Saturday, December 23, 2017

How To Prepare A Huge Holiday Meal By Yourself And Still Have Time For Fun

I was asked, recently, how I made a Holiday meal by myself for the whole family and still had time to enjoy the day. Here is the basic process. Everyone does it differently, but you don’t have to make a big deal cooking a huge dinner. It only takes a few hours and actually Saves time because I don’t end up cooking again for, like, two days.

Well, admittedly, the whole family is usually only 5 people, but I do like to be extravagant and make as much of it myself as possible. Once you are already cooking, most dishes can be upsized. Actually, having a bunch of people is easier because they can just bring sides to add on.

Over Thanksgiving I took notes on how the day(s) went, play-by-play in my (little apartment) kitchen. It’s kind of interesting. If you’ve ever wanted to make a big Holiday Meal to feed a bunch of people, you can look over how I do it and adapt as necessary. I didn’t take timestamps, but just the basic order of operations with a bit of advice I’ve picked up from doing this for a while.

This is Thanksgiving, but Christmas is Very Similar. I’ve included Kid Helpers occasionally, but it’s optional. Only include the kid helpers if you have kids available and want to be a good influence and teach them life skills AND have the extra time. Anytime kids are helping add an extra 10-15 minutes.

Generally speaking, except for Turkey, you can save a bunch of time by just going for boxed and store-bought. Don’t want to bake a pie? Just buy one.


Our American Thanksgiving is usually turkey, hot sides, rolls, jello salads, and pie.

Just a Note on Christmas: We try to mix it up so that Christmas isn’t Turkey. Last year I did a leg of lamb. I’ve made Cornish Game Hens. No one is wild about Ham here, but I know people make it. Do Prims rib, pork ribs, fish, duck, rack of lamb, whatever. One year I plan to make a goose. Arrange your plan accordingly, but roasting meat is pretty similar. It can be slotted in for when I do the Turkey prep pretty easily.

Here’s how it’s done:

(Warning: it’s a bit long-winded, but only because I’m describing all the steps. Sometimes it takes more time to tell how to do something than to actually do it.)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Selfish Benefits of Book Parenting

As you can imagine, my life is defined heavily by my identification as a geek and my role as a father. My children are tied directly to my reading life in so many ways. It’s not just that I might have at one point read Knuffle Bunny and Going on a Bear Hunt several times a day for a few months straight, but I also get to mold and influence their growth into readers, and yes, even influence what they read.

I remember taking my book-loving daughter to the library for the first time when she was about 2 years-old. We walked into the main room and her eyes just got huge and she stood there in awe for a while. She couldn’t comprehend that there existed in her little world a building this large completely full of books. It wasn’t long before she was discovering some new ones and insisted on taking them home. Nurturing a love for books is something I see as my responsibility as a parent and it’s going well so far. My children have no idea how long my secret to-read list of books that I know are excellent that I want them to experience someday, when they are ready. I have already had the chance to introduce Harry Potter and The Hobbit, which are much loved now. My oldest even thinks Encyclopedia Brown and The Great Brain were entirely her choices, having no idea how premeditated their placement was to achieve maximum interest.

I’m sure most parents like to introduce their favorite books to their children, but what took me longer to realize, is that I don’t just influence them, they influence me right back. Sometimes we choose books to read together, or start a series together, or I will read ahead so I can discuss the books with them when they catch up (because they can read the newest release when I’m done with it). In this way I have discovered many great YA titles I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed. Would I have read the adventures of Percy Jackson without my kids? Well, probably, but I can guarantee you that I wouldn’t have read Gregor the Overlander, or The 39 Clues on my own. This is perfectly fine. I still get to read my “adult literature” and I can delve into the fun, popular stories my kids are enjoying too. If this has taught me anything, its that good books are simply good books.

The second change in my reading life comes in the form of re-reading all these great books from my past. I am much more likely to revisit books with my kids than I am on my own. For me that has been wonderful as I personally enjoy re-reading books, despite the perils of potentially diminishing a favorite book or character. I used to scare myself with questions like, “What if the book actually isn’t any good if you aren’t still a kid?” or “What if it’s only a good book through a nostalgic lense?” and “What if the plot is actually really bad and the writing cliche?” I’ll tell you, my fears have yet to be validated. I’m not saying it won’t ever happen, but it hasn't yet. Maybe it’s luck and we just pick excellent books. But I doubt it. No, the stories hold up because we get to experience them again for the first time.

Your experience with a book will change as you change and grow and learn and experience life and hardship and joy, but, with my children reading with me, it’s a happy experience even if the characters and plot aren’t as good as I remember. Their innocence of the story and enthusiasm for the characters and joy in the experience temper any critical negativity of adulthood that seeps in over time and allow me to experience the books as they do, at least by vicariously. And that has been perfectly fine. As Tolkien reminded us, we are only little fellows in a wide world afterall.

I’ll leave you with this thought from Frank Herbert's Dune that has more relevence for me now than it ever did before

“The mystery of life isn't a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.”

Monday, July 22, 2013

Stories from the Gates of Camelot: Into the Ruins #1

Several years ago contributing writer Orcrist had a job with a browser gaming company called SnakeHead Games. During this time he helped them make their first Facebook game, as well as do some work on their existing browser games.  The Facebook game has sense been moved to a browser game (a whole blog could be written just about that experience - needless to say you don't need to send me any FB game invites). Now they've released the beta for a new game the Gates of Camelot.  As an aside to training to be the best knight you can be, there are all sorts of opportunities to write.  This has been wonderful opportunity for me to practice writing short story content and I thought I'd share some of the pieces that make the most sense outside of the game here on the blog.

To understand this piece it is important to know that every hour you are given the opportunity to "search the ruins." During this time you find money and random items.  The challenge for this particular piece of writing was to give a possible explanation for how the following items were left in the ruins and subsequently found by the intrepid knight Sir Ducksalot - who is in fact, a duck.  The items were: a small shield - improvised (described as a random bit of wood or branch which has been fashioned for use as a shield), a kinfe, an ale, and if applicable $2,508 silver. Get your tissues ready for the Tale of Cassandra (after the jump).

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Dear Readers.  I know this blog has been on an unimaginable hiatus.  This is a hobby blog and I love having a space to share random thoughts with you all, given that I find the time to type them up.  Orcrist and I have several things we are working on currently and some of it will eventually show up here (we hope!).  In the meantime, it appears we have become a favorite of spammers.  Many of our posts have become deluged with spam posts, that while relevant enough to get around the automated filters, did not add any significant discussion to the posts.  As such I have disabled comments to all anonymous posts. I will crank the security up tighter if this doesn't solve the problem.  I barely have time to write here, I don't need to spend it all clearing junk off the bottoms of the pages.

I want to personally thank Orcrist for taking an afternoon to clear the majority of the junk. If you want to link your blog, something cool you saw, or a contact info in the comments of a post - I'm actually ok with that, given that there is a valid reason for doing so - you and another commenter had a meaningful conversation and you want to continue it elsewhere, you are linking to something that directly relates to the post, etc. I do this too, and it's always tricky to say - hey I totally wrote something about the same thing, come see what I said.  I know that.  However, if your link is to a retail site, expect it to get nuked (unless we are talking product, which we may, but if you link a sale piece it had better be 100% relevant!)  I hope to add some of the new G+ functionality to this blog soon.  I want us to have conversations.  I want our ideas to be discussed and shared.  But I don't want you, the faithful, to have to be barraged with spam on these pages.  It's bad enough I don't edit!

Thanks All


Thursday, January 31, 2013

FIRST Diary Entry 1: Craming for the Qualifier

I interviewed almost a month ago.  I mean I know I was busy, had the big school fundraiser of the year event, Mom and Dad came for a visit, I was organizing Dr. Baird's Wilderness History collection - oh my gosh was that awesome reading!  Yeah, I totally blew off the thank you note.  I had been up all night reading historical documents and letters to Senators before the interview.  They said they needed someone right away, and I talked too much... I always talk too much when I don't know what to say and feel responsible for carrying the conversation.  I still feel like a little kid at the "grown up table" for the first time.  So, it was with great reluctance that I announced at the PAT meeting that I probably didn't get the job.  I accepted it.  I didn't really need more work, I had two jobs and a good hobby.  Maybe with my free time I could even make a hobby or two pay as well.  Ok, my husband wanted me to bring in a bit more, but pttthbpt I didn't care anymore.

So when my phone rang interrupting the raptor club presentation (and scaring a poor falcon) on the all school field trip to the University where Orcrist works.... well I was not expecting a job offer!  We'll let you know by the start of next week had become nearly 4 weeks.  I quickly called back, worked out a few details (probably not nearly enough), and jumped in with both feet, starting just days before my daughter's birthday and the opening of the Hobbit - for which I'd been arranging childcare for over a year and a half (only to have to scramble at the last minute //sigh)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Intro to FIRST

I recently accepted a job with a local FIRST© partner - 4-H Youth and Development. Which is an extension program of the local State Land Grant University. I am an associate (part-time) in their sciences robotics program. This means I work in a dorm turned offices, at the University where I did my undergrad. Furthermore, by starting in the middle of the tournament season - I'm getting a crash course in all thing FIRST.

I would like to share my experiences (starting from December when I began), in a series of diary-style entries, but first I will give you an overview of the program - after the jump.

Monday, December 17, 2012

In Memory of Green and White

In the wake of the tragic shootings at Sand Hook Elementary school, the Internet has erupted with anger, confusion, and demands.  Some people want tougher gun laws, some people want their access to guns of all kinds left alone.  Some people blame the removal of a mainstream God from the schools.  Some blame parents.  Some blame working moms.  Some blame public schools as a whole.   There is plenty of blame, plenty of wants.  In all of this anger and hurt I wrote something which is being shared in part.  I'd like to share it now, on this site for all of you to read.
I'm a Christian - sometimes I wonder if it isn't against my better judgment, but that has nothing to do with the God I believe in. So when I say this, I want it with the full disclosure of my faith. My God has never been restricted by any idea, any border, any nation, nor any institution. I hardly think he experiences time, space, and reality in a way we can even comprehend. What is lacking in our schools, our communities, and our culture isn't a religion. It is a lack of humanity, that sense that we are all on this world together, with one another. That we rise and fall together, the weakest among as important as the strongest. We lack the message that Jesus brought and so many Christians are supposed to be reminded of this season.... that there is no Jew and Gentile (no race), there is no value in worldly wealth, there is only what we do for each other (ideally in his name, as our faith dictates). That's exactly what we are missing. That's exactly why I don't like being associated with the bulk of people claiming my faith.
  This is very personal to me, so take it as it is.... my personal statement, not the beginning of a debate.  For when we are hurting we can not debate, we can only shout.  We need to stop shouting before the debate can begin.

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