The misadventures of a first time father

Category Archives: Food

beer-pouredWith the crisp, cool weather of autumn in full swing, and the chilly frost of winter preparing to make its way in (if it hasn’t already), I absolutely love the coziness of this time of year. Hunkering down inside the house, watching the leaves blow by the front windows (and later the snow fall to the ground), some festive music on the radio or programming on the television, and a good drink in hand to sip on while soaking it all in.

Yes, I sound like one of my favorite Onion articles about Mr. Autumn Man making his triumphant and cliched return, but that’s okay.

All that in mind, I have to admit, that one beverage I miss having in my hands as I hunker down is a nice glass of beer.

For those of you who aren’t tired of hearing about my low-to-no carb and added sugar diet in an effort to bring my cholesterol down, it has meant that beer, like much else, has been off the menu the past several months. I’ve instead been having an occasional glass of red wine, which I enjoy, but it admittedly is an entirely other animal.

hot ciderSo, this season, I’ve picked up a new favorite as I enjoy all the cliches of the season – hot apple cider. When the kids go to bed and I’m attempting, post-our nighttime responsibilities (because let’s face it, when those kids finally fall asleep, it’s a shotgun start to get anything done around the house or next-day prep we couldn’t get to earlier), I’ve been pouring myself a mug of apple cider and popping it in the microwave for a good two minutes so that it’s nice and piping hot for a little bit of time on the couch decompressing with the window, the TV, some music, or even a little silence.

Hot cider with spices, known as Wassail goes back centuries to Europe, a yuletide tradition.

beer-gardenMy own transition from beer to cider as my indulgent beverage of choice seems to be in direct opposite to their paths (especially that of hard cider) in early America, where, according to the Smithsonian, the once popular apple beverage (popular with and easier to make for colonists and settlers than beer because barley was harder to grow in New England), was eventually dwarfed by waves of Germans and eastern Europeans settling in the midwest where an easier environment to grow barley in, and their own love of the brew, brought beer across the pond in a more robust way.

So while I admit to some longing for an Oktoberfest or Winter Ale as we move into this chillier holiday season, I’ll stick with it, saving the beer in the fridge for company and keep substituting a nice steaming mug of apple cider when that cold winter craving (and weather) comes a calling.


asparagus and steak

Veggies and meat. The new norm in my meals.

During an annual visit to my doctor this summer, I got word that my latest round of bloodwork had continued an unfortunate trend of very high cholesterol levels. I’m not one for medicine unless necessary, and fortunately for me, my doctor likes to go that route only when there are no other options to exhaust.

So, the prescription of the moment is becoming more active along with a fairly strict change of diet, eliminating (as much as possible, anyway) carbs and sugars from my plate.

If this sounds vaguely familiar it’s because my doctor had requested I try this in the past, to which I would start out strong and quickly lose steam before falling back into an eat-anything type of pattern again.

So this latest endeavor began at the start of August, and I’m proud to say that as I write this I am successfully three months into this new way of eating. The activeness part of the prescription, I admit, still needs some work. Sure, chasing three kids around certainly feels like a physical and mental work out by the end of the day, but I’m sure the doctor has something a little more routine in mind. Over the summer I was better at getting up early in the morning before the rest of the household awoke and going for a walk. With the start of the school year, of course, our morning routine changes with the season and an early morning walk is just not feasible, unless I wanted to go for a walk in the dark at 4 am – a prospect I think I’ll pass on.

Some years ago I had stopped sugary drinks, so sodas and sugared coffee was already out of the mix. So diet-wise, it’s been all-systems go, and with a huge help from Meg, my meals have consisted pretty much of meat and veggies, fruit or eggs, or soup and salad (in some order/arrangement) for the past three months. In that time I’ve found that many of the pains my doctor chalked up to inflammation disappear. Another side effect is that in that time I’ve also lost between 13-17 pounds, which I imagine had much to do with dropping carbs from the menu. Of course, the side effect to that side effect is that many of my clothes of the past few years are now baggy on me.

donuts

I can’t express how much I want a donut.

I’m going to be honest in that the road hasn’t been easy. The first few weeks without carbs left me in a state of constant irritation as my body went through a withdrawal stage. And I admit it’s hard to not sample a cookie or donuts, skip the birthday cake at the kids’ parties, and leave rice or potatoes sitting on a plate at the restaurant. But, I am and three months in, I’ve gotten much better at adjusting to what I can and can’t eat.

With another round of bloodwork coming in December, I’m determined to stand firm to see if this strict diet change has made any difference in things. If so, we’ll have conquered it without the need for medication. If not, well, we’ll have to cross that bridge when we get to it.

The motivating factor in it all? Not the numbers, but my kids. I want to make sure I’m around as long as possible to see them grow, to see them thrive, to see who they become. And it’s possible that without the right changes to my diet and health, that may not happen.

So, as much as I may soooo crave a donut now and then, I can forsake the taste of that baked good when I put it on the scale next to the future with my kids.


backyard birdsI really hate letting things go to waste. Yes, that statement is at odds with my aversion to clutter and desire for less, but in this particular case, I’m thinking about food. It never fails that when garbage night rolls around each week, we find ourselves with some slices of bread that’s starting to go, or fruit that’s past its prime and starting to turn. In times past, this may have found a home in the garbage bag while our sense of regret finds a home in our minds. But recently, I’m pretty proud that we’ve been finding a way to make sure that even those items get a new life or use.

And the answer lies right outside our kitchen window.

group of deer

Stopping by for a late night snack.

In our new digs of the past year, we’re not that far from some wooded areas and in the middle of the night last winter, up with our second child who couldn’t fall back asleep, Meg looked out the bedroom window to see a deer staring back at her. Since that night, throughout the winter months when food is not as plentiful in the woods, they come as one, sometimes in packs of three or even five and feast on the sunflower seeds in the bird feeder hanging from a tree in our backyard.

So now when that (non-citrus) fruit starts to go, or when the kids want an apple but don’t finish all of it, or even the apple core I have left over from lunch, out into the backyard it goes under the tree, where the next morning, if not within a few hours, it’s disappeared, gobbled up by our neighbors the deer, or squirrels, or perhaps that plethora of beautiful birds that frequent the place.

leftover apples

Leftover apples from a kid’s snack earlier in the day.

Will seeing me find an alternative to tossing away the leftover fruit rub off onto our kids? I don’t know. I’d like to hope so. Sometimes it feels like it’s an uphill battle to try and keep this planet in better shape than we found it, but if something like not throwing out certain types of food that makes a welcomed meal to the wildlife outside our door can make even a small difference, I’m all for it.


Party - Birthday Boy 2We recently had a birthday party for our little guy. It was the first time we ever actually had it at our house. Usually we relied on the kindness of grandparents on both sides to get us through over the years, as our house had long been too small to have anyone over beyond a group of 2 or 4.

With our new digs, though, we figured it was finally time to give it a try, and try we did, not only with family, but this time inviting some of his friends from pre-k to come as well. And was it ever worth it to see the look on his face when he was surprised by the arrival of each of these friends.

Rain the day before and morning of forced us to change up plans a bit, moving from the backyard to the garage. Well, after it was emptied and cleaned out, of course. Then with two pop-up tents from parents placed outside the garage door, and tables and chairs inside, we were good to go as family and friends arrived for this gathering of little heroes.

The theme was his choice (Superheroes), brilliantly executed by Meg with foods that added a heroic flavor such as Captain America Shields (circle pretzels with white chocolate and a red, white or blue M&M in the middle), kryptonite bars (rice krispies treats with drizzled white chocolate and glowy green sprinkles), and some foods that gained their super powers through some signs I made using the PicMonkey app on my phone and a variety of superhero images.

Party signs total

We transformed regular sheet pizza into Plastic Man’s Power Pizza, a vegetable tray into Poison Ivy’s Veggie Platter, and drinks stations became Joker Juice or for the adults, Chief O’Hara’s Adult Beverages (Begorrah!).

Meg also took giant cardboard boxes leftover from a swing set we assembled the week prior and created a backdrop of buildings for little superheroes to have their picture taken by.

Party - Kids and worm

Apparently all we needed for a party were crayons and a worm.

The kids crowded around a table to color super hero print outs, ran around wearing paper super hero masks from Party City and even enjoyed the arrival of a little sunshine just long enough to dry out parts (emphasis on parts…watch your step unless you like mud) to get some time in running through the backyard.

Oh, and never underestimate, much like the crayons and coloring pages, how something as simple as a worm coming out of the ground can create a fascination in a group of children that can be hard to pull them away from.

It felt just plain wonderful.

And when it came time to open gifts and he had oohed and awed over various toys, Legos, and books, I gave him a gift I had spent the past several months putting together for him.

You see, back at Halloween, he designed his own costume, which Meg made come to life – a superhero version of himself.

Hallowen heroes

Us at Halloween as a self-styled superhero version of himself.

But post-Halloween, something wonderful happened. He kept the character going, imagining new adventure after new adventure, as well as a rogues gallery of villains that he was going up against with each backyard or bedroom crime fighting spree. I did my best to covertly take notes of the superpowers, the villain, and turned it into a script for a short comic book story.

I then dusted off my drawing pencils and illustrated the story, handing it over to my good friend and collaborator on two indie comic book series, who graced it with his inks, colors and lettering skills. From there, I sent it out to a comic printer, and upon return, had a limited edition comic book of my son in his super hero persona, solving a mystery, overcoming the very villains he’s created as he plays, and making it to his birthday party to find family and friends waiting.

The shock on his face “Wait…what…how did…how did you get a comic book of…me?” when he opened it was everything. The fact that he asked me to read it for him four separate times that afternoon and again before bed was everything else.

With each passing day, he grows a little more, shows me more of the world and myself than I thought possible, and though not every day is perfect for us, every day he becomes more and more my real-life superhero.

Party - Montage of comic


French onion soup with apple and walnut saladSince getting the results of my bloodwork that tell me I had high cholesterol, high triglycerides and High LDL, I have been working very hard to be disciplined about eating better. Much of that has been cutting out fried foods, processed foods, and as my doctor put it, “cutting down on all starches and sugars.”

I will admit it hasn’t been easy, but I have a feeling that the more I stick to it, the more it will start to just become habit. Instead of a sandwich, I’ll have a wrap or salad for lunch. Instead of some chips on the side, I have a stack of almonds.

For dinner, Meg’s been really good about switching over from rice to quinoa, more vegetables, and adding things like more fish to our meals. She’s really been coming up with some great, and delicious ideas that are still within the restrictions/limits.

Every now and then I like some ice cream, but instead, I’m trying frozen yogurt from Stonyfield. Great taste and much less cholesterol.

Going out to eat has been a bit more difficult, though. A day or so after I got my results, we were all invited to have dinner with my parents – who took us to a place that specializes in BBQ and Fried Foods. It’s a great place, but man was it difficult to look at that menu and try to find something that wouldn’t totally throw me off of the wagon. I settled on chicken, not fried, and cooked with rosemary and thyme instead of barbecue sauce or breading. For the sides, I skipped the french fries (despite loving fries) and went with a sweet potato, with no brown sugar and no butter. Just threw on a little pepper. And it was good. You get two sides, so I also made sure to get a salad and passed on the dinner roll, figuring it was probably just empty carbs and starch that wouldn’t help.

I’ve done lunch with a few friends since then at a local bar and grille and that has also tested me in terms of this new diet. Usually, I’d get anything from a bacon cheeseburger to a buffalo chicken sandwich. Just a few of my favorite things. Instead, each trip has been Soup and Salad. I once slipped up and got the Caesar Salad and French Onion soup, only to have Meg remind me later that the Caesar dressing is loaded with things I’m not supposed to have, and the cheese and bread in the soup is also not too cholesterol-friendly.

So, on my latest venture, I did the soup and salad with just an Italian dressing and got the french onion soup without the bread or cheese. Thankfully, it was still tasty.

I know. I know. I’m sitting here writing paragraph upon paragraph about what I ordered at restaurants. I think part of it is to help me track my progress as this is new ground for me. As I’ve stated before, I once had tried to eat healthier when I learned I had high cholesterol but quickly fell off the wagon after a few ‘cheats’ here and there. This time, there’s me, Meg, and our little guy involved, so I have to make sure I’m around for a long time.

And that means finally taking this seriously.


Big BreakfastSo…I have high cholesterol.

This isn’t an incredible shocker, as I’ve had high cholesterol most of my life.

A few years ago I was told this after blood work and the doctor told me I needed to go on statins. Not being one for medication (or the side effects that go with it), I decided a change-up to my diet was the route I’d rather go. And I did, for a bit. I fully admit I fell off that wagon over time, though and went right back into some bad habits – you know, like toast with lots of butter almost every morning with my tea, or lots of starches like rice.

I have a new doctor these days, and while she said I’m in fantastic health, she wanted to do some blood work, since it was my first visit to her. The results came back with the same old story – high cholesterol. Fortunately, her reaction was not to prescribe something, but instead to give me notes that it’s time to change-up my diet. “Cut out all sugars and starches” she said in her message.

When I used to get this news in years past, it was different. It was just me I was really worrying about. Now, there’s not only my wife, but our son. In other words I need to make sure I’m around for a while and it’s time to get back on the wagon and stay there in the hopes of bringing the bad cholesterol down.

Side note – wouldn’t you know it, I opened up the blood work results and note from my doctor when it came in the mail over the weekend and was halfway through a big starchy sandwich with chips on the side? Naturally. 😉

So, a few days in, we’re working on the changes. I admit, it’s not easy. We’ve had fish for dinner. We went out to dinner with my parents at a BBQ restaurant known for its fried food and it took my much longer than usual to figure out what to eat. I ended up with chicken that was cooked with rosemary and thyme instead of the fried of barbecued options. Instead of fries or regular potatoes, I went with a sweet potato – no butter, not brown sugar, as it usually would come. I threw a little bit of pepper on it and it was fine. It has its own flavor that tasted pretty good.

Breakfasts have been oatmeal the past few days. Though, I admit, I don’t know if I could do that every day.

I love salads, so I’m thinking there may be a lot of those in my future.

We’ll see what happens in four months when I go for the next blood work test to see if these changes have had any effect. In the meantime, I guess it’s going to take a little discipline and some creativity to make sure I stay on this train of health, for my sake, and the sake of my family.

Any low-cholesterol meal ideas are certainly welcome! 🙂


Whether they know it or not, everyone has a story to tell.

However, some folks never tell their stories because they think they have nothing to say – that their life is too boring.

It’s with that in mind, that I set out to create a photo essay that took something routine and mundane – just a random day in my life – and captured it in photos in an attempt to create a visually appealing story told in images from throughout that terribly ordinary day.

I found that what might be routine or boring to some on the surface turned out to be a day filled with beauty and engaging sights and images, had I just taken the steps back to look at them more often.

Here’s my story:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


© Copyright 2013 CorbisCorporationThere is just something inherently creepy these days about the Ice Cream Truck coming down the street.

If you’re an ice cream truck driver, I apologize. It’s very likely not you. Or at least, I hope it’s not you.

Oh, I’m sure that back in the day it was an innocent and smile-inducing moment to see that white truck making its way through the neighborhood, music and bells ringing through the air. Heck, even I remember just two and a half decades ago, how normal it seemed to have the ice cream man come down the street and eagerly await to get some cold treats in the summer.

Through a little internet searching, here’s some background on the ice cream truck, or ice cream van as it’s sometimes known.

Early ice cream vans carried simple ice cream, during a time when most families did not own a freezer. As freezers became more commonplace, ice cream vans moved towards selling novelty ice cream items, such as bars and popsicles. Early vans used relatively primitive techniques: their refrigeration was ensured by large blocks of dry ice so the engine was always turned off when the van was stopped for sales. The chimes were operated by a hand driven crank or a take-off from the engine, so they were not heard as often. Modern chimes are always electrically operated and amplified.

I know it's too much to ask for it all to still seem like this, but...

I know it’s too much to ask for it all to still seem like this, but…

There are different types of ice cream trucks currently in use in the United States, some simply novelty trucks and some are soft-serve trucks.

Professionally built ice cream trucks that sell prepackaged product (Novelty Trucks) use commercial cold plate freezers that plug in overnight and when unplugged maintain the cold for at least 12 hours. Music systems are mechanical, such as pianos, or more commonly digital devices that have no tape or other moving parts. Each “music box” may be able to play one or multiple tunes. The opening on the side that drivers serve from is commonly referred to as a serving window and will usually have a serving counter. Awnings can be attached to trucks over the serving window. Safety equipment usually comes in the form of an electric or vacuum swing out sign which may resemble a stop sign or a triangular shape, as well as vinyl lettering or decals that advise others to use caution.

These are the only types of ice cream trucks that I’m familiar with in my own youth, cruising up and down the street, making me bug my parents or grandparents to buy me a Pink Panther ice cream on a stick, shaped like his head, with pink and white ice cream, and bubble gum for eyes.

Soft-serve ice cream trucks are actually a whole foreign concept to me. Instead of the pre-packaged ice creams, they actually have soft-serve machines in them and can offer you cones and sundaes. Honestly, I think I would’ve liked this a lot better than the pre-packaged stuff. They aren’t seen very often in the U.S. because of the extra costs with building such a truck. Oh, U.S. – cheap, cheaper and cheapest. Aesthetics and quality never really come into play here, do they? It’s a shame.

Maybe because of that desire to keep costs low, those ice cream trucks don’t always hold up well over time, which certainly doesn’t help deter the creepy factor I now see as an adult, the run-down rusty-looking truck barreling down our street at speeds quite unsafe for children who may be running out into the street to follow.

Or perhaps it’s the Dateline culture we live in these days, the numerous kidnapping stories splashed across the headlines, the horror movies made on the subject. As an adult, I just raise a skeptical eyebrow when I hear the jingles of the ice cream man coming down the street.

Honestly, maybe it’s the fact that he comes down the street at 9 o’clock at night, when most young kids, I would think, are safe indoors, that makes me raise a cynical eyebrow.

I think we’ll leave this one out in the cold and I’ll just go to the store to grab some ice cream for the family.


firstbday01Where in the world does the time go?

Like a flash of light, our little boy’s birthday was upon us in the blink of an eye. It seems like only yesterday we were welcoming him back home to the cats, a slew of visitors, and introducing him to this thing called life for the very first time. Now, we’ve wrapped up celebrating his first year on earth.

It was a good, handmade event, due in most, if not all part, to Meg. And if you’d like to read HER take on all of this, you can do so over at her blog. She spent months building up to this day, planning out everything from his smash-cake (made from all kinds of tasty, yet healthy things he likes, such as apple sauce and yogurt, versus mostly sugar and corn syrup), to the paper decorations that lined the backyard. She made streamers, she made tissue paper ‘poofs’ that hung from above, and she made a crown out of felt, that the little guy wore letting everyone know he was king of the party.

firstbday02The menu was made up of many of the monkey’s favorite foods, or at least those he’s tasted in tiny, broken-off portions. There was pizza from our favorite pizza parlor, homemade sandwiches on a freshly baked bread, fruit salad, cheese, crackers, and more.

It can sometimes be a little bit of a risk when you bring both family and friends together as you never know how anyone is going to blend or interact with each other. In our case, it all went off great. He did need a little urging to stick his hands in the smash-cake, not wanting to make a mess (which is kind of surprising considering how messy he gets with, say, pasta for dinner). When it came to open his gifts, his attention was more focused on the wrapping paper or the people around him than on what he was actually receiving, but boy were our friends and family good to him.

firstbday04Whether it was some new Mo Willems books for our collection, or some of the Fisher Price Retro-toys (a milk truck?! a portable radio?! how neat is this line of toys?!), Little People on a Farm or a Little People version of the Justice League, he made out like a bandit. Although, that little red tricycle from an old friend will have to wait a few years until he’s old enough to ride. 😉

The weather held out as we gathered and had a great, if not tiring time by day’s end. He only needed one nap toward the end of his party, although mommy and daddy wanted about seven naps by the time things were over – no such luck on our end.

As I say, the kudos for the day being as creative and as much of a throwback to backyard parties of yore goes to Meg, who put her all into making this first birthday one to be remembered. And, of course, having our loved ones around us helped seal that memory in.

If I could only figure out how he so quickly went from that little, wrapped up baby in our arms a year ago, to the little man standing on his own, making noises, and playing with toys today. As much as I don’t want them to, I know the years ahead will go by just as fast, if not faster. I can’t stop that, as the past 365 days have proven.

What I can do, though, is make sure that I enjoy every single moment we do have – the good, the bad, and everything in between, because they won’t be here forever.

firstbday03



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