Cable Guy (Photo: Columbia Pictures/Getty Images)

The Decemberists, The Crane Wife: 10th Anniversary Edition

The Decemberists’ 2006 album The Crane Wife is one of my all-time favorites, so I was pretty excited when I saw the band announce a 10th anniversary Crane Wife box set with a ton of demos, B-sides, and alternate takes—or at least I was excited up until I saw how expensive it is. Luckily, the band just released a digital version of the collection, and though you don’t get any of the goodies included in the real thing (like an essay written by Lin-Manuel Miranda), it’s not a bad deal for a fraction of the price. Only huge Decemberists fans will care about some of the tracks, but I think everyone needs to give “The Perfect Crime #1/The Day I Knew You’d Not Come Back” a try. It’s probably The Decemberists at their most self-indulgent, and I mean that in the best way. [Sam Barsanti]

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Instructions for how to make a 3-D snowflake

There’s a paper snowflake, and there’s this: a cylindrical, twisting construction that moms and grandmas go absolutely apeshit for. There are tutorials of how to make this 3-D snowflake online, so visit this WikiHow page for the instructions and take heed of my tips:

  1. After you closely follow the instructions for your first 3-D snowflake, turn the TV on and watch The Great British Bake Off or some similar television that doesn’t require your full attention. Making 3-D snowflakes is fun, but it gets boring quickly if there’s not some low-key entertainment on in the background.
  2. After you’ve figured out how to make the snowflake, practice the time-saving batching method of duplication of effort. Instead of folding, then cutting, then twisting and taping a piece of paper, and then starting it again, fold all six pieces of paper in one batch, then cut all six, then twist and tape all six. It makes this time-consuming process hum along.
  3. If you don’t have square paper, just fold printer paper on a diagonal, pulling a corner up to the opposite side, and cut off the extra rectangle. Don’t worry that there’s a crease in the paper; it won’t be noticeable in the final product.
  4. Use shiny wrapping paper to bump your snowflake up a notch.
  5. However, using plain printer paper results in arguably the prettiest snowflake when hung up in a window. The light bounces around the pieces, the snowflake’s architecture a perfect vehicle for catching light.
  6. A mini stapler is easier to use than the standard size.
  7. To hang your snowflake, take a needle or paperclip and pierce a small hole at the top of one of the six arms. Thread the hole with yarn, thread, or a ribbon, and attach the other end where you want to hang it. You can even tape the yarn to the ceiling; the snowflake is light enough that it won’t pull the tape down. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]

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Medieval Times

I recently went to the Medieval Times for the very first time after being stumped for an idea for a kid’s birthday party. My prior MT knowledge was based on everyone’s basic MT knowledge: Cable Guy. Medieval Times catapulted over my low bar immediately. Sure, it’s a money grab, but we found some bargains: The dungeon, for example, was only $2 per person and had loads of gruesome details perfect for bloodthirsty children. The falconer just walks around with his bird before the show, posing for photos. You might even get a “fare thee well” from the king on the way to the bathroom.

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Once you’re in the actual arena, everything kicks up considerably. Medieval Times offers a 90-minute dinner and a floor show with several handsome knights who look like they’re imported straight from a series of romance novels. The performances increase in intensity until the actual jousting begins, complete with wooden shields that shatter in combat and swords that spark as they bounce off of each other. Knights somersaulted off horses and flipped over one another as they fought, using a variety of weaponry. Our section knight won the whole thing (when in doubt, root for the Blue Knight), which made kids and adults alike lose their minds.

About that medieval meal: It’s actually good! Yes, it’s mostly beige and eaten with your hands: garlic bread, a giant roasted potato, corn on the cob, and a half a chicken, followed by a gooey lemon cake. We did spy a utensil at Medieval Times, though, as one member of our party was vegetarian, and so was given a spoon for his vegetable soup. I know, medieval scandal. But even if you don’t get a utensil, rest assured that just like in the movie, the Pepsi is plentiful. [Gwen Ihnat]