Twice baked potatoes

So at the usual Sunday night dinner at the in-laws this week I grilled up some steaks and made twice baked potatoes.  They seemed to really enjoy them so I thought I would share it with you.  This recipe yields about enough filling for 6 good sized potatoes.

6          Lrg. Russet potatoes
1c        Shredded cheddar cheese (sharp or old)
1c        Sour cream
1/2c     Bacon bits
3-4       Green onion, finely diced
3          Garlic cloves, minced
1tsp     Pepper
1.5tsp  Salt

Preheat your oven to 375.  Wash potatoes, prick them a couple of times with a fork and place them directly on your oven rack.  Bake for about 2 hours.  You can cook the potatoes in foil if you like but cooking them just on the rack makes the skin a little bit crispy.  I really like the effect it has.  Also remember that if you cook your potatoes in foil it will reduce your cooking time.

Once the potatoes are cooked, remove from the oven and let stand for about 10 minutes.  Turn the oven up to 425.  Slice off the top ¼ of the potato and put the potato top in a large mixing bowl.  Hollow out the potato leaving about ¼ inch or flesh inside the skin.  Put all the scooped out potato into the bowl.  Combine all the rest of the ingredients in the bowl and mash everything together until smooth.  Taste the filling and adjust seasoning as needed.  Scoop the filling mix into a zip-loc bag.  Cut off one of the corners and then pipe the potato filling back into the potato shells.  If you still have some cheddar, you can sprinkle some on the top of the stuffed potatoes.  Put the potatoes back into the oven and bake for another 15 minutes.  You may want to put them on a cookie sheet in case any of the stuffing spills over the potatoes.  When they come out of the oven let them stand for a few minutes as they are very hot.

These are very tasty.  You can put whatever you want in them.  I have just used standard potato toppings but you could use spinach and feta or mushrooms and swiss.  Get creative!  Please post your favourite things to do with potatoes.

Theme change poll

Hi folks.  I am just not feeling the theme I use for my blog.  I am changing it up but as you are the poor souls who have to look at it I am going to let you decide which to pick.  The old theme was called Sunburn and this new one is called ChaoticSoul (no I did not come up with the names).  Please vote and let me know what you think.

Of maps and miniatures

I am waiting anxiously for the Player’s Handbook 2 I ordered to come in the mail.  It should be here by Tuesday.  Can’t wait!

In this post I am going to talk about some of the tools I use for running a game.  For those of you who are not familiar with D&D this may go over your head a bit.  Please feel free to post comments or questions.

The first thing you need when playing is a large grid.  You use this grid to determine positioning and range in combat.  In 4th edition, everything is about squares.  A square is basically supposed to represent about 5 feet.  So for example a character’s speed is 6, that character can move 6 squares during his turn.  Most grids use 1 inch squares.  To create my grid I found some semi-ridged poster board from Wal-Mart.  It had very faint 1/2inch squares on it.  I penciled in lines every other square to make a grid of one inch squares.  I did this front and back and then had them laminated.  Now I can draw the layout or map of a room using overhead pens (remember overhead projectors!) and then just wipe it off when we are done.  You can go out and buy expensive grid mats but this is working just fine for my group.

The other thing you need is some kind of tokens or miniatures to represent the players and the enemies.  Wizards of the Coast does make miniatures that you can buy.  They look really good but can get expensive.  What I have done is I take a paper template, find a picture on the Internet of what I want the token to represent, cut it out, fold it into a triangle, and tape a penny to the bottom for weight.  These have been working great and they cost a whole lot less than buying minis.  I may in the future look at buying some minis to represent the players but out-fitting myself with an army would have been very cost prohibitive.

Dice are at the core of D&D.  You cannot play without them.  You are always rolling to determine outcomes of attacks and skills.  They are also useful as counters or any additional tokens you may need.  Your players will also each want a set of dice.  What I did was purchase a pound of dice.  This bag of dice is huge!  It has enough dice for 8 to 10 people to use and it costs about as much as the dice for two.  The company who sells this bag just put in all the dice that don’t pass esthetic quality control.  So many of them have odd paint jobs but they all roll just fine.  You could even use the extra dice as monster tokens instead of buying them or making your own.  This was a great purchase.  You can find them on the Chessex website along with all of their premium dice products.

That goes over some of the basic tools I use.  I will try to include some pictures soon to give you a better visual of what I am talking about.  Please post your comments about what tools you use in your games.  Also if you have questions please feel free to ask.



Here are some of my homemade mini’s.  Penny bedside for size reference.


Here they are on edge.  They are just simple paper triangles.  You can see the pennies I use to weight them down.

Vacation time

The times they are a changing.  I was without Internet for the last week because we were staying at my Grandfather-in-laws condo in New Westminster.  I thought that I would be able to leach Internet off of someone in the building or from one of the other 4 or 5 buildings near the block.  Not one person had an open Internet connection.  I remember the good old days when I could snatch Internet at almost all the bus stops along my route in Calgary.  I will have to remember next time to learn how to crack a Wi-Fi signal.  Anyway lets get back to the trip!

So Monday Tamara and I headed off to the coast.  The trip down went well.  We hit a little snow and slush along highway 3 but it wasn’t bad at all.  That evening we walked around New West a little and had dinner at the apartment.  I managed to get a few channels on the rabbit ears.

Very early on Tuesday morning (around 2am) my brother-in-law and his wife rolled into town.  Tuesday was very important because it was Tamara’s big freakin’ 3-oh!  After a short sleep we got up and headed to Stanley park to check out the aquarium.  It is odd how captivating fish can be.  I really enjoy going there.  There are all these kids running around and they are all so thrilled to be there.  The whole place is just very positive.  I do enjoy the irony that they serve fish and chips at the cafe.  From there we took a quick walk along Robson before heading to Moxie’s for a pre-game meal.  We then went to the hockey game.  This is the first time I have been to a Canucks game in GM place.  This was a great high energy game.  I really enjoyed it and I look forward to catching another game in the future.  A big thanks to Josh and Sonia for the tickets and for dinner.  Tamara really enjoyed her birthday.

We started off Wednesday with a trip out to see Tamara’s grandpa.  He is doing well and we hope to see again soon.  We said goodbye to Josh and Sonia and headed to the New West quay.  We thought we were crazy when we couldn’t find any shops.  We then saw a sign saying it was closed for renos.  We enjoyed a nice long walk along the boadwalk in rainy west coast weather.  It was  nice day.  That evening we drove out to Kitsalano to meet some friends for dinner.  Thanks for the meal Ben and Britney.  We will get you back next time you are in town.  That night we grabbed a DVD and headed back to the apartment.

On Thursdays we grabbed a day-long transit pass and made our way to Lonsdale quay via the sea-bus.  It is a cheap, fun trek.  I managed to find a few very nice teas.  From the quay we stopped back at Metrotown.  It is a grand monument to consumerism.  We got some frozen yogurt from an autonomous unit for mid mall snacking and did some people watching.  It is always fun watching people moving through the mall.  It attacks people from all walks of life.  After the mall we drove back to Vancouver for dinner with an old high-school friend of Tamara’s.  After that dinner we drove out to Langley to have another snack with Tamara’s cousin Dana.  We did a lot of catching up with friends and family this trip.  It was good.  After dinner number 2 we went to see the Watchmen on Imax.  Being a fan of the comic I really liked the movie.  Tamara enjoyed it but it was a little loud in some parts.

Friday we headed home.  On the way we saw Tam’s grandpa once more and then stopped in Aldergrove to see my grandpa and my aunt and uncle.  Thanks to Anutie Ann for lunch.

Tamara and I enjoyed our little trip very much.  It was very relaxing and we had lots of fun.  We had good times and shared good meals with friends and family.  Please post about any recent trips you have gone on.

The manwich hunt

So the other day my wife and I were returning home from a friend’s house.  It was about 5:30pm so we were getting hungry.  Because we are going away next week, we haven’t really been doing a good job of keeping the fridge stocked up.  As we drove past the grocery store we had a crazy idea.  Lets have a manwich!

Neither of us has ever had a manwich before.  I have had sloppy joe’s as a kid but I don’t think they were ever manwich brand.  It was very exciting! (Yeah.  This is where I find entertainment.)  So our first order of business is to track down the buns.  I feel that the bread is the most important part of any sandwich so we needed to choose correctly.  We settled on Safeway’s cheese buns.  This was a good choice.  Our next item was the can of manwich sauce.  We snuck over to the canned goods isle.  It was like we were under aged kids sneaking into the liquor store to by booze.  We felt a little dirty and ashamed for seeking the meaty marvel.  It actually took us about 3 passes of the section to find the stuff.  At one point Tamara turned to me and said ‘I really don’t want to have to ask anyone for it.  It just seems wrong.’  We did locate the can, on the bottom shelf, tucked away from easy viewing.  It seemed to be stored like the entrance to a seedy bar.  A place were people who frequent those types of establishment (or dinners in our case) would know where to look but those of us who are unfamiliar with that society would have a hard time finding.  After procuring the can we dashed to the meat isle and ran for the checkout.  As we were waiting in line I thought to myself ‘I could go for a Starbucks.’  This was replaced by ‘You can’t go to Starbucks with that can in your hand!  It is unnatural’  The whole process seemed very funny to me.  You feel odd because when you have a can of manwich in your hand, everyone knows you are going to take that can of whatever it is and pour it all over meat.  You are then going to eat that meat on a bun.  There is nothing more.  Just meat on a bun.  I guess it is like buying condoms.  There really isn’t any other purpose for the product and in both cases what is done with the product is better done at home without any one else watching.

We did eat it with a side of Greek salad.  We needed something else.  I just couldn’t do it on its own and the peppers were starting to wilt.  It made for a fun dinner finding experience.  Please post about your guilty food pleasures.  What greasy, heavy foods do you just have to chase down once and a while?  

This is how I role

I am not posting a D&D update this week as we didn’t play in the campaign I run this week.  As a group we meet weekly but we trade off roles.  There are two of us who Dungeon Master (DM) and we take turns doing it.  The DM is the story teller and generally runs the game.  A campaign is the story you are trying to tell.  So my campaign is based on the latest rules for D&D known as the 4th edition.  The other campaign is based on the 2nd edition rules.  This system is really fun because it gives each of the DMs plenty of time to come up with good quality material and it also gives us a chance to both play in and run a game.  Because of vacations and things it will probably be about 2 or 3 weeks before you hear any more tales of Kava, Kane, Sarge and Hesikiah.

Over these weeks I will be talking about some of the tools I use for putting together my game.  The first thing anyone who is playing the game needs is a few rules books.  If you just a player then you can get by with the Players Hand Book (PHB).  This book has all the basic rules of the game.  It tells you how to make characters and how to fight monsters.  It also has some near gear you can outfit your character in.  If you are DMing a game you will need at least two more books; The Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG) and the Monster Manual (MM).  The DMG has useful information on how to build encounters and how much treasure to give your players.  It also has a pre-built adventure that you can run first level characters through.  I used this adventure for my first session.  The MM is basically a book filled with, well, monsters.  It gives you all the monster information so that you can use them when building your own campaign.  There are many other useful books.  For players there are books with new items and new skills.  For DMs there are books with more monsters and pre-published adventures where all you have to do is guide the players through an existing story.

The neat thing is that using these rules and resources, I can take pretty much any story and translate it to the gaming table.  I can look at a battle from Lord of the Rings and re-create it for my players to fight in.  This time they get to decide how the battle turns out.  In creating my games I tend to use a bit of theft and a bit of my own ideas.  I try to draw inspiration from things I have read and video games I have played but then put a new spin on it.  I really feel a drive to tell my own story.  The problem is I can only see a few weeks of it laid out in my head.  So far my players seem to be having fun so I guess I am doing OK.

In upcoming posts I will talk more about how I specifically go about preparing for a gaming session.  Please leave your comments about your adventures with D&D or other hobbies and how you have become passionate about them.

The simple matter of testing

So the organization I work for is moving data centers.  The role I play is I need to test the application I support once the move is made to make sure no pieces are left behind.  Here is the fun part.  Just to log into the system I have to follow these steps:

I am testing from home (because the move is happening at midnight) so I need to go to a website and log into a remote software.  I then have to identify my work computer.  Once I get to my work computer I have to log into it.  Then I have to open my email, find a link to another website.  That site links me to a virtual machine emulator running on a server in the data center.  I have to log into that virtual machine.  This creates a virtual computer.  That means it doesn’t physically exists, it just appears to exist.  I then have to LOG IN to the virtual computer using a testing user name and password.  Once I have done that I still have to log into the application I support before I can even start my testing.

So to sum up, I turn on a computer, go to a site, log onto that site, go to another computer, log onto that computer, go to another website (on the second computer) log into that site, log onto a fake computer (using a different set of credentials) and finally log into my application to start testing.

The funny thing is that this all makes perfect sense to me.  As I was going through this process in my head it all clicked but when I stepped back and had a look at the whole mess it made me laugh.  I hope it makes you laugh too.  Post comments about things you do daily that are simple for you but might seem crazy to others.