Thursday, August 29, 2013

I'm back!

So I took a little break from this blog (ok, maybe close to a year), but I'm back now and hoping to post regularly again.

So, quick recap of what you missed:

Oliver is 1 now, he walks, says a few words, and is generally a lot more lively and interesting than he was 10 months ago.  By more interesting, I mean now I get to start teaching him things like words, and waving hello, and, perhaps most importantly, how to kick a ball.  Words are important too, but honestly, dad will never get to vicariously live out his sporting dreams if you don't know how to play.

In all sincerity though, he is one of the happiest babies I've ever met.  He's always running this way and that, and always with a big grin on his face.  Unless he's 'hangry,' he gets that from his mom, SHH.  

Speaking of food, it's been hard keeping him on the diet we'd like.  We have won some major food battles though.  For starters, he actually seems to enjoy eating broccoli, carrots, peas, sweet potato, and edamame.  So while we're still working on expanding his vegetable pallet, we do have some good healthy standbys to get something into him.  This was also made easier by our recent purchase of a juicer.  I can sneak Kale and Chard, along with other veggies into a Blueberry or Apple juice which he loves.

On a more general note, the family and I moved back to Michigan to be closer to family and to make going back to college easier on the budget.  While getting up here was quite the ordeal (two 26 hour drives in two weeks), the wife and I are happy to be back, and Oliver seems to be enjoying the extra attention.

So there's your quick update, and I hope to have more posts up soon!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

I recently improved my Sandwich bread recipe and I think it's time I posted it here.  I like it because it uses 100% whole wheat flour, and doesn't require a lot of processed ingredients.  It's also fairly simple, and yields a dense, moist, loaf that's perfect for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  It also isn't overly bitter like many whole wheat breads.  So, without further ado:

You'll need:

  • 1 tbls active dry yeast
  • 1 tbls sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 3 tbls honey
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1&1/2 tsp salt
  • About 3-4 cups of 100% whole wheat flour

Start by dissolving the yeast and sugar in 1 cup of warm water.  It should become frothy on top as the yeast activates.  Add the butter, milk, honey, orange juice, salt, and mix together.  Then add 3 cups of flour and mix until combined.  By the time that's combined you should be have a sticky, wet dough, that you can't really stir with a spoon anymore.  Start adding flour about 1/4 cup at a time and mix with your hands until the dough becomes kneadable and no longer sticks to everything it touches.  Continue to knead for another 5-7 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and springy.  Transfer to a bowl and let rise until double, about 1-2 hours.  Gently deflate and shape it into an 8 inch log, then set it in a lightly greased 8x5 bread pan.  Cover the bread pan loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap.  Allow this to rise about an hour or until the top of loaf is about 1" above the pan.  Then place in a 350 degree oven and cook for 35-40 minutes.

And that's my 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread recipe.  I haven't tried it yet, but I bet it'd be really good with some tree nuts too.  I'll add step by step pictures next time I make it, I know those always help me.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

True or False: Babies first illness

True:  Babies get sick
False:  You will panic
True:  Your wife will panic
False:  Your life will be horrible while he's sick
True:  Your life will be horrible while you're sick

Oliver came down with his first illness last week, nothing too bad, just a head cold.  The first day he had a fever, it started at about 100 and went up to 102 shortly after I left for work, which resulted in a long string of texts from the wife.  She called the pediatrician and he told her to keep an eye on him and make sure he was still eating, and that it would probably pass over without any trouble.

The next day the fever was gone, but he was still miserable.  He had a bad cough and (I'm assuming) a sore throat.  He was cranky, and didn't eat a lot, and started sleeping more than normal.  By the next day (which coincidently was the first day I had time alone with him) he was hardly eating and just wanted to sleep all day.  Which made me feel really bad for him.  On the other hand...

It gave me all sorts of time to do things I wanted to.  It was almost a day to myself, he was only up for about 2 hours total before I left for work, so I logged a good amount of me time.  I felt bad as I got him ready for daycare, he wasn't fevering anymore, so even though I knew he was no longer contagious, I still didn't want to get anyone else sick.  That feeling ended the moment I opened the door to his room and heard his cough...only it wasn't him.  Then again, still not him.  Turns out every baby in that room had the same cough he did, must have been a rough day for the caregivers.

Of course the next day, I awoke to a sore throat of my own.  Fortunately, he was still sleepy, so I didn't have to do a lot for him, but it took a lot of the fun out of my alone time.  It only got worse from there, and unlike him, I didn't get to sleep through it all.

And here I am, a week later, and I'm still stuffy and loosing my voice by the end of the day.  Fortunately, Oliver's back to normal now.  It was nice having that extra time to myself, but I sure did miss all his giggles.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gravity and your baby

You're lying in bed next to your baby and drift off accidentally.  Next thing you know, THUD.  Springing into action you're feet are on the floor before he's even crying(which at this point you're just glad to hear), you're at his side within seconds.  Thanks to that wonderful first aid class you took, you know to check his head and neck before you move him, but not suspecting any damage, he's in your arms in moments.  A few seconds later, and the crying is subsiding, and by the time mom has rushed out of the shower to see what happened, he's smiling at her.  I think it's important I note here, that if you suspect a serious injury, or any head trauma, or just need some peace of mind, please call your pediatrician, better safe than sorry.

You however, now feel like the worst parent in the world.  You just allowed a totally preventable and highly dangerous accident to happen to your baby.  For what is probably the first time, you've experienced that moment of panic, remorse, and ultimately the painful experience of having let down your son.

What you need to remember though, is that this happens to most new parents at some point.  As you're transitioning from a baby that can't go anywhere you haven't put it, to one that can move himself, you're bound to miss something.  It's ok.  Secondly, this definitely isn't the last time he'll get hurt.  In a couple months he'll be walking and then it's skinned knees and bruises on a regular basis.  These guys are built tougher than they look, and that terrible feeling you have will well outlast any pain they feel.

In the words of the great physicist Dr. Sheldon Cooper, "Gravity, thou art a heartless bitch."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Grocery Shopping

I'll let you in on a little secret.  My wife and I only spend about $70 a week on groceries for the three of us (Oliver counts, Jessi eats enough for both of them :-p).  That includes non-food items, as well as dog food.  So that works out to about $5 per person per day.  Yup, for the cost of one footlong sub, we get a day's worth of food.  Good food.  How on earth do we do that?  Well, for one thing it means spending a lot of time in the kitchen (see bake day!).  On the other hand, it means shopping smart.  So here are some shopping tips I've learned along the way.

  • Buy in bulk.  I don't mean going to Costco and buying a 20lb jar of peanut butter.  I mean go to your grocery stores bulk section and buy all of your grains and beans that way.  If your grocer doesn't have a bulk grain section, try a local healthfood store.  Trust me, not only will things be cheaper this way, but you'll get better quality food.  For instance, we love steel cut oats.  It typically sells in 14oz bags for around  $2.50, whereas if we buy it from the bulk section, we can get 16oz of organic oats for $2.40 (the organic bags sell for about $4.50).  You save even more on beans, and have the bonus of not having a ton of salt added.
  • Don't go to 6 different stores looking for the best deal.  It's a waste of time.  Time you could be spending with your baby, or cooking all the food you just bought.  Pick two stores that are fairly close together.  Try to pick one that's a health food store as these generally have a bigger selection of grains, fruits, and vegetables, plus the bulk sections.  The other should be a relatively cheap, supermarket type store.  Once you've been frequenting them for awhile, you'll know what's cheaper at which store, and you have to make any back and forth trips.
  • Plan you're meals before you go.  Look at the weekly ads for your stores, and decide on a menu for the week.  We usually try to pick 5 dinners and have a lunch idea or two.  Meals that make good leftovers are a plus since they can go with you to work the next day.
  • Don't just buy a bunch of Ramen.  We're all familiar the Ramen noodle and pizza diet.  We also know, you can't do that very long.  Fortunately there are plenty of inexpensive ways to get some variety in your diet.  Tired of rice?  Try substituting quinoa.  Sick of pasta?  Squash makes an tasty (and more nutritious) substitute.  Also adding a variety of fruits and vegetables can help stave off the flavor pangs.
    • Additionally, a well stocked spice cabinet is a must
  • Focus on buying nutrient dense foods.  Sure potatoes are filling (excluding the fried variety), but if you're not getting the nutrients you need, you're still going to be crabby.  So focus on incorporating as large a variety of fruits and veggies as you can.  Don't just grab a dozen bananas because they're cheap.  Buy 6 of those and a few plums.  Try to include at least one leafy green a week as well.
  • Cut back on the meat.  Meat is expensive, and it turns out that, much like the meat you're eating, you can get the vitamins and nutrients you need from plants.  I'm by no means a vegetarian, I love a good steak as much as the next man, but it's just not necessary (or healthy) to have meat 7 nights a week.  Beans make an excellent protein source, and cost a lot less.
  • No matter what people tell you, fresh fruits and vegetables are not expensive. They just aren't, so buy more of them.  Yes, I'm talking to you person who buys a $1.50 package of hot dogs, but scoffs at apples that are $1.00/lb.  And I stress fresh because they retain a lot more of their nutrients (not to mention taste better) than canned or frozen varieties.
  • Use what you buy.  You're fridge and pantry should look pretty well empty by the end of the week.  If they're not, you probably spent a lot more than you needed, and if you've bought a lot of fresh produce, it's probably going bad.  So if it's not part of the meal plan, or you don't think you'll eat it that week, don't buy it.
I'm not saying this is easy to do, but your wallet sure will appreciate it, and probably your stomach as well, and maybe even your belt buckle (just saying).  Good shopping ya'll.

A day in life of a working dad

It's tough being a working dad.  Especially when mom works too.  My wife and I work opposing shifts, hers in the morning, and mine at night, which makes childcare a lot more affordable, but definitely takes some patience.  However, this does mean that I get lots of good one-on-one time with Oliver.

On a normal day we'll get up around 8 to see mom off, and then play until he gets hungry around 9.  Then we'll read or play some more until he takes his first nap somewhere around 10-10:30.  Then I can clean up and get ready for the day, and depending on how long he sleeps, spend some time relaxing on the computer, or playing with the dog.  He'll usually be out for about an hour, after which we'll have some tummy/floor time.   Then we'll read if he's not too restless, we're working on Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues right now, one of dad's favorites.  If I'm lucky, after that he'll take another bottle and a short nap while I prepare my lunch and his bag for daycare, and then we're out the door and I'm in for 8 hours of non-stop fun work.

It's not a glamorous life by any means.  It's 16 hour days, 5 days a week, but it's hard to have a bad day after you hear that baby giggle, even if it only lasts a few moments.

Bake day!

I love food.  Just going to throw that out there.  Specifically real food.  The kind that's ingredients are all actually food, as opposed to a few food-like substances, some artificial flavoring, and three cups of chemical preservatives.  The problem is, it is difficult to both find and subsequently be able afford real food.

Fortunately, for those of us who don't mind spending a day in the kitchen now and then, it's really not that difficult to make real food, and the ingredients are relatively cheap.  The best part is, by making all of your food from scratch, you know exactly what's in it (and if you buy from a local co-op or farmers market, you know exactly where it came from).

I won't lie to you, when I say a day in the kitchen, I mean an 8 hour day, with an hour or two worth of breaks/downtime while things bake (and regularly checking of the Tigers game score).  However, with a little practice, you can get a lot done in 8 hours.  For instance, today I was able to make:
  • 1 loaf of whole wheat sandwich bread
  • 1 dozen whole wheat pretzels
  • 1 pizza, plus dough for a second one
  • 18 whole wheat tortillas
  • Roasted vegetable burrito filling (to fill some of the tortillas of course)
  • And Jessi made an apple pie in the meantime
Fortunately for me, that means I've already made three meals (including this evenings) for the week, plus bread for lunches, and a good snack.  So that means I probably won't spend more than another hour or two in the kitchen all week (which means more game time during naps!)