I’m terrible at Christmas. It’s the busiest season of the year for most of the priests I know with everything we do during Lent crammed into 4 weeks instead of 6. So normally gifts consists of gifts cards or leaving it to my sister to pick stuff up for me. This year I had the idea to actually make my nieces and nephew their gifts. It started with the toy soldiers for my nephew. I have seen some sets out there were the soldiers were made from a cloths pin and then customized with look the part. I decided to make the American Revolution; British Grenadiers and American Continentals, not that a three year old would know the difference. The cannons were made from PVC pipe and wood and they fire a 1 ½” cannon ball. They turned out pretty good and of course it took him all of three seconds to find the weak spot and break the firing mechanism on the cannon but that was an easy fix. He needs a little more coordination before he will be killing his foe. I also made him a tent because I’m a bad uncle and did not have it ready for his birthday the month before. His sisters got a tent as well so he will need someplace to call his own. It’s a simple A frame tent made with small trees cut down and lashed together to form a frame. It came out well but its pretty dark in […]
My annual trip to Gen Con was a great one this year. The geek fest for RPGs, board games, miniatures, and fans of fantasy and SciFi stuff attracted about 50K people from around the world and certainly the most of the United States. The club I belong to puts on games during the event and I put on about 11 games in 4 days so while fun it is exhausting. My games went very well and I only had a couple folks who tested everyone’s nerves during play. The 3D Game of Thrones board went over great. Lots of folks gawking and taking pictures. I also put on a couple of 10mm American Civil war games as well as a couple of made up game of 2nd American Civil War with the scenario concerning a communist attack on docks in Chicago. Lots of fun and lots of hours at the game table (about 45 hours playing games in a 96 hour period) The gaming hall was huge this year and I strained my voice while running games with 10K people around me playing games as well. The dealer hall was packed every day at all hours and they had some stuff there that is hard to find at any other time. I am always amused at the coverage that Gen Con gets in the news. They always seem to focus on the Cosplay folks (people wearing costumes) but this year felt like to me there were fewer of these but […]
During the Easter Vigil one of the first things we do is bless and candle that represents the light of Christ. Normally parishes buy them already made but a few years ago I learned how to paint them. It’s very easy. Get blank candle, sand it with very fine sandpaper so that it has a matte finish. Then paint it to your liking. There are a few elements required for its use. A Cross in the center, an Alpha and Omega at the top and bottom of the cross, the year placed in the quadrants of the cross, and the night of the vigil 5 nails are placed in the candle to represent the 5 wounds of Christ. Everything else is fluff but it does go a long way to make it more beautiful. During the Easter season the candle remains at the ambo where the reading are proclaimed and during the rest of the year it is placed by the baptismal font and it used during the baptism and funerals. This year’s candle is pretty simple but more colorful than my past candles.
I’ve always been fascinated by sailing and after going up to Lake Michigan for a couple of years I interested in learning how to sail. Lucky for me a couple at the parish had an old Sunfish sailboat sitting in their garage. The one problem was that the fiberglass body had a big hole in it so they have lent it to me to use as long as I patch the hole. Well the hole has been patched and I have gone sailing the last two Mondays. There has not been much wind these days but today was little better than last Monday. It’s fun to go out for a couple of hours and learn the ropes and learn how little wind can push me and a small boat around the lake.
Yesterday we traveled north from Richmond to visit the Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania battlefields. All very nice and well taken care of, Fredericksburg has suffered the most over the years. Only a small amount of it remains, but what does remain is very interesting. The old stone wall that Lee’s troops used is still there and after seeing it you can understand why the confederates won. It is a battle that stayed with the union troops because they chanted “Fredericksburg” as the confederates came at them in Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg. At Gettysburg the union troops had the stone wall and they won. Chancellorsville was a nice battlefield and well preserved this is the battle in which Jackson was shot by his own troops and would later die. We saw both the wounding site and the place of his death miles away. The wilderness is my favorite battlefield and battle. While it is unknown by most is was the start of Grant taking control of the eastern theater of war and so the beginning of his march to Richmond and Petersburg. Spotsylvania was his next battle and it stretched about a two week period however both The Wilderness and Spotsylvania had 15,000 casualties but unlike Spotsylvania The Wilderness only lasted two days. To end out the day 3 we raced home beating the storms that were rolling through. We got home just in time to see it roll into Richmond and as we watched out our window we lost […]
Today we traveled down the Peninsula. We first visited Fort Monroe on an island off the tip of the peninsula. We were unsure about this stop. It has just become a National Park and the army and the park service are swapping out duties. The old fort is pretty amazing to see. It’s in great shape and the fort’s history spans Jamestown to the present. So every war has some history at the fort. There is also a museum in the old casemates (the areas that contained the old fort guns). The museum was nice and well taken care of they did have the actual cell that Jefferson Davis was kept in after the war. On our way out we got to see an aircraft carrier coming into Norfolk. It was the George Bush and it was huge. As we ate lunch we watched it make its way to the naval base. After the fort we traveled to Newport News and visited the Virginia Maritime Museum. It had a lot of nice things that again spanned the whole history of Jamestown it the present age. The main attraction was the USS Monitor. It was the first Union Ironclad. The Monitor battled just off shore with its confederate counterpart and so made all other wooden navies obsolete. There was a large section dedicated to the artifacts from the wrecked Monitor and it even had the turret and some of the cannons. They had many examples of what ship life was like. […]
We visited all the sites around Richmond. Starting at Cold Harbor and Gainesville and working our way south to the Tredegar Iron Works in Downtown Richmond the place where almost half of the confederate cannon were produced. The interesting thing about these sites around Richmond is that they normally overlap two different campaigns; McClellan’s Peninsula campaign in 1862 and Grant’s last campaign in 1864 and 1865. Another interesting aspect to these sites is that they filled with defensive works similar to what we would see in World War One. Most of the works are still visible by their earthen mounds. One cool little thing was that we figured out that Jeb Stuart was mortally wounded just a mile from the hotel and so we found that historic site. Tomorrow we hope to go down the Peninsula and visit some sites there.
My father and I decided to take a whirlwind civil war trip through Virginia mostly centering around Richmond. Since I lived in DC for a couple of years we have seen most the big battles up there. We wanted to hit all the out of the way places that we have heard about but never really seen. We left Sunday afternoon after masses and couple other events and then drove half way and stop in Beckley, West Virginia. Today we woke up and got on the road finishing the drive through the mountains and hitting Appomattox Courthouse, the place of General Lee’s surrender. It was really out of the way and there was not much there beside the Mclean house and basically the whole village that the National Park system acquired over the last hundred years. Kind of cool but really more interesting to have just made it to the place where the war all but came to an end. The road that we then followed into Richmond was basically the route that Lee’s army took on its retreat from Richmond. We stopped for a few other sites. Saylor’s Creek was another small battlefield that was the place of General Ewell’s men surrender. They served as a rear guard for Lee’s army and the loose of 7,000 men was a devastating blow to the Army of Northern Virginia. The other site near Saylor’s Creek is a placed called High Bridge. A Very aptly named bridge that spans about 2,500 feet […]