Santa for a Night

11 Dec
Santa and the kids.

Santa and the kids.

Though Santa and I have shared a similar physiques for quite a long time, this is the first year I’ve actually gotten to be Santa Clause. The opportunity came up only the day before an event at the local elementary school, and even though I’d never done this before, once I knew it was possible I knew I wanted to do it. I’m lucky the notice was relatively short, because after saying I would do it, I began to get nervous. Santa Claus is a big deal for kids. I knew the suit fit me, but would I be able to be Santa Claus?

Perhaps I should have spent some time researching how to be Santa Claus, but I had to work, and time was limited. Besides, I’d been a kid, seen all the Christmas specials on television, so I figured I could handle it.

Things went smoothly as I put on the costume, except that I was wearing white socks! I hadn’t considered the color of the socks then I put them on in the morning, but they showed a little between my shoes and the back boot tops that I wore on my calves. Luckily it was only a tiny bit of white, and my feet wouldn’t show in the pictures.

After getting the thumbs up from my wife, and some of the other school employees I headed towards my station in the gym. Kids spotted me right away, some smiling and waving with their eyes wide in wonder. Others slid behind their parents for protection. I don’t know when I made the decision, but though I tried a couple deep Ho-Ho-Ho’s, it didn’t feel quite right, so as I walked down the hall I would shake hands, and say Merry Christmas in something not far from my natural voice. I even got a few hugs before I made it to the chair where kids would be getting their picture taken and talking with Santa

But they weren’t just talking with Santa, they were talking to me! I was Santa! It was very exciting for me, and I don’t think I stopped smiling all night! Even though the fake beard hid my smile, I’m fairly certain you could see it in the roundness of my cheeks and the sparkle in my eyes.

After the first few kids, I fell into a rhythm. We’d take care of getting the pictures, so the parents could take a look at them while I talked with the children. I asked if they’d been good, told them to keep behaving, asked what they wanted for Christmas, and thanked them for visiting with me.

I don’t know if they believed I was Santa, but everyone treated me like Santa Claus! My own kids knew it was me, as did my nephew, and one of my Cub Scouts, but everyone else treated me like the real thing! Faces lit up when they saw me, some hugged me, and some little ones even cried, but they kept lining up to meet me.

I may never be lucky enough to have this experience again, but for that night, for just a few hours, I was Santa Claus. I got to experience the joy and magic of Christmas in a whole new way.

Virtual GenCon 2014

15 Aug

Originally posted on DungeonBriefs:

Kill the die! Yes, this week, gamers invaded Indianapolis for GenCon 2014!

Reading my Twitter feed, I know many of you are already there. Dice rolling, cards flipping, roles playing, friendships forming! I know you’re enjoying an amazing experience. Thanks to the wonderful world of The Internet, those of us stuck at home can share in the enjoyment!  Here are a few links I am using to keep an eye on things:

1) Board Game Geek Livestream: Board Game Geek is providing a stead stream of game demos all day long! Learn about some new games!

2) Oomba.tv: They’re hosting a number of interviews throughout the day. I’ve been having some trouble with this site, but I keep checking back hoping they’ll get things running smoothly.

3) Twitter!: I’ve seen both #GenCon and #GenCon2014 hashtags. The links will take you straight to a search for those hashtags. I’ve kept both open…

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Fleur-de-lis Blue and Gold Dinner Table Decoration

4 Mar
In place before our Blue and Gold dinner. There are actually 2 different decorations in this photo, someone forgot to take a picture of just the wooden shape in place.

In place before our Blue and Gold dinner. There are actually 2 different decorations in this photo, someone forgot to take a picture of just the wooden shape in place.

While most Cub Scout Blue and Gold dinners are over for the year, I wanted to share this decoration idea before any more time passed. I made these last year for our Blue and Gold dinner, but they are sturdy enough to be used year after year.

I purchased a small 2′ x 2′ sheet of 1/2″ plywood (birch I believe).  Using the tablesaw I cut that sheet into 9 squares of just under 8″ This created enough boards to make 4 of the decorations, with one extra square in case I made a mistake. I’m not an expert wood worker, or I might have purchased a full sheet of the plywood so I could have cut even more of them, but as I have a small Cub Scout den, 4 allowed each Scout to paint 1 of the decorations.

The stages of my process.   Starting at top left: Blank, template, template glued to blank, partially cut, and finished cut.

The stages of my process. Starting at top left: Blank, template, template glued to blank, partially cut, and finished cut.

I found this Fleur-de-lis template online and printed it out scaled so it would fit on the plywood squares. I cut a little bit off the bottom of the template so there would be a flat section where the wooden shape would connect to the base. You can find more elaborate Fleur-de-lis designs online, but I wanted to keep the design simple.

Using some spray adhesive I glued the templates to 4 of the boards and then cut the shapes out on a bandsaw. After cutting them out, I used sandpaper to smooth out the shapes, and then pre-drilled holes in the center of the bases, and in the bottom of the shapes so I could connect them with screws after the Scouts painted them.

Paint job finished, and ready for display.

Paint job finished, and ready for display.

To keep it from taking too long, the Scouts used 1″ foam brushes to paint the shapes using some inexpensive acrylic craft paints purchased at the craft store.

Additional notes:

1) If I do this again, I might use glue and pegs made from a wooden dowel to connect the shapes to the base. Because I used a single screw to connect them, they tend to spin a bit during handling.

2) I used a table saw and bandsaw to cut the wood, I’m sure you could use other types of saws to do the cutting. In fact, with older Scouts you might even let the boys cut the shapes out themselves using a coping saw.

3) You could also use a Forstner bit to drill holes partially through the bases and make a place for a small tea light candle on each side of the shape.

The Wizard Battle – Lego Set 79005

21 Jan

If you follow me on Twitter you’ve probably seen me talk about Lego bricks and Lego sets, but I haven’t posted much here in the blog about them.  As a kid I had a huge box of Lego bricks to build with. I don’t know how many pieces I had, but in my mind the box they came in was about a 10-12″ cube. I know the box could potentially have held thousands of bricks, though the box only seemed about half full, so I’m guessing I had around 700 bricks with which to litter the play room.

WizardBattle

Last year I picked up a small Lord of the Rings set called The Wizard Battle (Set 79005) and I think it does a great job of showing some of the things that make Lego bricks fun to build with, and shows off the quality of their bricks.

The Eye of Sauron at the front of the model spins when you turn a piece on the back of Sarumon’s throne. While they may produce similar mechanics in other sets, this was the first set I purchased with this style of motion. Because of the tight specifications of Lego bricks, the piece turns smoothly and easily.

This set also included several unusual pieces. Even as a relatively new collector of Lego bricks, the globes jumped out at me as something unique. I don’t think I’ve gotten them in any other sets I purchased. And there are several other round and curved pieces that don’t seem to show up frequently.

WizardBattleCloseUp

For me, the only con to this set, and it is a small one, is the minifigs. I already had Gandalf from another set and something about them just feels bland to me. I’d might have preferred a set that included a couple of dwarves, but then it wouldn’t have been a Wizard’s battle.

Hard to do anything except recommend buying almost every Lego set, don’t know that I’ve bought any yet that I was horribly disappointed about, but I do enjoy some sets more than others, and this is one of the better sets I’ve purchased.

Safe travels,

Paul

No Words

13 Jan

That is the phrase that keeps coming to mind this week. No Words.

One of my son’s classmates died this weekend after being involved in a car crash, and I have No Words.

No Words of wisdom for my son to help him understand why this happened.

No Words for a mother who will never again feel her son’s arms wrapped around her.

No Words to make sense of the senseless.

And then I realize that I must have words.

I must have them now.

Not words of wisdom or comfort, but of loving and caring.

Words for my family and my friends.

 

There is probably more to be added. When I opened the page to write this post, I hadn’t planned on starting something resembling a poem. Though I wanted to express the confusion in my mind. The need, the desire to help my son make sense of losing someone his own age, to make sense for myself of why someone so young is now dead. Of course it makes no sense and so my mind turns instead to mistakes I’ve made, to every time I’ve spoken too harshly to my kids, or my wife. And so I remind myself to try to be better, to be sure I create more joy than regret in my life.

Godspeed, Zach.

Image

Day is Done

8 Jan

Day Is Done

Recipe: Tater Tot Breakfast Casserole

7 Jan
My first serving.

My first serving.

I found this recipe when looking for something to cook for Christmas morning. I usually prepare something that can be assembled the night before and baked in the morning leaving me free to watch the kids open their presents. I started with this recipe from BlogChef.net and made a few adjustments to suit my family’s tastes.

Ingredients:

1 lb thick cut bacon

1 lb ground breakfast sausage

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

12 eggs

1 cup milk

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350, unless you are preparing in advance.

Cut bacon into 1″ strips and brown until crispy. Drain bacon on plate covered with paper towels. Put bacon into 9×13 baking dish.

Brown sausage in a bit of  the bacon grease, taking care to break up the sausage into small pieces. Drain sausage on plate covered with paper towels. You can use the same plate from the bacon, but may want to add some fresh paper towels. Add sausage to 9×13 baking dish, and stir around with the bacon, mixing the two evenly.

Combine eggs and milk in large bowl and add a bit of salt and pepper. Pour mixture into baking dish over the bacon and sausage. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the cheese.

At this stage you can cover and refrigerate if desired.

Place tater tots in a single layer in the baking dish and cover with foil.

Bake for 60 minutes, then remove foil and sprinkle with remainder of cheese and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Let cool for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.

The finished casserole. I didn't drain my sausage well enough when I made this one.

The finished casserole. I didn’t drain my sausage well enough when I made this one.

If you’d like you could chop and brown some onions and peppers and add to the egg mixture. Or replace the sausage with cubed ham. You could replace the bacon as well if you wish, but who would want to replace bacon with anything other than more bacon?? For those who like it a little spicier, a can of chopped jalepenos could be added to the eggs instead.

Any other things you’d add to the recipe? Leave ideas in the comments!

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