Archive for November 2012

Thanksgiving Week, Part 4, aka “T-Day”

November 30, 2012

So, finally we’ve arrived at Thanksgiving Day.  Nana was up early, baking pies and making a roasted turkey.  K was doing some last minute cleaning/arranging.  And the kids were doing some last minute dirtying/un-arranging.

I, as is my want, had turkey-frying duty.  Nothing brings joy to my heart like watching 14 pounds of succulent turkey meat cooking in 350° peanut oil over what is, essentially, a propane-powered jet engine.

A critical step some folks don’t do before frying a turkey … leveling. Yes, I am an engineer.

Let’s fry!

Better living through technology.  Remote sensing of the oil temperature.

Speaking of technology, this is me watching the early football game via my phone, which is getting the signal from my basement TV, over the internet, thanks to a SlingBox. I get excited just thinking about all the technology involved.

One critical piece of technology I never turkey-fry without.

K stopped by for some moral support.

After 40 minutes, golden-brown goodness.

In the meantime, there is a lot of activity in the kitchen.

Not one, not two, but three types of turkey: roasted (by Nana), smoked (my brother), and fried (yours truly).

We never starve at family get-togethers

And we always give thanks.

And now on to the eating portionof the program.

After eating, what’s the most vital part of Thanksgiving?

The football watching.

Although my brother and at least one of his daughters may think napping is the next most important thing.

It was a fantastic time of eating, talking, and watching the Redskins win.  If there was one downside, it was when I was sitting in our newly-finished basement and heard the words “something is dripping from the ceiling.”  Seems the dishwasher decided that Thanksgiving would be the perfect time to malfunction and overflow.  Luckily, there was no real damage.  But we did spend a lot of time doing this later in the evening:

Hand-washing dinnerware for 25. Fun!

And this was my job the next day.

But if that’s our biggest “first world” problem, then we truly have a lot for which to be thankful.

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Thanksgiving Week, Part 3, aka “Visiting the Big Man”

November 29, 2012

So, after Part 2, with the house ready for the onslaught, we thought we might as well get another difficult trial out of the way early this year.

We headed out to see Santa.

Normally, we tend to lollygag when it comes to getting pictures with Santa.  But a chance encounter a week earlier made us reconsider this approach.  You see, while at the mall for dinner the week before, we noticed that Santa was already in residence.

And there was absolutely no line.

At 6 pm.

So, hoping that there still were not many others crazy enough to see Santa before Thanksgiving, we packed up the gang and headed out.

The kids were already prepared…

J loves his Star Wars Legos.  And you have to appreciate the way he butters up Old St. Nick before going for the jugular.

A was ready with a sealed envelope. She’s tricky, that one.

When we got there, there was no line. I think this threw off J and A, since they normally have a lot more time in line to think about what they are going to say. Or cry.

So we walked right up to Santa …

I think A’s starting to be a little skeptical.

And now the obligatory recap of 8 years worth of Santa photos:

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

And next time, we’ll finally get to Thanksgiving Week, Part 4, aka “T-Day”

Thanksgiving Week, Part 2, aka “The Prep”

November 28, 2012

Continuing with our exploits during Thanksgiving Week, we focus on some of the work leading up to having 25 people invade our house.

My biggest task was getting some of the leaves up off the grass.  Some may still call this “raking the leaves,” but I haven’t used a rake in almost 10 years.  This is due mostly to the fact that we live in the middle of 5 acres of trees.  For me, getting the leaves off the grass is somewhat like painting the Golden Gate Bridge … by the time you think you’re finished, it’s time to start all over again.  And since normally this task falls to me alone, I have become quite adept with my leaf removal weapon of choice.

The leaf blower.

This year, however, I decided it was time to start passing down this skill in order to someday get out of having to do this job get some quality time with the kids.

J exhibits a classic “high and tight”  approach.

While A lets gravity help with the “low and slow” grip.

Of course, after about 4.5 seconds of work, the kids decided they had enough “fun.”  Wanting to keep their attention, I then taught them some of the finer skills of leaf blowing, such as …

… the large mouth bass

… and the belly ripple

After “helping” me with the leaves, the kids decided it was time to “help” their mother, who was working on table decorations.

Here’s a great idea, lets give each child several long, pointy sticks!

They were able to provide great assistance with name place cards.

We had to extend two tables from the foyer, through the dining room and into the study. But we were finally ready to go.

Next up, Thanksgiving Week, Part 3, aka “Visiting the Big Man”

Thanksgiving week, Part 1, aka “Science!”

November 27, 2012

Yes, Thanksgiving is so big, it took me a week to recap everything that happened.

Either that, or I was too lazy to do multiple posts last week.

Moving on.

Given that the kids were off the whole week, K and I decided to take the week off as well. And it really had nothing to do with the fact that we were hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, which meant we were having 25 people over on Thursday and needed to get the house in order.  No, nothing to do with that at all.

In an attempt to keep their brains somewhat engaged during their 10 day break from school, we decided to take the kids up to the Maryland Science Center on Tuesday. For those unfamiliar with this type of place, it’s where we geeks take our kids for a good time.  And where I try not to criticize or correct any of the exhibits.

Welcome to Baltimore, hon!

Always a good start when someplace has a hydrogen canon shooting ping-pong balls in the lobby.

And yes, J said “Holy Crab!” with a “b.”  Gotta love it when they pick up catch phrases from older Baltimore kids.

As soon as J saw this, he knew he was home.

A was a little less enthused.

Gotta love artificial tornadoes.  I’m already scheming on how I can build one of these.

And the tug-o-war demonstrating the power of the lever was a big hit.

I can remember seeing a pin table for the first time in EPCOT in 1983.  Good to see my fascination with them is genetic.

Some people take pictures of their family’s hand prints in the sand. We geek families take pictures of our hand prints in pin walls.

J discovering a new species in the fish tank cam.

Next we have  A testing the concept of a distributed load by lying on a bed of nails

The Center had a cool planetarium show. They have one of the oldest functioning star projectors. Of course, the entire planetarium is now digital, so they don’t use this projector. It lowered below the floor for the show. Ironic in a way.

I could have spent all day in the Science Center.  But after 5 hours, I knew the kids had seen enough.

When J curled up in the fetal position, I knew it was time to go.

Next up, Thanksgiving Week, Part 2, aka “The Prep”

Halloween 2012

November 1, 2012

As you might remember, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.  I don’t know if it’s the dressing up part, or the ability to apply engineering skills to useless prop creation, or a combination of both.  But I tend to go big or go home when it comes to Halloween.  This year was no exception.

We like to host a Halloween party the Saturday before Halloween so the kids (and I) can wear costumes more than one night. I’ve decorating our house based on Disney Worlds’ Haunted Mansion for the past couple of years.  You can see more details about the setup in posts from previous years.

It’s not Halloween until the fog machine is going.

A as Pink BatGirl, K as a biker chick, and J as Darth Vader

A closer shot of K’s arm “tattoos”

As I said, I tend to go all out for Halloween, especially for my costume.  Some previous year’s costumes include …

2010 – Cap’n Crunch

2011 – The Swedish Chef from the Muppet Show.

This year, I started working on my costume two months ago, mostly because I wanted to give the final product a chance to air out after I made it.  You see, you take one set of old camo BDUs, an old set of combat boots, some random military paraphernalia, a green morph suit, and add a can of primer and three cans of green spray paint, and you get…

… a life-sized plastic army man.

The classic hand-grenade-throwing pose

When guests started arriving at our house, I just stood motionless in the corner, only moving after a couple of minutes.  One 7-year-old came up and poked me with his ninja sword, thinking I was a statue.  When I turned my head at him, he levitated about 3 feet off of the ground.

Good times.

The party was a great.  We really like it that our friends not only bring their kids, but they too get into the mood by getting into costume.

Doug, our mad-scientist friend, was one of my favorites.

On Halloween night itself, our church always has a Trunk or Treat party for the neighborhood.  It was especially timely this year, as hurricane Sandy had left a lot of the church’s surrounding neighborhood without power for several days.  I think the 1000+ attendees appreciated the effort we went through to make sure Trunk of Treat went forward.

The weather was a little cold, so BatGirl and Darth had to bundle up

At the petting zoo, J makes friends with one of the ponies. They also had pigs, llamas, and, since no Halloween petting zoo would be complete without one, they also had …

… tarantulas, as demonstrated by my dad.

Kids were fascinated by the army man.

I was asked to pose for pictures probably a couple dozen times.

And now I’ll start planning for next year’s costume.