Mystery Serials

Do You Put Hundreds and Thousands on Your Fairy Cake?

10 More British-American Language Differences

Do you put hundreds and thousands on your fairy cake? Or do you put sprinkles on your cupcake? Do you eat candy floss or cotton candy? If you said “Yes”‘ to the first choices, you are probably from the U.K. (or perhaps from Australia,) and if you said, “Yes,” to the second, you are likely from the U.S.

It is fun and sometimes practical to study the differences. If English is not your first language, and you plan to travel to either the U.K. or the U.S., it might be helpful to be aware of these language differences. Here is an American and British English words list with some explanation.

1. Arugula vs. Rocket

Photo by Jose Soriano on Unsplash

I didn’t know about this difference until somewhat recently when I saw the British term “rocket” on an Australian food blogger’s site. I also had assumed until recently that arugula was an Italian term and that Americans borrowed it from the Italians. It’s not. The Italian term for arugula is “rucola.” Experts believe the word arugula comes from a mispronunciation of an Italian dialect for the word. The Calabrian dialect for the word is “aruculu.”

2. Bacon vs. Rashers

Photo by Dan Russo on Unsplash

Rashers is really more of a term for the slice of bacon, although I have read the term “rashers,” used alone, referring to bacon, rather than “rashers of bacon.” The best explanation I found online for the term is that “rasher” may come from a Middle English word, “rash,” meaning to cut. Sound-wise, rashers makes me think of “rations,” which, by association, makes me think of a stricter diet instead of feasting.

3. Like vs. Fancy

Photo by Yuriy Bogdanov on Unsplash

As an American, I had to watch quite a bit of British TV before I picked up on this little language nuance. It seems British use this term for when someone has romantic interest in someone else. “He fancies her” or “She fancies him.” Americans don’t seem to have such a specific expression. Aside from wording it as, “He is interested in her,” we tend to say, “He likes her.” “Like,” of course, has more than one meaning and can be used to mean liking in friendship or liking as in romantic interest. This can lead to somewhat silly and awkward junior high expressions as in, “He doesn’t just like her. He like likes her.” Maybe, we Americans should borrow the British expression?

4. Nice vs. Lovely


Photo by Erda Estremera on Unsplash

Both Americans and British use both terms, “lovely” and “nice.” The difference I’ve noticed is more relating to the frequency in which we use the words. I’ve noticed Brits use the word “lovely” in a lot of the contexts where Americans are more likely to use the word nice: a lovely day, lovely weather, a lovely person, etc. American men, I think, find the word “lovely” to be less than perfectly macho and rarely use it except to occasionally describe a special woman. American women say “lovely” a bit more but are still more likely to use the word “nice.”

5. Pants vs. Trousers


Photo by Lacey Raper on Unsplash

Trousers is not an unfamiliar word for Americans, but we don’t use it much. We can buy pants at the store that are labelled by American clothing companies as trousers, but, in ordinary conversation, we usually call them pants. The British seem to prefer the term, “trousers.”

A graphic for American and British English words list, showing sprinkles/hundreds-and-thousands
American and British English words list

6. Checkers vs. Draughts


Photo by Trent Jackson on Unsplash

Even some games go by different names in the U.S. and in the U.K., like checkers and draughts (pronounced like drafts.) American linguist, Lynne Murphy, says in her blog Separated by a Common Language, “The Online Etymology Dictionary tells us that draughts is related to dragon and goes back to 1400.” Well, that is interesting, but that raises other questions for me. Maybe, if you combine the draughts/dragons with the queens, kings and knights of chess, you have the makings of some sort of fairy tale. The term “checkers” is related to chess, from the Middle English exchequer. From chessboard came “chequered,” meaning marked like a chessboard.

7. Attorney-at-law vs. Solicitor

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

In the U.K., lawyers are barristers or solicitors. Barristers can plead a case in open court and appear at the bar. Solicitors may conduct litigation in court but are not permitted to plead cases in open court. Barristers deal with clients indirectly through a solicitor. The attorney-at-law is the U.S. equivalent for solicitor.

8. Pharmacist vs. Chemist


Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash

I’m an American fan of British Golden Age mysteries, and the word chemist has come up a lot in that context. It took me a while to realize chemist was the British term for pharmacist. A pharmacist certainly is a kind of chemist, but there are other sorts of chemists in different fields of chemistry. This makes me wonder if this term causes any confusion for the Brits. Would a Brit in some other field of chemistry have to use some extra labels or terms to explain his profession so that he is not confused with a pharmacist? If you live in an area where British English is spoken, please, share your comment.

9. Cotton candy vs. Candyfloss


Photo by Yarden on Unsplash

Cotton candy and candy floss both seem like sensible terms for this interestingly textured sweet. The fluffy shape and texture of the candy, as a whole, is like cotton, but the fibrous threads of sugar which make up the candy are like floss. Take the word “candy” out of either name, and neither name seems appealing to the palate, does it?

10. Cupcake vs. Fairy cake


Photo by Jennie Brown on Unsplash

American cupcakes and British fairy cakes are practically synonymous but there are a few differences. The two cultures have language differences and also some different food preferences and traditions. Fairy cakes are a bit smaller than cupcakes. They are lighter, spongier cakes and topped with a thin glace icing rather than buttercream or cream cheese frosting. The Brits call them fairy cakes, because, traditionally, the top was cut off and split, and the center was filled. The split top was placed on either side of the center, resembling fairy wings.

11. Sprinkles vs. Hundreds-and-Thousands


Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Hundreds-and-thousands seems to refer to how uncountable these colored bits of sugar are. Sprinkles, are, well, sprinkled. As an American, I think hundreds-and-thousands seems like a lot of extra syllable-bles. I also wonder what sort of reaction I would get if I went to an ice cream parlor near me and asked for hundreds-and-thousands on my ice cream. The server might ask “Of what?” and think I’m very greedy. Actually, the owner of one ice cream parlor near me is from the U.K. I think that man would be charmed if I did this.

I hope you enjoyed this American and British English words list. Would you like to see more like this?

Healthy Choices at Three Popular Chain Restaurants

If you’ve been trying to reduce calories, you know that eating in restaurants can be tricky. You can easily save a lot of calories by cooking and eating at home, but eating in restaurants is not always avoidable, nor would we always want it to be. There are occasions like road trips, birthdays, anniversaries, special occasions and get-togethers with friends. We don’t completely want to give up the fun of eating out, but when you see that some menu choices have 1200 to over 1300 calories, it can be discouraging.

If you plan ahead, you can do pretty well without spoiling your diet, and you can plan your other meals and their calorie count around what you plan to order out.

Here are a few lighter, healthy choices at Applebee’s, Olive Garden and Ruby Tuesday.

Healthy Choices At Applebee’s

One of your better choices is the cedar salmon with maple mustard glaze, which is 350 calories without sides. Add the garlic mashed potatoes for 250 calories, your best choice for a carbohydrate side, and steamed broccoli at 100 calories. Another option is to skip the potatoes and add another veggie side, such as the garlicky green beans at 180 calories.

Image of cedar salmon with maple mustard glaze, a healthy choice at Applebee's

Another one of the better choices is the shrimp wonton stir fry at 680 calories.

Shrimp wonton stir fry
Source: Applebees.com

One of my favorite choices at Applebee’s is the Bourbon Street chicken and shrimp, which is Cajun spiced and served on a sizzling iron skillet along with roasted potatoes, mushrooms and onions. Unlike the shrimp wonton stir fry, it is not promoted as lighter fare, but it is actually a little bit lower in calories than the stir fry, at 600 calories and equal in calories to their cedar grilled lemon chicken, which is promoted as lighter fare. I’m not sure why it’s not officially included in their lighter menu, although it lacks a nutrition-packed veggie like the broccoli in the stir fry and comes with potatoes which might seem not as low-carb friendly. Still, calorie-wise, it’s in the range of these other dishes and even a little bit lower than some.

Bourbon Street chicken and shrimp
Source: Applebees.com

Healthy Choices At Olive Garden

Olive Garden or any Italian restaurant may seem particularly difficult to navigate if you are on a low-carb diet such as Atkins, South Beach or Keto. You’ll find several lighter fare choices under their “Tastes of the Mediterranean” section of the menu. A few of these are pasta-free.

One of these is the fairly new salmon piccata, accompanied by parmesan-crusted zucchini, at 570 calories. The grilled salmon is drizzled with a lemon garlic sauce and sprinkled with tangy capers and flavorful sun-dried tomatoes. Honestly, I have not been much of a fan of zucchini for most of my life, but this parmesan-crusted zucchini is one of the dishes that helped turn me around.

Image of Olive Garden's salmon piccata, a healthy choice.

Olive Garden also has a sauce-less herb-grilled salmon served with steamed broccoli at 470 calories.

The chicken margherita is another high protein, pasta-less dish, served with that same parmesan-crusted zucchini. It is topped with basil pesto — one of my favorite tastes — mozzarella, grape tomatoes and a lemon garlic sauce. This dish has 550 calories for a dinner portion and 380 calories for a lunch portion.

Olive Garden chicken margherita
Source: yelp.com

I’m of the philosophy that cutting calories is more important than cutting carbs or any particular food. Olive Garden also offers some healthy choices in their pasta dishes.

For instance, you can order the chicken giardino at 530 calories. The ruffled pappardelle pasta noodles are mixed with a light, lemon herb sauce and a variety of healthy vegetables such as carrot, red bell pepper, broccoli and zucchini.

Olive Garden chicken giardino
Source:Travelvisor.com

Healthy Choices at Ruby Tuesday

One of my favorite things to order at Ruby Tuesday is the New Orleans seafood. This dish is Cajun-seasoned tilapia with small shrimp and a parmesan cream sauce. Although it’s not included in the official Fit&Trim menu, at 336 calories, it can certainly be light if you choose your sides carefully.

Image of New Orleans seafood, a healthy choice dish at Ruby Tuesday.

This meal comes with two sides. The lightest of the side dishes are fresh steamed zucchini at 22 calories, fresh steamed broccoli at 45 calories or the green beans at 51 calories. In the past, Ruby Tuesday has also offered roasted Brussels sprouts which were delicious. The lightest of the starchy sides is the rice pilaf at 190 calories. The garden salad bar is also a choice for one of your sides.

Another good choice, not necessarily included in the Fit&Trim menu, is to get a small steak with healthy, lighter sides. Try the 6 oz. asiago peppercorn steak at 297 calories. The tasty steak comes with a parmesan cream sauce and shaved asiago cheese.

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Action Men with Duct Tape, Part 2

This is continued from Part 1.

Frappuccinos and the Comic Book Superfan

Bronwyn and I continued on our way, hopefully to the food court or just to food. “You really are harmless, Uncle Andy. Let’s face it. You’re too sweet and funny,” she said.

“Sweet and funny? That’s what I’ve become?” I said. “I’m not harmless. I’ve faced danger. I was speared by a tranquilizer dart. I was held at gunpoint. I was kidnapped … “

“By a woman.”

“By a scary, sword-wielding woman,” I corrected.*


Photo by malibi malibi on Unsplash

“Yes, but you didn’t want to fight her, because you’re too much of a gentleman.”

I sighed. This was close to the truth. “Well, when it comes to men, to ‘bad guys,’ you don’t have to worry about my sense of chivalry.”

“You and Uncle Jack are obsessed with bad guys, and you’re not even cops.”

“Yes. Lt./Det. Kelly keeps reminding us of that fact.”

“So, you’re saying that if that guy over there were to kidnap me, you’d knock his block off.”

I turned to look at “that guy over there.” She was pointing at some dude who I imagined must be a club bouncer, with a strangely triangular upper body you’d expect to find on a comic book hero, broad shoulders that narrowed down to a small waist. “Yeah,” I said, “Or die trying … most likely the second.”

This guy looked like he could take me down easily … blindfolded … with his small toe.

Image from Pixabay

“Look, kiddo,” I said. “Don’t even joke about getting kidnapped. If anything were to happen to you, your Uncle Jack and I wouldn’t rest until you were home safe.”

She linked her arm in mine. “Okay. Where should we go?”

“Somewhere where there’s food.” I said this partly because I’m a bottomless pit and partly because it seemed much more interesting than shopping for preteen girl clothes. “What do you say? A frappuccino and a Cinnabon or a frappuccino and a soft pretzel?”

Image from Pixabay

“A frappuccino and a Cinnabon.”

Just a short while ago, I was thinking about a guy shaped like a comic book superhero. Here, just outside of Starbucks, sat a guy with what looked to be one of those unicorn drinks, deeply engrossed in a comic book, and the comic book looked oddly familiar. It was one of our own line, the Blaze series. Tomorrow, we would be releasing accompanying action figures with robotic features.


Photo by Mahdiar Mahmoodi on Unsplash

I linked arms with Bronwyn and slid over to his table. Bronwyn, equipped in her Heelys shoes, skated over. “Hey!” I said to the guy.

He looked up from the comic, and, for a second or two, his hands shook. He had trouble looking me in the eye, and I couldn’t decide if he had a classic case of Asperger’s or if he was just taken aback by a complete stranger grinning oddly at him.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. I just couldn’t help noticing what you’re reading. I’m from Out of the Box Toys. The Blaze comics are in our line. I’m just pleased to see we have a fan.”

He was looking at me now, from small blue eyes sunk deep in his face, in a way that hardly seemed more comforting. I looked him over. He had a long oval pasty white face, blue rectangular-framed glasses and dull blondish-brown hair with a receding hairline. He was also sporting more Blaze paraphernalia than seemed healthy for a grown man: a Blaze T-shirt that was just visible beneath his winter coat, a Blaze messenger bag and canvas sneakers that seemed to be hand-painted with the Blaze emblem.

a photo collage showing an image of a bald, bearded man with sunglasses and an open comic book with a cup of coffee

“More than a fan – a superfan, I see,” I said. I expected a superfan to be more enthused by my presence, but he was looking at me as if he were deciding what to do with me. “I’m Andy Westin.” I realized this probably meant nothing to him. I shrugged a single shoulder. “I’m the marketing guy.” I looked to Bronwyn and suddenly pulled her to my side in what was half hug and half wrestling move. “And this is my niece. She’s actually Jack Donegal’s niece. He’s the real brains behind the series and the toys and the everything. He’s the brain. I’m more like … the right arm.”

His face changed at the mention of Jack’s name, with recognition, I supposed, but I found it hard to read.

“Bronwyn,” I said. “Let’s get a selfie with the superfan.” We both pulled out our phones and then, sandwiching the superfan like the cream in an Oreo, we clicked away. I looked through the results. I was grinning ridiculously. The superfan was looking stiff and somewhat unsociable. Bronwyn was looking cute and yet slightly awkward.


Photo by Tinh Khuong on Unsplash

I suddenly slapped my forehead in an “I should have had a V8” moment. “We were taking selfies with our phones. We should have taken one with your phone,” I told the fan.

I was almost surprised when he pulled his phone out. I was beginning to think he thought we were a couple of desperate celebrity wannabes. He stretched his camera arm out, and, with the other, flipped a hair into place. He clicked, and, briefly, I saw the result. His face was different in this one. The stiffness was gone, yet he didn’t smile. Instead, he looked like an actor playing the part of the noble hero.

I tried one more approach. “We’re going to be at the New York Toy Fair tomorrow, unleashing something new. You should come or you should at least stay tuned.”

The statue that was the superfan spoke for the first time. “Yes, I n …” His voice was soft and squeaky. “Yes, thank you.” He nodded and smiled a weird smile that only moved the lower half of his face.

“Well,” I said, clearing my throat. “I’ll leave you to your excellent reading choice and your unicorn drink. I may get one for the niece.”

“Oh, it’s a Pokemon Go frappuccino.”

Pokemon Go frappuccino,
Source: Starbucks.com

“Ah.”

I was almost glad to get away from him, and I linked my arm with Bronwyn’s once more.

To be continued …

*It’s hard to find images that suit the characters. The “girl with sword” is not too similar to how I imagine Zarelda, and she is certainly never described as wearing a sailor outfit. Still, it communicates something of the spirit of it.

© 2018 Susan Joy Clark

Action Men with Duct Tape, Mystery Serial, 1

mystery serial title header showing two silhouettes of men and duct tape

This is a Jack Donegal Mystery Serial, in the same series with Action Men with Silly Putty and Action Men and the Great Zarelda.

It’s a mystery serial as opposed to a mystery cereal. (A mystery cereal sounds like something with fiber in the name trying to disguise itself, although there was a limited edition Volcano Mystery Crunch … with Pop Rocks.)

This post features a couple of different Amazon affiliate links, so, if you are inspired by the fashion of the fictional Bronwyn, click away.

Action Men with Duct Tape, Mystery Serial, Part 1

Image by Pixabay


“So, what do you think, Uncle Andy?” Bronwyn Byrne, my “niece” only by my close brotherly association with her actual Uncle Jack, stepped out of the dressing room, held her arms out and twirled around.  

I sighed, expressing relief. “Ah. It’s fine.” I’d seen plenty of “Nos” on this shopping trip – the skintight leggings, the too-short skirts, some darkly themed band T-shirts of questionable taste. The outfit she was wearing with the pink shirt bedecked with cupcakes and sprinkles was something to which I could say. “Yes.” This was how little girls should look, all pink with cotton candy and unicorns and glitter.

“It’s fine? Just fine?” She drooped her arms down to her sides.

  Somehow, the girl had translated “fine” as “barely passable.” “Yeah … right. I mean it’s … cute.”   “It’s cute?” She groaned. “In other words, I look like I’m seven.”  

“Nah. Nah. You look your age. You look like a cute …” I was not good at this. I’ve never been a dad, and here I was acting in the role of one. I was out of my element, standing there with my arms loaded with pastel-colored shopping bags, not to mention Bronwyn’s little purse, covered in emojis, dangling from my elbow … not exactly the manliest of accessories.

“Where’s Uncle Jack?”  

That was a very good question. Why couldn’t Jack be here to handle these delicate girly issues with his own niece? “He got an important phone call on his cell about the event tomorrow, so he went to look for a quiet place to talk. When he’s done there, he’ll probably check on your brother at the Best Buy.”  

I turned myself around, Bronwyn’s little purse swinging like a flag in tribute to my manliness.

I spotted a boy, around 12, skulking in a corner behind a clothes rack with his Nintendo DS, probably the unfortunate brother of a shopper in this girly store.

Image from Pixabay

“Hey kid,” I said. “Come here.”   He looked up and lifted an eyebrow.   “I need a man’s opinion.” This seemed to get his attention. I hoped Bronwyn would appreciate the opinion of a boy her age. She was already starting to notice members of the opposite sex.

mystery serial graphic showing girl shopping for clothes and a mall cop

When the kid approached, I put my hands on his shoulders and pointed him in Bronwyn’s direction. “See there? That’s my niece. Her outfit shows good taste, right? It’s cool, hip, da bomb … Is da bomb still a phrase?”  

“Uh … That would be a no,” said the kid. I noticed he refrained from rolling his eyes at me … unlike Bronwyn.  

“Well,” I said. “The outfit. She needs some affirmation. She looks good, right?”  

The kid was now giving me a nervous side eye. “Uh … yes?” The boy either had a young person’s habit of ending every phrase as a question or he was terrified of disagreeing with me or maybe afraid of agreeing with me a little too much.

Image from Pixabay

He shrugged a single shoulder. “Sure. Whatevs. It’s cool … for her.” He said this as if he wanted me to be sure he wouldn’t wear it himself.

A little while later, I met Bronwyn in her regular clothes, the trial outfit draped over her arm. She spoke to me through her teeth. “Can you get any more embarrassing?”  

“Uh … do you really want to know the answer to that question?”  

“Probably not.” Her comment was accompanied by another eye roll.  

“So, you’re not taking it?” I asked, pointing to the pile on her arm.  

“No, I’m taking it,” she said.  

Moments later, we were hitting the halls of the mall, and I was relieved of half of the baggage. Walking along the halls and the crowd, a thought came to me.

Maybe the thought came to me out of boredom from shopping at Girly Outfitters and Forever 13 or maybe my blood sugar was dropping and addled my brain.

My nose was picking up aromas of Cinnabon and freshly baked cookies, but, up to this moment, I had refrained from indulging. I decided this was a good time to hone her self defense skills.  

Image from Pixabay

I steered Bronwyn away from the main mall traffic. “Hey,” I said. “Check out the mannequins.” I directed her towards a side entryway, sandwiched between Old Navy and another tween girl’s paradise. The mannequins in the window display looked like they belonged on a teen pop star’s stage and were set up like a step by step dance tutorial.

I was beginning to think like Jack, imagining photos from the line-up, left to right, put together into an action flipbook.   Bronwyn stood mesmerized. It didn’t hurt that the outfits were loud and crazy like a mashup between a Harajuku kawaii frillfest and Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. If the cutesie didn’t make you sick, the edible suggestions of ice cream cone earrings with gumball-spattered skirts might. Then came the sneak attack.

Image by Pixabay
So, not exactly like a dance tutorial nor too wild and crazy here … but you get the idea. 🙂

I slinked up behind her and seized her around the middle, pinning her arms. “Now, suppose I’m a bad guy,” I said, “what do you do now?” We’d gone through this exercise a few times back at our apartment. This was the first time I’d attempted it in public.

Trouble with the Mall Cop

Looking to my left and spying a mall cop giving me the stare down, I surmised it was probably my last time doing this in public.   Mr. Mall Cop Guy was glaring at me as if I were Ted Bundy.

“I’m her uncle,” I said, loosening my grip on Bronwyn’s waist. Biologically speaking, this wasn’t the strict truth, but, emotionally speaking, it was. “I was impersonating a bad guy and – apparently – doing too good a job of it.”   Mr. Mall Cop Guy looked from me to Bronwyn and back again, perhaps looking for a sign that she was okay or that I was telling the truth. I pointed to him. “You, Sir, are doing an excellent job of protecting young girls from creeps like me … well, no, not literally creeps like me … creeps like the bad guy I was impersonating. I, for one, salute you.”  

Image from Pixabay

I put out my arm for a fist bump, and he took a couple of steps back.   “Aw, c’mon. I didn’t swing at you. If I wanted to swing at you, I’d do a better job than that.” This was my day to stick my foot in my mouth over and over again.

I was going to have to head over to Starbucks for one of those frappuccino things to wash out the taste of foot.

“Not that I’m in the habit of taking a swing at fine upstanding security personnel.”  

Image from Pixabay

Bronwyn reached over and gave me a squeeze around the middle. “Uncle Andy is completely harmless,” she told Mr. Mall Cop Guy.   “I am not completely harmless …”

Just like Bronwyn had understood “cute” as babyish, I understood “harmless” as milquetoast.

Then, I looked at Mr. Mall Cop Guy and thought I’d better change my phraseology. “Except to kids. I’m harmless to kids.” I gave Bronwyn a firm pat between the shoulder blades and rubbed my knuckles into her scalp.  

Mr. Mall Cop Guy shrugged and shook his head in a way that made me think he was still assured that I was a weirdo but just of the “harmless” variety.

To Be Continued …

© 2018 Susan Joy Clark

Did you enjoy this first mystery serial episode? Did you enjoy the character of Andy Westin? Let me know in the comments.

You can read more adventures with Andy and his buddy Jack Donegal in Jack Donegal Mysteries books. You can also download Part 1 of the prequel to the series, Action Men with Fuzzy Dice, when you subscribe to this site.

Stay tuned for more mystery serial adventures.

10 Fun Indoor Things To Do When You’re On a Budget

Here are some ideas of …

Fun, inexpensive indoor things you can do even in the winter months.

This post has Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through links, you may help me get a little commission. There may also be one other shameless plug in this post as well as a freebie game sheet to download. These are all fun things which I honestly recommend.

1. Have a board game night.


Photo by Robert Coelho on Unsplash

Board game nights can be loads of fun, and they provide inexpensive entertainment. You can supply all the games yourself or have friends bring their own games. If you do the second, you’ll soon find you have a lot of varied choices.

One of my favorite board games is Cranium. It has a little mix of everything: knowledge/trivia questions, word-related challenges such as spelling backwards, a little bit of Charades, Name That Tune, Pictionary and Sculptionary. You can see the slogan on the box reads, “Everyone shines,” because there is a challenge to suit everyone in this game.

Amazon Prime members can get the game for $14.99. Check out the image link below.

What I have noticed with this game is that, if you don’t happen to like all of the categories like I do, certain players will have a strong preference for one or two of them. Some introverts may feel uncomfortable with humming or acting. This is a team effort game, and it works best when you arrange the teams so that they’re made up of people with differing talents and personalities.

I’ve also recently been introduced to the card game Blink, a fast-moving game that has elements similar to Uno and Dutch Blitz. I reviewed it here. Check out the image link below. It’s $7.73 for Amazon Prime members.

2. Have a movie night at home.


Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

You can pop popcorn or serve classic movie snacks like Goobers and Raisinets. You’ll still save money over movie theater snacks. You can even get creative to make your snacks fit the movie theme. Watching Jaws? How about some gummy sharks? Watching a mystery? How about some “red herrings,” aka Swedish Fish?

You can theme your snacks around an ethnic cuisine style that fits the setting or culture in the movie. (If you don’t cook or don’t feel like cooking, you can find a lot of frozen appetizers in the grocery store.) Try samosas with Slumdog Millionaire, spanakopita (little spinach pies) with My Big Fat Greek Wedding or antipasto with The Godfather.

Sometimes, with any group of people, it’s hard to find a movie that everyone will like. Here’s a suggestion. Charade stars two of my favorite Old Hollywood actors, Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, and features adventure, romance, comedy and a really perplexing mystery. I thought, for the longest time, it was a Hitchcock movie. It’s not, but it’s in Hitchcock’s style. The DVD is $9.96 with Amazon Prime and is also available for streaming with Amazon Prime Video.

3. Have a mystery party night.


Photo by Craig Whitehead on Unsplash

You may think that hosting a mystery party is an ambitious undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It is up to you and your group of friends how elaborate you want to be with costumes and props. You can have minimal or even no costumes at all and still have fun sleuthing and puzzling. You can download my humorous “Chocolate Bomb Cake” Mystery Party Game Kit for $10 here. It has been friend-tested and approved.

My test group of friends used little to no special costumes and still had fun. Most clue items are included in the kit. Others are objects you can find around the house or a firecracker prop you can put together using a toilet paper tube. (Craft instructions are included.)

4. Meet up at the local coffee shop.


Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Great coffee and conversation might be fun enough by itself, but some independent coffee shops are supporters of the arts and host a variety of interesting activities. Independent coffee shops in my area are a meeting space for book clubs and host local author events. They also display paintings or photos from local artists and host free concerts from bands and musicians in the area. If you attend some of these things, you will have fun and also be a supporter of the arts yourself. They may even host Open Mic nights which you can enjoy as a spectator, or, if bold enough, share your own talents.

5. Check out events at public libraries in your area.


Photo by Jonathan Daniels on Unsplash

Many public libraries have similar offerings to those mentioned above. You might expect a library to have literary activities like book clubs and author events, but many offer a variety of activities which are not directly literary. They may have movie showings for adults and kids, concerts of all sorts, art exhibits and many other artsy, cultural and educational activities, all free to the public. In the past, I have enjoyed a classical piano concert, informal opera performances, a classic rock concert, a Shakespeare play and even an educational presentation from a woman who impersonated Eleanor Roosevelt. While not all of these choices might appeal to you or your particular group of friends, you never know what you might find. Check out the schedule for library activities in the newspaper or on library websites.

6. Go on a historical house tour.


Photo by Jessica Furtney on Unsplash

Old houses have wonderful architecture and often have interesting stories behind them. Friends and I have enjoyed historical home tours in our own county in northern New Jersey or at New Jersey shore towns like Ocean Grove and Cape May. Homes like this might not be accessible at any given time you may be looking for something to do, but keep your eyes peeled at your local events calendar. They may have free open houses from time to time as well as special events that might include musicians, historical reenactments or other creative possibilities.

7. Go to a school play or concert.


Photo by Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash

So, going to a school play isn’t quite the same as seeing a play on Broadway or at a professional arts center near you. Still, high school and college students have talents to exhibit, and you don’t have to be a student or a parent of a student to enjoy these kinds of events. Show your support for budding artists and have fun while saving up for more big-time tickets.

8. Go antiquing, thrift shopping, flea marketing or just plain window shopping.


Photo by Lina Castaneda on Unsplash

Antiquing might seem to be an expensive hobby, but, what I’ve found, is that many antique shops sell vintage collectibles that are less than one hundred years old and are somewhat affordable. It really depends on the particular shop however.

I love visiting antique shops but have yet to buy an antique. I tend to treat the experience like visiting a museum where I’m just enjoying seeing interesting items on display. If you can enjoy “just looking,” this is certainly an inexpensive entertainment. It also might be possible to find an interesting item that won’t break the bank.

10. Have a digital scavenger hunt at the mall.


Photo by Marcin Kempa on Unsplash

You might know what a scavenger hunt is. You look to find a particular list of items and collect them. A digital scavenger hunt involves taking digital photos of the items instead of collecting them. Below is a free download for a list of scavenger hunt items which you can find in the mall to photograph.

Print a copy of the list for all participants. Break up into teams and race to the finish. You might even creatively present and compare the photos later.

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image of fun things to do, a board game with dice and people enjoying coffee.