Avoriaz is an eco-resort, and no cars are allowed. I also later learned that the buildings were all made with natural resources and wood, designed to blend in with the mountains surrounding the town (hence the peculiar angles). If you’d like to see more about how eco-friendly the resort is here’s a good article about it.

I’ve never been to a car-free resort before but it was wonderful. We literally stepped outside of the hotel, put our skis straight on and off we went. It wasn’t a large resort either so you didn’t have to rely on horses to get around, you could easily get to the other side of town in 10-15 minutes. Going uphill was a bit more of a challenge of course, especially after a big meal. There was a larger town called Morzine, which was car-friendly and is where most of the people that worked at the resort lived. We were told that if we wanted more bars, restaurants and shopping that was the place to go, but none of us were particularly bothered about staying up late, and the restaurants in Avoriaz were more than enough for us. This is a slightly biased take though as we had a meal card provided by the hotel where we each had 36 euros each, every night towards our dinner at a specific list of restaurants, so it seemed silly to waste that by going somewhere not on the list.

A ski diet generally consists of bread, meat (specifically beef), cheese and potatoes, and you will find that most restaurants offer the same dishes (though the quality may vary). Luckily no one with us was vegan. Despite the food all being similar, the Avoriaz restaurants were all wonderful and I didn’t have a bad meal the whole time we were there. Our 36 euro allowance per day was more than enough and usually allowed us to get a bottle of wine, a main and a starter or dessert without much extra being added. Our favourite restaurants from our provided restaurant list were The Brasserie where the waiters were very friendly and the pizzas were great, La Cabane where I had the poshest, most delicious shepard’s pie I’ve ever had in my life (made with lamb and duck), and La Reserve which we were told multiple times was the best place to go for raclette and fondue, we went here to celebrate my friend’s birthday and it was indeed very good.

In terms of the actual skiing, we were very lucky. Our trip was in the second week of January before we left and we had all been following the news that was reporting on the lack of snow in the alps, which was so bad that some resorts had been forced to close. Fortunately, it snowed throughout the entirety of our first day and then on and off consistently throughout the rest of the week so the conditions were great, though visibility was a bit rough at times. I’d rather ski a little slower and be careful than not ski at all though so I’m not complaining. It’s possible to ski into Switzerland from Avoriaz and we did this a couple of times but the difference in the snow quality was surprising; despite being just on the other side of the mountain there was a thin layer on the slopes in Switzerland and it was often icy. We stayed on the French side for the most part because of this. If I were to go again though (which I hope I do) this will give me more to explore in the future.

For a while, I’d been aware that I had incredibly poor ski technique. The last time I’d had a lesson was 18 years ago after all, and since then I just followed better skiiers and tried to copy them. I was also certain that I should not be feeling so exhausted such a short time into my ski trips, with my thighs feeling like they were on fire at the mere sight of a ski just a couple of days in. I finally decided to do something about it and booked some private lessons with my friend who had a similar issue. We had two lessons with the Avoriaz Alpine ski school, the first teacher was more gentle, unconventional but confidence boosting. He informed us that we “ski like the English” because we “look like we are trying to lay an egg” and then he clucked at us a bit. All this time I had been squatting quite low and tensing a lot. We learned to stand up straighter, keep our bums tucked in and pirouette in our ski boots (we had a few odd looks from passers-by). Finally, he was satisfied and said that we now looked like princesses instead of roosters. I’ll happily accept that feedback. Our second lesson was with a different teacher and was significantly harder, we learned about going faster and getting into a rhythm of standing and bending at the knees while controlling where we put our weight when slaloming, the conditions weren’t great either and it was hard to follow the teacher through the snow but it was still very beneficial and we practised our new-found techniques the rest of the holiday.

Finally, it was time to leave and I was very sad to, but I was also tired and full of cheese so I was looking forward to my bed and a salad. Going forward I think I will book in for at least one ski lesson every trip, it’s hard to remember and maintain good form if you only go once a year. Other skiiers, how do you prepare for your ski trip? Do you usually take lessons or wing it? Where is your favourite resort? Looking for tips for next year!

Sims 100 Baby Challenge: 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started

The other day I rediscovered this post that I had written way back in October 2021, forgotten, alone and gathering cyber dust in my drafts folder. I was going to delete it but then I thought I may as well share it to tie off my The Sims 4 100 baby challenge posts, even if I never finished it.

The 100 baby challenge is a challenge in the sims where the goal is to have a female Sim give birth to 100 babies in as few generations as possible, if you’re interested then you can see rules of the challenge here. I started the challenge because I love The Sims but I sometimes got stuck in a routine of crafting the same storylines or the same kinds of sims. This challenge helps you to discover new ways of doing things, aspirations and traits you may not normally use, and gives you an end goal. It turned out to be a really good way of experiencing a game that I’ve played since I was a child in a totally new way and while I didn’t finish it I learned a lot and would definitely consider doing it again, I would recommend it to any Sims fan and if that’s you then it’s your lucky day because I have made a list of tips and tricks to make your challenge a little bit easier:

  1. Play it on a computer. This is the main point for me. Trying this on my PS4 was a challenge in itself. The slow loading time was particularly painful, even just going into build mode took forever. It also glitched like crazy, and not the funny kind of glitches that make the game more entertaining, the annoying game crashing ones.
  2. Make sure you have a lot of expansion packs. You will be playing this for a LONG time and there’s just not enough variety in the base game to make it interesting. I have City Living (my favourite, if you could only get one I’d say this), Seasons, Island Living, Vampires, Magical Realm and Jungle Adventure… Honestly, it’s still not quite enough in my opinion, the things that make these packs initially interesting become tired quite fast in this challenge but it’s the little things that make it better; like the City having events on every so often, new aspirations and traits, the seasonal events, and just having different places to go… I’d like to get more but I can’t justify buying any more on PS4 when I know I’d enjoy it more on PC.
  3. Give your lot the ‘Ley Line’ trait. This trait makes the chances of your sim having twins higher. I didn’t realise it was allowed until quite late and it made getting that baby count up way easier. It does make baby management harder though because twins are an absolute nightmare, especially if you have twin toddlers and then twin babies come along, that feels like a survival game rather than Sims. Choose other handy lot traits as well, you can have up to 3.
  4. Use the aspiration rewards. I forgot that these were available and allowed, the only ones you can’t use are the ones that extend your Sims’ life.
  5. Use the gallery. I am so bad at making houses but there are loads already made by much more patient and talented sim players especially for the challenge. It’s also a good source of handsome Baby Challenge Dads. Just search #100babychallenge to find loads of pre-made stuff.
  6. Stream, don’t blog. If you’re a blogger and you’re going to write about this it may not provide you with as much inspiration as you would think. The initial part of the challenge, when all the experiences were new and it was that much harder because there was no money, was fun to write about and share but the longer I played, the more repetitive the gameplay was and the less there is to share. In hindsight maybe just doing a couple of review-style posts about it rather than ‘episodes’ would have been better. It would be more fun and sociable to stream though and then people watching can suggest where to meet people, what to do, baby names, etc.
  7. Apparently, if you give a key to ghosts they don’t wreck your stuff. I wanted to have a morbid little graveyard of my previous matriarchs but their ghosts haunted my sims and made them scared and started breaking things. Unfortunately, the more generations you go through the more ghosts you get and eventually I had enough and released their spirits. I never got to test out the key theory because unfortunately there seemed to be a glitch where the dialogue option ‘give residence key’ seemed to just disappear so… Not tested but highly recommended in case it’s true and still available.
  8. A-students age up. All through the first generation I had forgotten that once your children and teens become A students they get to have their birthdays early, and once I remembered that the child turnaround was much easier and faster.
  9. Don’t bother with high chairs. The toddlers just end up trapped in them because your Matriarch will be so busy doing other stuff. Toddlers can grab food off the side so just have your Sim make a meal and the Todds can just grab it and go sit on the sofa to eat (follow me for more excellent parenting tips).
  10. Have fun with it. It’s surprisingly easy to get into a routine but don’t be afraid to let your Sim leave the house occasionally and try some different things, let her go on dates and explore different areas. She deserves it!

In the end I managed 3 matriarchs and 38 children before I gave up. I would definitely attempt it again but I would consider waiting for Sims 5 so that I could buy it on PC rather than power through on the playstation.

Would you play the 100 baby challenge? Have you played it? If so, what was your experience?

Starting Again

Hi there, it’s been a long time! You may have thought I had given up and for a while there you were absolutely right, but it’s a new year, a new me and a fresh start. In the last couple of years a lot has happened in my life that affected my dedication to the blog, I just didn’t have the mental capacity or time to think about it any more but as time has gone by I’ve finally come to realise how much I enjoy writing and I want to open it back up again to be an outlet for that. This comes with a blog re-design and core subject changes. Don’t worry, gaming will still feature, but it’s not going to be the main topic any more.

Over the last couple of years I’ve had a few false starts trying to get to back into writing this blog but it’s never quite stuck. Eventually, I came to the realisation that I have become uninspired by the theme (gaming). It turns out that I have a select few, core games that I love, but once I’d mentioned them at least 10 times each I felt uninspired and started struggling for content. Furthermore, my style and tone of voice have changed so I don’t feel like my old posts necessarily reflect who I am and the persona that I want to portray anymore, some of my older posts really make me cringe!

What is the new blog going to be about then? That is an excellent question, and if I said ‘everything’ would that be too broad? I really enjoy writing and so I’m just going to write. It will primarily be opinion pieces and reviews of movies, games, books, TV shows, etc. but there will also be some slices of life, stories, maybe even some writing exercises that I am more proud of if my confidence gets there. I’d like to experiment and find what kind of niche I particularly enjoy and hopefully people will find them interesting, useful and amusing. We’ll see what sticks.

Going forward I will be doing some blog admin, archiving my old posts and possibly deleting some of my more embarrassing and less popular ones. I’d also love to start reading more blogs as it’s been so long that I’ve been out of the circle, if you have any recommendations for anything geeky/story based/or just anything you particularly like in general, please drop a comment below with the link!

Ready to start some new adventures

Sun Nuzlocke – Chapter 4 – Totem Trouble

< Chapter 3

Can emos be blond?

Not long after leaving Paniola ranch behind I ran into Hau who was annoying a new character named Gladion. I’m glad it’s not just me that finds Hau’s optimism irritating, even if the other person is a fictional character. Gladion looks like that kid that desperately wants to be emo and got his mum to take him to Hot Topic one time but he’s not allowed to dye his hair yet. He will wear that Hot Topic outfit every day for the rest of his life though, dammit. He’s also got a bit of a chip on his shoulder about… Something… I think it’s about being kind of a contractor henchman for Team Skull, but not a real henchman. Two Team Skull members came up after we fought to tease him about that AND ABOUT BEING HOMELESS?! Damn Team Skull, what the hell? That was harsh, and kind of brave considering he has a freaky-ass dog-fish-lizard Pokémon that is far better than their Ratattas.

I messed up…

After Gladion was done being dramatic and mysterious I got to move on and it wasn’t long until I was in the next area and ready to start the next trial. This was the one trial I could actually remember from my previous, generic playthrough I think because I had struggled a bit with it and been surprised by it. I knew the Totem was a water spider thing but unfortunately I couldn’t remember what level it was (or called), but my team were all about level 20 and I felt confident with that. I also had a pretty heavy electric/bird team so I went in without feeling I had to do too much grinding and was feeling pretty cocky about it overall. I was in for a shock. The Totem was an Araquanid, a creepy spider with a bubble on it’s head. I sent out Chops the Flaaffy to shock it into oblivion but it hit her with Bubble, not normally a threatening move, but in this situation it was. I had to switch once it summoned a Dewpider to help it. Pom pom the Oricorio was sent out but the same thing happened, and with the Dewpider in the mix as well it just wasn’t happening. Same issue with Peeko the Wingull. Then I thought it was time for the big guns and sent out my beloved Squidward the Inkay to deal with them. Squidward is an amazing Pokémon with the Contrary feat, so if you try to lower his stats they just get higher, and some really good moves that have been making a lot of fights very easy. I used Reflect because at this point I was clucthinc at straws hoping maybe Bubble was a physical move (it’s not) and maybe it could at least lower the damage being done but it didn’t help. Then Araquanid used Leech Life… Which one-shot Squidward. I was devastated. I thought Squidward was going to go all the way to the elite 4 with me, he didn’t even get to evolve yet. I had to take a minute to process his death before I could continue the fight. I was also really annoyed at myself because I had completely forgotten that bug type is super effective against psychic type because you know, Urie Geller can’t bend spoons if a fly lands on him I guess.

RIP to my favourite…

At this point I was getting genuinely worried that this would be the end of my challenge, if no one could stand up to Araquanid more were going to start dying, but I had one last hope (and second favourite) : Rudy the Brionne, my starter. I sent him out and had him just use Work Up to raise his Attack and Special Attack for 6 turns so he was beefed up then struck with Icy Wind and BAM the Araquanid was dead. I felt no joy at his defeat though, there was just a hole in my team that no totem defeat, or many new Pokemon could fill…

Magikrap to Magikal

Begrudgingly, I set about catching a Pokemon in the trial area. This could potentially be the Pokemon to replace Squidward so there was a lot riding on it, I didn’t really have anything in the Box that I felt could match him. A ripple in the water, a jerk on the fishing rod and I reeled in my new team mate… Magikarp.

I was disappointed at first, they take so long to level BUT then I realised that it was a level 21, just one level away from evolution and that was a game changer! Neville the Magikarp was added to the party and put under a gruelling training regime until it evolved into a Gyarados. Now we’re talking. In my previous Nuzlocke I managed to get a Gyarados but it was defeated almost instantly so I vowed to be a better trainer for Neville.

Mandatory Battle Royal

Our next stop was the battle royal stadium where you fight three people with the first Pokemon in your party. I walked in and triggered a cutscene with Hau, Gladion and ‘The Masked Royal’/The Professor in a wresting mask (whatever he’s into I guess, no judgment) and they all decided to battle then and there with me and the Pokemon at the front of the team. Realising that Chops the Flaaffy was the Pokemon at the front of my party and also injured, I desperately tried to claw my way out of the building but the cutscene was in full flow and poor Chops was thrown out the safety of her pokeball to fight a Rockruff, Type: Null, and Torracat. I was very scared. I like Chops and the wound from losing Squidward was still sore, I couldn’t lose Chops too. I tried to be as strategic as possible and used thunder wave on Torracat in the first round. Magically, none of the other Pokemon attacked Chops in that round, which was a huge relief. Round 2 I used thunder wave again on Rockruff as Type: Null was burned but Chops took a hit from Torracat that nearly wiped her out. With just 5 hit points left I resigned myself to Chops’s untimely demise, but she was going to go out swinging! She used thundershock on the Rockruff and… it was defeated, therefore ending the battle! I didn’t realise just defeating one would end it or I would have been more aggressive, I thought you had to be the last one standing. Phew. I ran out of there ASAP knowing that I would never return while on this challenge. I do think that in a normal game it’s a fun format though.

Next stop on the journey is the volcano park for a fiery battle!

Sun Nuzlocke – Chapter 3 – Food for thought

< Chapter 2

Anti-Climactic Rivalry

You might remember back in Chapter 1 I said how I was doing this challenge to relieve some boredom from my sofa-bound, injured boyfriend and that after each Kahuna battle we were going to battle each other. Well… That’s not worked out so much. After a week of me looming over his shoulder asking “have you beat the Kahuna yet?” in the most nonchalant way I could muster while desperately wanting to continue my own game, he finally gave me the go ahead to continue and he would ‘catch me up’. This may or may not happen but I’m going to continue the challenge myself either way. A downside to having a non-gamer boyfriend is that when he does play stuff with me he gets really into it for one or two nights then never wants to play again, which leads to a lot of frustration for my inner achievement hunter.

Ride Pokemon appreciation

After the first Kahuna I was given my very own Tauros to ride and rock smash my way through obstacles. The way this game dealt with HMs is THE BEST, It’s one of my favourite things about it. I hate having to sacrifice one of my party to HM servitude but in Alola you are given a Ride Pokemon to do what would normally be an HM move. You also get some funky riding gear that is… a look, but safety first I guess. There’s a Tauros to smash rocks, Stoutland to sniff out hidden objects, a Charizard for fly, Lapras to surf, and more.

Look what you made me do

I retraced my steps smashing through all the rocks I could find and got to a new area ‘Ten Carat Hill’ where I got a Mawile called Nancy, a Pokemon I don’t usually use but I was very curious so added her to the party straight away. Then there was the ‘Farthest Hollow’ where I COULD have got a Roggenrola, which would have been really cool, but Taylor the Ekans had other plans and 1 shot it. Taylor had become my ‘catcher’ Pokemon, what with her ability to paralyse and not hit too hard, but I guess she wanted to prove me wrong and what with this being the second time she had knocked out a potential team mate I retired her from that role with a stern warning.

Arriving in Akala

Smashable rocks exhausted I headed to the beach and surfed a Mantine to the next island, Akala. Little fact here : The only reason I got Ultra Sun and not regular Sun is because of the Mantine surfing, it’s a fun mini game and I’ve always liked surfing/skating mini games. Once we got to Akala I was greeted by the Kahuna Olivia who is VERY different to Melemele’s Hala. I have a bit of a girl crush on her, not going to lie.

Olivia - Bulbapedia, the community-driven Pokémon encyclopedia
Look at this queen

Lillie wanted to go off to a posh hotel for plot reasons, you have to follow her but once you’re there she just goes “yep… this is the hotel all right!” Ok??? Temporarily unburdened by Nintendo’s albino plot device I ran to the nearest patch of grass to get my new Pokemon… An Eevee! Eevees are adorable and I was very happy. I’d found the TM False Swipe and taught it to Nancy (the new catcher of the team) so it was an easy catch and Smoothie the Eevee was mine! (It was just what I was eating at the time, I don’t know, coming up with all these names is hard). I boxed her temporarily as I wanted to plan what I wanted her to evolve into carefully. There might be a particular type that isn’t very common in Alola or my team might be severely lacking something when I get to the next trials.

The realities of food in the Pokemon world

Next stop was the Paniola Ranch so I could expect a farm-like addition to the team, though isn’t that basically just stealing Pokemon from the ranch? Seems sketchy. Anyway, after some interaction with a farmer and his Miltank I had the disturbing realisation that everyone in the Pokemon world drinks milk from Miltanks. I was then informed by my friend that there are only male Tauros and female Miltank and they can breed with each other so… Miltank provides the humans with milk and the Tauros provides them with… Steak??? That must be why they don’t evolve either, they’re primarily a food source. I guess that’s obvious but I had never thought about it and for a second it took me out of the magical world where humans lived on berries. We looked into it a bit more and apparently Slowpoke tails are a snack you suck on and slowly chew, Farfetch’d were hunted to near extinction because they taste good when cooked with their leek and Basculin is ‘remarkably tasty’. So there’s some light horror for y’all.

Do People Eat Pokemon? 13 Examples From The Anime Of Eating Pokemon (Or  Real Animals) - GameSpot

Any reserves I had about stealing Pokemon from a ranch were now gone (not that I really had any before) and I walked into some nearby grass to see which Pokemon I could save from the food industry and found a Mareep. I honestly did not realise until I started typing this despite all that ‘horrific realisation’ I then went totally absentmindedly went on to name the Mareep ‘Chops’ so… Yeah. Chops was saved from becoming its’ own name sake and we got out of there. Food talks aside, I am glad I got a Mareep as I think Ampharos can be a good Pokemon.

Now that I need to have a think about my Eevee, which is your favourite Eevee evolution? Or which is more useful? I’m also running out of name ideas, drop some ideas in the comments! Any comment on the food situation? What would a Pikachu taste like?

Sun Nuzlocke – Chapter 2 – Lots of firsts

< Chapter 1

Route 2

After my embarrassing performance in on Route 1 I was hoping for a better time on Route 2. A new route means new Pokémon so I set off optimistically. At the first patch of grass I came to, a man told me how when you can see rustling in the grass that means a Pokémon will run up and attack you, so rather than explore the route a bit more and select my grassy patch tactfully my dumb ass stepped right on into that first one, a shape sped towards me and it turned out to be an Ekans. I’ve never been a big Ekans fan but I’ll take it. Taylor joined the team and I sulked about untapped grassy potential a bit until I got to Sandy Cove. I thought it looked like a good place to come back to when I can fish or surf for a water type just as a Zubat threw itself at me. Has anyone ever not had a Zubat in a Nuzlocke? (Genuine question) My team was full at this point though so it went straight to the PC.

My next stop was the cemetery where I got a Driftloon, which I’ve never used before and their Pokédex entry is uh… intense.

I’m sure there are any number of cool characters that steal people’s soul in fiction/fantasy but the only thing that came to mind is that Simpsons episode where Bart trades his soul to Milhouse for some ALF pogs, so Driftloon is called Milhouse.

First death

Milhouse died immediately. My first casualty of the game. I thought being a ghost type it might fare ok against some physical attacks but… It did not. I spent more time thinking of its name than it spent in my party. I just sent it out, watched it get hit and deflate, zooming around in the sky above me making a fart noise before unceremoniously plopping to the ground, a wrinkled shell of a balloon. You know what though? It’s fine, we’re fine, I’m fine. I could have had a Ghastly but no. Whatever. It’s fine.

First Trial

The first trial is playing hide and seek with some Yungoos before taking on the totem Pokémon, a Gumshoos. I wasn’t worried really, I had been smashing through Route 2 with the unexpectedly effective combo of Squidward the Inkay and Taylor the Ekans: Squidward used reflect to lower physical damage done against the team then switched with Taylor who used Glare to paralyse the totem and its’ ally Yungoos, plus Wrap on the totem for some continuous damage, then we switched out again to Squidward to top up Reflect and then just hit them with Foul Play. I probably didn’t need to be so tactful, but I never usually am so I was enjoying feeling clever. We took them out nice and easy. I never thought an Ekans would be one of my favourites but that’s one of the reasons I subject myself to the emotional torture of Nuzlocke challenges; I’ve been playing Pokémon since I can remember yet I never bothered with an Ekans until now.

Pokemon 23 Ekans Pokedex: Evolution, Moves, Location, Stats

Bird Up

I wasn’t very worried about the impending Kahuna fight, but then I had been feeling confident about my trial with Llima and we know how that went… I knew that the Kahuna has fighting type Pokémon so I was pleased when a Spearow named Burdy joined the team on Route 3, that is until I saw his stats. His defence was shocking and I nearly lost him in his first battle, so he wasn’t even a viable option, too much of a wild card. Fortunately there was one area left: Melemele Meadows. Kind of unsurprisingly I caught an Oricorio in the meadow named Pom pom who immediately replaced Burdy as chief bird and was so much better. I think that Oricorio is actually a pretty cool Pokémon, at least early in the game. You can pick different flowers in different areas of the world to give it that turn it into a different type, sort of like a bird version of Eevee, at the moment Pom pom is an electric type but going forward hopefully I can adapt it to whatever upcoming fight we have.

First Kahuna

I needn’t have worried really, the Kahuna fight was pretty easy, Pom pom aced it and secured a place as one of my favourites. Rudy the Poplio also evolved (first evolution) into Brionne, who looks a like a clown that wants to be a trapeze artist but isn’t quite confident enough to fully leave the safety of the clowning career yet.

Brionne (Pokémon) - Bulbapedia, the community-driven Pokémon encyclopedia

That’s it until next time! Which Pokémon do you not usually use but have been pleasantly surprised by when you have? Any advice for the road to the next trial?

Chapter 3 >

New Challenge! Pokemon Sun Nuzlocke

Hello! It’s been far too long! I’ve been suffering from writers block very badly over lockdown. Most of the games I’ve been playing are simulators (Sims, Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley, etc) and anything I have to say about them has already been said. I’ve really missed writing and the blogging community though and didn’t want to give up completely. Finally, inspiration struck me for a new blog series: Pokemon Sun Nuzlocke!

The idea to start this came about because my boyfriend Dexter has hurt his back and has spent most of the week lying on the sofa, he’s understandably bored and frustrated so to pass the time he has been watching Jaiden Animations play though her Nuzlocke. He mentioned how it would be fun to play one with me where we battle each other after each gym so we would be each other’s ‘rival’. I wanted to do something to help him feel less bored, that and he doesn’t usually play games with me as he’s not a gamer so I got excited and started rifling through our combined Pokemon collection, which is one of the only games he does play. Between us we have quite a few but the only compatible ones were two copies of Sapphire or Ultra Sun and Moon. We settled on Sun/Moon as I have finished Sun but only once and I wasn’t that into it so I felt that a new perspective could change my mind, and he started it but didn’t get very far.

The Rules

As we were playing together, and the Alola region is a bit different to other games (trials and kahuna instead of gyms, ally pokemon, Z powers, etc) we reviewed the rules and came up with the following:

  • If a pokemon reaches 0 hp it’s ‘dead’ and must be released
  • You can only catch one Pokrmon per route and it must be the first Pokemon you encounter (if ally pokemon are summoned you can only catch the original pokemon)
  • The starter Pokemon must be randomised
  • A route is whenever the little blue box pops up to say you’re in a new area
  • Gift Pokemon and eggs are OK, unless you have already caught a Pokemon on the route it is gifted on in which case you have to release it or put it in the Gift Box on the PC, a thing I made up because gift Pokemon are usually babies and I feel like they wouldn’t last long in the wild, the gift box is a safer place
  • If I have a Pokemon that needs to evolve through trading then Dexter must also have one and agree to the trade, he has implied he might just choose not to because you know… He likes to antagonise me
  • You can use the Switch Pokemon setting (to be honest, I didn’t know that you could turn this off…)
  • No calculating damage before going into fights, this is mainly for Dexter, he loves numbers (nerd) and would do that for fun. I would not.
  • You can do some research before big battles to see what you’re up against and what moves they have
  • No legendary Pokemon
  • You can frontload
  • Daycare is not allowed
  • Can’t use X items
  • Can’t use Pokemon Care (I was upset about this as I like that feature but… fine)

We may add/remove rules as we go as well as we don’t know the game that well so we’ll see.

I Randomly Select You!

To kick everything off we randomised our starters. I was hoping for Rowlet, Dex wanted Poplio, but the reverse happened instead. Nevermind. I have nothing against Poplio I just think he looks like a clown and clowns are creepy. To get around this I named him Rudy after Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (he’s got a big red nose and will be leading my team!) That endeared me to him a lot more.

My First Catch

The part of the game I was dreading the most was the intro/tutorial. I remembered it taking forever. Unfortunately, this game is determined to have a plot and in depth characters, even if it means we don’t get poke balls for 40 mins. Finally I was able to catch my first wild Pokemon on Route 1… Drumroll… a Grubbin. I wasn’t super happy about that at first as I’d had one in my previous playthrough and it was good but it levels slowly, plus it can’t evolve into its final form until you get to Blush Mountain, and by the time you do that it kind of sucks. Having said that, as Bugsy Malone vice gripped her way to several victories I grew more confident, she’s probably one of the best Pokemon you can get on Route 1 after all. Unfortunately, Dex caught one too so I need to make Bugsy Malone the superior Grubbin.

My True Rival

In the first battle with Hau, his Pichu unexpectedly gave me a bit of trouble. Bugsy Malone was paralysed and the Pichu kept lowering her attack and hitting her with Thunderbolt but we persevered and took it out, his Litten was no trouble after that. Hau is an exhausting character with overwhelming positivity. If someone is that nice in real life they must have something to hide. He opens your first battle with “it doesn’t matter who wins as long as we both have fun!” Outside of the gaming world I wholeheartedly agree with that statement but I was raised with Gary Oak as my OG rival so I want to crush you, and if you don’t care when I do it then it takes the fun out of it for me. I really came to appreciate the idea Dex had had in that moment, my anticipation for our future battle was growing, and while I thought he would best me as I have very little experience with fighting real people in Pokemon, I was looking forward to a competitive fight. Dexter is my true rival in this game.

Getting Schooled

In the game-enforced interest of trying to get to know Lillie better we were basically handcuffed together as she dragged me round town and we ended up at the Trainer’s school where it was decided for me that I should enroll. I fought my way through the students there and was then challenged by the teacher who, in a good twist I think in Pokemon games, fought me with the leftover starter Rowlet. Bugsy took care of it but it was a bit tricky and I had to use a fair amount of potions. Then Dexter fought her in his game where she sent out Litten against his Rowlet and… HE GOT KO’d!!! We both looked at each other, and for a second I was torn between laughing maniacally or offering an out. I offered an out. That is how annoying the intro of this game is. If Dexter had had to restart the game at that point he would have had to go through ANOTHER 2 HOURS to get back to this point and we both knew he wouldn’t do it. Instead we agreed to pretend this never happened but any other KO after this would definitely count.

Despite our agreement I did tease him and acted like I had the moral high ground, but Karma is a bitch. I met Llima in Hau’oli city and was taken out by his ridiculously aggressive Yungoos. It just kept coming at me, and when it wasn’t doing that it was lowering Bugsy/Rudy’s defence. I looked at Dex sheepishly and now it was his (rightful) turn to be smug. As he had been KO’d and I’d let it pass he did the same for me on the same conditions. I do feel guilty but… I can’t do that intro again so soon guys, I can’t, and I’d got too excited about finally having something to write about to give up so we’re doing it, think what you will of me. Guilt and failure aside I thought we had bigger problems. I genuinely did not think that I could beat Llima with my two Pokemon. Neither of us expected this game to be this hard so early on. When we made the rules we had done a bit of research on Reddit and there was some dispute on what is classified as a Route. We decided to use the rule where anything classified as being on Route 1 (i.e. the beach near Kukui’s house, the Trainer school and Hau’oli city) is all one area, we had also put a level cap where you could only be the level of the next big battle’s Pokemon (so right now we were capped at 10). However, in light of the aggressive Yungoos we decided to ditch the level cap (it was getting hard anyway as Rudy was leveling so dang fast), and that you could catch a new Pokemon in any area where the blue box appeared in the bottom of the screen saying where you were. This meant I could go back and get three new Pokemon in the city, the beach and the school.

My Hero

My first catch was a Wingull in the city, who I named Peeko (Sapphire throwback). Not the knight in shining armor I was hoping for. At the trainer school I caught a Meowth called Rocket, which is definitely not the best Pokemon I could have got there but it’s fine, I’m fine, we’re fine. My final hope was the beach near Kukui’s house. I had kind of given up hope at this point and had resigned myself to being a basic bitch trainer BUT Tapu Koko must have been smiling down on me. I caught an Inkay (Squidward). It did not take me long at all to realise that Squidward is KICK ASS. It has the ability Contrary which makes stat changes have the opposite effect and it knew both Reflect and Foul Play, meaning I could lower any physical damage being done to my team, then attack using the enemies’ strength against it (perfect for say… An aggressive Yungoos) AND when the Yungoos would inevitably try to lower Squidward’s defence he would just raise it instead. I sauntered back up to Llima and that is exactly what happened. I know you’re not supposed to have favourites but Squidward is currently top tier, the best, I love him. If anything happens to him I might cry.

A very bad start to my new challenge but we are both having fun so it doesn’t matter, right Hau? Have you ever tried a Nuzlocke in Sun/Moon? How did it go? Also, how are you in general if you were a previous Dragons Tea Party reader? I hope it’s been a good year for you all. Stand by for the next post where we will hopefully complete the first Island challenge!

Chapter 2 >

100 Baby Challenge – Episode 9: Meet Our Magical New Matriarch

It’s been a while since we had a Baby Challenge update. To be fair there’s only so much I can write about the daily goings on in a Sims life but finally we have made some headway and a new chapter of the challenge is underway: current Matriarch Artemis became an elder.

The Sims™ 4_20200803183428

She had 17 children, beating previous Matriarch Gaia’s score of 14. Not only that but the final baby she had was a girl, the next matriarch: Ariadne. This is good because it meant I had all the time between Ariadne growing from a baby to a young adult to teach her the ways of the Matriarchy: charisma, cooking, repairing and something she can make money doing from home.

Family Tree

In the meantime Artemis gets to mentor her and enjoy her retirement… Well, sort of. I still need her to make money. Being a ‘Meme Maker’ wasn’t the best career route, you have to get 1,000,000 followers to get a promotion! That is so hard when you barely leave the house and all you do is make babies!!! Although, in reality if someone was actually attempting this challenge for real they would probably have a decent following. Don’t do it though, very irresponsible, only try this challenge in a simulated environment. I digress, back to the money issue: there’s not much of it. BUT I realised a little late that every day Artemis can use her platform to promote a product for $3,000, which is rather nice (though it doesn’t always work). She got to work and became an incredible viral granny. Ariadne will have to do something more lucrative though; we want a super big, nice house. 

While the money making was going on a new curve was thrown at the challenge, because that’s exactly what it needed of course: all of the first kids (Gaia’s kids) started dying… Dropping like flies. Every day at least one would pass away and apparently, even if they didn’t know each other, all relatives get a phone call and become ‘Very Sad’. I was really upset at first, especially when some of my favourites passed on (Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, Aphrodite… My babies!) but Sims (understandably) don’t really want to do much when they’re super sad and it started to stunt skill building, so my sympathy quickly turned to frustration. 

The day eventually came where it was Artemis’s time. She lived for a long time as an elder actually, I was wondering if it had bugged out and she just wasn’t going to die. She was an active Sim though so I guess that explains it. I was upset, but I didn’t quite have the emotional attachment to her that I did with Gaia, she wasn’t quite as interesting a character really. I suppose Gaia was the one that had all the ‘firsts’ in this challenge so there was more of a story there.

The Sims™ 4_20200803220409

Meanwhile, I was excited to find that Ariadne has the ‘Weak Bloodline’ magic trait which means she will be a spell caster! A Witch Matriarch! So cool! Her sisters Circe and Megara are also spell casters and I plan to have them all live together in a coven for a while until I have to kick them out for baby space. Despite my excitement in the shake up to the normal challenge routine, which was getting a little monotonous, I will admit I am disappointed with the Magical Realm expansion pack in the Sims. The actual realm itself is gorgeous, the first time I saw it I was blown away by how beautiful it is. It’s very ‘Hogwarts-esque’, there’s a school where you can learn magic from Sages, a duelling ground, magical herbs for potion brewing are scattered about, there’s even a shopping area called Diagon Casters Alley where you can buy brooms, familiars, etc. You would have thought learning magic and exploring this realm would be fun but unfortunately, the Sims seem to view it as a chore, they get no enjoyment from using magic, which is bizarre to me. Even if their aspirations are centred around learning magic they still don’t enjoy it. It’s also disappointing that other, non-magical, Sims don’t react to spells being cast around them, at all. Despite this, magic does come in handy, one of the types of magic you can learn is ‘Practical Magic’ where they can clean, repair, etc. It’s a lot faster than doing those things manually and that will be very handy for Ariadne. There is a risk of setting fire to the things you try to repair but… Hopefully we’ll be alright. Maybe she can brew up some love potions to help with the challenge.

The Sims™ 4_20200803215522
A magical duel, not at all Harry Potter inspired

On top of magical ability, I set about making Ariadne the chattiest, most creative kid around. Kids have 4 skills: Social, Motor, Creativity and Mental. Unfortunately these don’t become other skills when they become teenagers, they just disappear, which sucks. I read somewhere that if you make the kid skills quite high though then they will find it easier to level up ‘adult skills’ in that area in the future, so if Ariadne has high Social skills as a kid hopefully she will level her charisma up really fast as a teen/adult. 

The day after Artemis’s death, Ariadne aged up into a teenager so the skills building could being properly! She got a Matriachal Makeover from this:

The Sims™ 4_20200803221821

To this:

The Sims™ 4_20200803224107

I love her hair (I think red hair is gorgeous).

The real skill building began now for Ariadne, she spent a lot of time chatting to herself in the mirror to get that charisma skill up. Meanwhile, her brothers and sisters were working hard topping up the cash to get a new house. I had my eye set on a 100 baby challenge house that I found in the online Gallery (that is a godsend, I hate making houses on the Sims but I love the creative ones people come up with).

We got enough cash to get the house just as it was Ariadne’s birthday. I moved her into her new house with her sisters Circe and Megara; I had a really cool image of them in my mind being a witchy coven until I have to boot them out to make baby room. It’s a really cool house but it is a little squashed… I’ll have to make sure the next one is bigger. It is however ‘on the ley line’ which means it’s way more likely that you’ll get twins. I thought that might be cheating but apparently it’s not! Wish I had realised that sooner but nevermind.

Finally, let’s take a look at the final traits for the lovely Ariadne:

The Sims™ 4_20200805183041

She wants to be an alchemist so some interesting potions can come into play now.

The welcome wagon came round to welcome the girls to the neighbourhood and Ariadne sprang into action. The Marroquin family came to visit and Ariadne invited the reasonably attractive husband up to her room to seduce him while Circe and Megara kept his wife occupied downstairs. Scandalous… He wasn’t the most discreet, after the deed was done he walked downstairs in his pyjamas like nothing had happened and went home with his wife.

The Sims™ 4_20200805191744

We’ll see how effective the ley line trait is next time…

The Sims™ 4_20200805190705
Gaia and Artemis’ resting places by the ‘baby’ wall.

Baby count : 31/100

  • Zeus
  • Hera
  • Demeter
  • Persephone
  • Poseidon
  • Hecate
  • Aphrodite
  • Athena
  • Boreas
  • Hades
  • Artemis
  • Apollo
  • Hermes
  • Hephaestus
  • Hestia
  • Nike
  • Ares
  • Tyche
  • Nyx
  • Iris
  • Dionysus
  • Pan
  • Helios
  • Helen
  • Atlanta
  • Hercules
  • Pandora
  • Ajax
  • Circe
  • Megara
  • Ariadne