Merry Christmas

Happy Hanuchristmakwanzivus.

Family and travel. No posts today.

Make the most of the holiday.

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Christmas Magic


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When I was little, the world was amazing.  The first snowfall  was among the best days of the year.   Everything was worth exploring, in hopes of discovering something new and fascinating, and everything was fascinating.

Stepping on a crack had serious implications.   The wishbone in a turkey earned its name.   Blowing out all of the candles on a birthday cake could change your life.  The idea of some dude half a world away, watching you, then sneaking into your house to dish our rewards and punishments wasn’t pervy and sick, it was wonderful.

Then, one day, it all changes.

Somebody–a classmate, a older brother, a neighbor–let’s it slip that Santa isn’t real, and the implications snowball.   That day, the magic dies.

Wishing on a star? Over.

The Easter Bunny? Hasenpfeffer.

Growing up to be Superman?  Welcome to the rat race.

It’s a sad day when kids stop believing in magic.

I don’t believe in lying to my children, but I also don’t believe in destroying their magic.  It’s a balancing act.

When my son was 6, an older boy at daycare tried to kill Santa for him.  He was upset.

“Dad, is Santa real?”

“What do you think?”

“I don’t believe in Santa.”

“Okay, I’ll let him know.”

“Nonononononono!  Don’t tell him!”

Was it lying?  Probably, but he obviously wasn’t ready to stop believing, so I let him continue.   A year later, we had the same conversation, but the results were quite different.

“Dad, you’ve always said that you hate lying, so why did you let me believe in Santa?”

So I told him the truth.   Magic is a frail thing that’s nearly impossible to reclaim and I wanted him to have that treasure for as long as possible.  And, “Now that you know, you are in on the conspiracy.  You’ve been drafted.   Don’t kill the magic for anyone else.”

It was weird having him help me stuff stockings.

If you’ve got kids(and celebrate Christmas), how do you handle the Santa problem?

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Halloween Decorations Ain’t Cheap

This year, Americans are expected to drop $5.8 billion on Halloween, with most people spending $66.28 per person.  About 1/3 of that is candy.

Zombie Girl

Zombie Girl

The rest?  Costumes and decorations. $4,000,000,000 on costumes and decorations.  That’s a lot of freakin’ money.

Over the years, I have certainly spent more than my fair share on building that number.  We are the Halloween house in our neighborhood.  A few years ago, we were even featured on the evening news.    Filling a yard with decorations is expensive. When money’s tight, or you just want to save some money, how can you decorate on the cheap?

1.  Plan ahead. The best time to buy Halloween decorations is in the two weeks after Halloween.   After that, all of the seasonal stores are closed.   If you want the best selection, get up early on November 1st and hit all of the stores.  Prices drop to 50% or lower the morning after the big day, but won’t drop below that, even when the seasonal stores are closing for the year.   The goods will either be warehoused or bought back by the suppliers, so there’s no motivation to sell at cost.

2.  Buy used. You can find some screaming deals on Craigslist, but always check the prices.    I’ve seen cardboard and wooden coffins both going for $50.  One is a good deal, one is a ripoff.    Do some research and you can save a ton of money on some really neat pieces.    Last year, a local haunt decided to close shop after Halloween and posted a “going out of business” sale on Craigslist.  There were some excellent gory corpses for sale there.

3.  DIY. When department stores close, you can buy mannequins for little-to-nothing.  Throw some clothes and mask on that, and you’ve got a quick monster.    Grave stones can be made by gluing two sheets of insulation styrofoam together and using a Dremel to shape it and add the epitaph.  Make sure you brush paint it.  Spraypaint will eat the foam away. Finally, if you can run a drill, you can cobble together some truly intense props with the aid of some monster mud and discarded lumber.   Monster mud is made by mixing 1 gallon of latex paint with 5 gallons of sheetrock compound.    I get a gallon of paint from the “oops” bin at the hardware store, preferably in a dark color.    Dip some clothes in that, then put them on a a human-shaped frame built out of 22 lumber, and you have something not too disimilar from actual Hollywood props.

Over the years, I’ve managed to shrink my Halloween budget, while increasing the quality of my props.  It just takes some time and research.

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