Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Life is Still Awesome

Little Awesome turned 7 months old on Sunday.  He gets baptized next week.  It's his first Christmas, his first New Years.  A lot is happening in his life.

I've had a couple of months to reflect why I started this blog in the first place.  At first, I wanted to chronicle the growth of my son and share it with the world.  I wanted to hopefully record my growth as a father, mistakes and all.  I wanted to share a journey of smiles from a groggy child at 5 a.m. that make you forget in an instant how much sleep you've lost.
This was my Birthday present from L.A.

If I had to take anything from the last couple of months - it would be "Make sure you have your support team intact".  Things happen in life.  Unexpected things.  Things that you knew were coming, but secretly were hoping would be taken care of behind the scenes.  Yes, accountability and responsibility are givens when you're an adult but sometimes you wish on wishes that you could take a mulligan.

This was my struggle the past couple of months.  It wasn't getting older (That happens, get used to it.) It was dealing, and there were days when I didn't feel awesome.  There were days when things didn't feel awesome.  I loved my bride, I loved my son, I loved my dogs, and I was thankful that we had a roof over our heads - but I felt like I should be doing more for my family.  That scraping by wasn't awesome enough.  How could I share that with the world and put on a face that things were awesome when I didn't feel like they were?  How could I share with the world that today I felt inadequate as a husband, as a father, as a provider?  How could I say my life was awesome when I was losing my temper and swimming in a pool of frustration?

I reached out to my support team.  Your support team may be (and most of the times should be) the people that you are fighting with.  Those are the people who are going to set it straight for you instead of telling you what you need to hear anyway.  Sometimes, you won't get anything in response.  Sometimes... people listen without giving you their opinions, and sometimes that is the greatest gift. Sometimes, it's a look...

Sometimes you will say the things you don't mean.  Sometimes you go in a totally different direction just because you think that it is the right thing to do simply because it is different.  Sometimes you let the first words come out just because you're tired of holding your tongue.  Sometimes, you're instantly sorry...

Sometimes, you reflect on how it all started...

Sometimes you remember how far you've come...

Sometimes you pray silently when all is quiet in the house, when the big boy is sleeping for the second week in his big boy nursery.  When your beautiful wife is finally getting the rest she deserves.

First, a prayer of thanks because let's face it - what graces your life can easily vanish in an instant.  Second, a prayer of guidance, because let's also face it - I'm not perfect and every day I'm learning and as far as I'm concerned, that's a good thing.  I'm slowly but surely learning how to let go of that little voice inside (mine) that has that grainy recording that flatly lists everything I've ever done wrong...

Sometimes you have to realize that even though it's not rainbows and unicorns all the time, it's still worth it.  Even a grimy mirror can still reflect something beautiful.  Share it.  Live it.  Shoulders back. Chin up.

Life is Awesome... It's not perfect.  But it's Awesome.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What Hill?

Today is my birthday.

I'm 40.  30 years ago you would find me sitting in my room with a calculator.  Trying to work out the math for the year that it would be when I would turn 40.  I would be so olllld. Yuck! Yuck yuck yuckety yuck!

Either that or the fact that, according to my brother and sister, that The Earth would be swallowed up by the sun and we would all perish in a rapid ball of flames and I would never make it to 40. I believed them, so I spend many a night wide awake in my bed wondering what my purpose was and what it would matter since we were all going to be the toast headed for a very. Large. Toaster.

So here I am, and aside from the still looming uncertainty that is my purpose - I have learned a few things along the way to 40.

  1. You're only as young as you feel.  Yes, my feet and ankles hurt more on cold days, but otherwise, I feel great.  Occasionally, I channel some cranky, cantankerous soul and thankfully my wife reminds me that I am not that person.
  2. Life throws you curve balls.  Your ideal image of what your life should be may not be the way it is going to turn out.  Divorces happen, Friends pass away, pets pass away, Planned Pregnancy comes sooner than planned, Medical bills, dogs and cats living together - Mass Hysteria! When they happen, don't forget to breathe.
  3. On the heels of that, when curve balls happen in the form of folks "doing you wrong".  I put that in quotes because sometimes, maybe sometimes it's not their fault.  It's called a Jump... to Conclusions Game. Maybe you might want to take a minute to look in the Mirror.  Maybe, sometimes, it's best to forgive that person for your own peace of mind knowing full well you won't really get anything in return over than your Peace of Mind, and Heart, and Soul and friends, sometimes that is worth the sacrifice than perceived Justice. Then is it really a sacrifice?
  4. Pray, and pray often.  Whether you serve God or have your own personal belief.  We live in scary times and more often than not it's a darn good idea to pray for guidance.  You may wind up with the calmness of spirit to handle the crisis before it starts.
  5. Remind yourself daily of the blessings that are right in front of you.
  6. My parents were right more than I care to admit.
  7. I'm proud of my Dad more than I will ever be able to tell him, and equally as proud of my Mom, Sister, and Brother. My Dad started his own business at 40 years old, My Mom survived a near fatal heart attack, My sister and brother both run businesses and raised fine children.  
  8. Don't be afraid of your feelings, tell the ones you love you love them.
  9. I'm 40 and I'm still scared of the future. That is okay. There is a dash of excitement in the unknown.
  10. Don't be afraid to be yourself, it's okay to be ridiculous sometimes.
  11. That doesn't mean getting loaded and acting a fool.  (I wish I had learned this one sooner)
I'm sure that there is so much more.  If it was the old days, my friend Trevor and I would have ridden our bikes out to the woods and smoked cigarettes and probably solved all of the world's problems.  And maybe we did and the world just evolved with a new set of problems.  But we evolved too, and I think that is part of the perception of getting older - older is a mindset, and perhaps each day we're just evolving into wiser, better versions of ourselves working towards being the best versions of us we can be.

Friday, September 27, 2013

And That's... One To Grow On.

Let's face it.  We all struggle with things.  Whether it's finances, career, weight, self-image, or the New York Times crossword puzzle. Or, all of these things.

This week I have struggled with Social Media.  More specifically, using social media as my own personal dumping ground.  I have written post after post after post and stared.  Isn't my life Awesome?  Yes, yes it is.  Should I share my struggles with everyone and let them know I'm human? Maybe.  But that's like giving an Automatic Photon Blaster to a heavily caffeinated solider.  Someone may get hurt in the crossfire.

So, I paused to think about what I was doing.  I prayed about it.  It was a small thing, but splinters still hurt right?  I was fine, Mrs. Awesome was fine, Little Awesome was fine.  I've seen that Pinterest pin that says something along the lines of, "Most of my problems are made up scenarios in my head".  That is me 99% of the time.  Did I need to let everyone in the cosmos know that I was worried about things in my life? How about this?

Dear Cosmos and Planet Earth, I worry about stuff.  I worry about the same stuff you worry about.  Sometimes quite a bit.

Mrs. Awesome has a tendency to know when I'm worried.  She tells me that everything is going to be alright, and she is right.  Everything will be alright, because usually one of two things happens and sometimes both.

1) Either it works itself out, or you find a way to fix it or make it work


2) It's something you can't control, and/or it wasn't worth worrying about in the first place.

In this case, #2 won out this time and after a day or two of pondering the issue I realized that it didn't merit the energy I was pouring into the worry.  As Stuart Smalley would say, I'm good enough, smart enough, and dog-gone it, people like me.

Will I ever stop worrying?  Probably not.  But every day is an opportunity to see how Awesome life truly is.
So, yes, I am Awesome - I have flaws, and I may have baggage.  But I have a great family, and great friends.  I have a great deal to be thankful for and that requires daily evaluation and daily acknowledgement.  And that. is. Awesome.

We're All Cinn-ers Here.


I think by now my faithful readers have figured out that I enjoy cooking.  Some would say a little too much.

My cooking ability, while not Michelin Star quality (yet) is one of the few things that I am beginning to realize that I do exceptionally well.  Not to mention, when I am in the kitchen listening to music and whipping up a delight for my family and the select few who become my critics - I am truly, and blissfully happy and content.

I conducted a Facebook poll last week to see what Culinary Delight I should whip up this past weekend and Cinnamon Rolls won the vote.  I have never made Cinnamon Rolls before... I'm frightened.

Walk up to any Cinnabon in the mall and you are cold cocked hit in the face with the most glorious smell.  Angels in Heaven surely must smell like a mixture of Cinnamon Rolls, Lavender, BBQ smoke, Bacon, and Leather. Or do the smells take turns?

So I set out to find the perfect Cinnamon Roll Recipe.  Normally I would turn to my trusted friend, Alton Brown, but something told me to venture out beyond my comfort zone.  So, I looked towards another friend, Laura Vitale and Allrecipes.com.  I used Laura's bun recipe and Allrecipes version of the frosting.

We began the night before we actually wanted to eat the rolls... See? It even begins like a fairy tale! Break out your bowl and add your yeast, sugar, and water. Give it a stir and let it sit for ten minutes.  Yes, there is a lot of waiting in this recipe.  Use your time wisely to be Awesome! Go write a poem, or register for the Winter term at school, write down your goals for next week, pet your dog, but don't dog your pet it's rude.  A lot can happen in ten minutes, and your yeast mixture will be bubbly and sticky and smell like beer and that's okay.

Add your eggs, butter, salt, and vanilla and mix that up with your mixer.  I found a Kitchen-Aid refurbish on Ebay a while ago and I've never regretted it for a second.  Then, slowly, one cup at a time, add your flour.  You've seen this in cookbooks your whole life and you've always had the urge to be a Rebel this time.  Please don't.

You want this. 

To look like this.  

Not this.

After you've kneaded your dough for about 5-7 minutes, grease up a bowl and put your dough in the bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and put it in a draft free place.  I usually place mine in the oven because it's well insulated and it just seems like the right thing to do.

After a good night's rest your dough should indeed look like this... 
For those of you who are die hard's like me, give the dough a good smell.  The scent should remind you of a respectful bakery down the street.  Now, pat yourself on the back.  Good job.

Find a rather large flat surface and dust it with flour, punch down your dough and scrape it out of the bowl onto the work surface.  Lightly dust the top and roll your dough out into a rectangular-ish shape.

Now, you can mix your brown sugar and cinnamon together.  I put mine in a small tupperware and shook it.  I sang a little tune and Little Awesome asked me to please stop.

Spread some butter on your rectangle and sprinkle your sugar mixture on the rectangle leaving about a half to a quarter inch at the end non-buttered and non-sprinkled.  Press the sugar mixture down into your dough.

Now, tightly roll your dough up into a cylindrical shape, start with one side and move your way over into it is tightly wound.  Some folks will say stay in the center and roll but I think that allows for the sides to go rogue and you're left with guerrilla cinnamon rushing for freedom out the sides and who really wants that early in the morning?

Here is your finished product placed on a cutting board.

Slice your cinnamon rolls, wiping your knife between each slice.  Yes, it's extra work, but yes it's important, and yes you will be pleased.  I promise.  Place your cinnamon rolls in a well greased tray. Let them rest covered for 30 minutes.  Start your oven at 350 degrees.  Once your 30 minutes is up, bake for 30 minutes, which will allow you time to make the glaze.

Mix the cream cheese, vanilla, butter, and powdered sugar together.  There should not be any lumps.

Take the cinnamon rolls out and turn the dish over to coat the rolls with any of the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture that may have leaked out.  Then coat with your glaze.  The finished product with look something like this...

The cinnamon roll exceeded my expectations for the first time out.  Try it served with vanilla ice cream.  Is this recipe labor intensive?  Yes.  Is it worth it? Absolutely.  Will I make these again?  Already planning on it.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Note to Little Awesome

I imagine that this will be the first of many notes that I will place here.  It is my hope that one day when I am older, and slightly crankier, that L.A. will read these and get something from them.  I'm certain at times that I may contradict myself as I go along - but I think that is part of growing, you learn that sometimes what you thought you knew wasn't necessarily the best thing (not that it was a bad thing to begin with perhaps) but that you evolved into something new and more luminous.

I am, for the most part, a list maker.  I have scribbles of lists on post it notes everywhere I tend to go.  At home.  At work.  Sometimes in the car.  From groceries, to ideas - some grow legs or wings, some get left behind, forgotten.  Goals. Appointments.  But sometimes I leave snippets of notes for things I'm thankful for.  When these lists are made I try and be specific.  It's too easy to do the umbrella gratitude:

"I'm thankful for my car, my house... my life."

"I'm thankful for my family, my wife, my son, my dogs."

I want to attempt to be specific, it's like saying, "I love you." You can say "I love you" so many times to the people you love and in time it can become like a breath mint.  It tastes sweet for a time and then it fades, which is okay because you have a whole pack in your pocket.  I fear that the phrase can lose its value.  So, when I write my lists I write things like, "Laughter, that sexy way she stands at the sink when getting ready for bed, that little strand of hair that seems to find its way down her face when her hair is pulled back." Trivial things maybe to her but Snap into a Slim Jim awesome for me. I mentally hold onto these things when I say, "I love you" because it holds value, I'm conscious in the moment that I am actively feeling those things when I say the phrase. I want to perpetually and actively love my wife and family on a daily basis even when we disagree because at the end of the day when the lights go out I want to know that the love I have in my heart is dancing and not coasting.

These past few months have been exciting times in my son's life - full of discovery and wonder.  He just recently found his feet and has discovered how to pull his socks off.  He's so intent on every little thing that he does and smiles so big constantly.  Even at 3 in the morning when we're so exhausted, he's there, smiling.  Happy that we're giving him food and making goo goo noises.

It is my hope that he approaches his life with that same level of discovery and wonder.  I hope that I can be the father he deserves.  I hope that he can be actively thankful for his life and the things in it early in his life.  I hope that when he hears "I love you." from his mom and dad, he can sense the long list of memories behind it. We mean every word.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Just Another Awesome Pancake Dinner With The Awesomes! AKA "Why it's OK That It Took 2.5 Hours To Make"

Mrs. Awesome is succeeding in training me well.  Granted, it may take awhile... Ask my parents how long it took for me to actually realize that for the most part they knew what they were talking about and, well, you get the point.  Prime example, dinner - I have been known to create works of art in the kitchen.  Plates of cuisine that rival some of the legends in France, England, and Hoboken, NJ.  I have also been known to leave messes in the kitchen.  Piles in the sink that consist of almost every dish or pan that we own.  I would love to say that I am exaggerating, but alas, earwax.  With a heavy sigh and a stare from Mrs. Awesome, I am confined to the sink to handle the remains of my victorious presentation.

Nowadays, I know a little better.  I have a tendency to put things away as I go, which frees up valuable counter space - I wash a mixing bowl once it is empty to leave a tiny fragment of room in the sink for Little Awesome's dirty bottles.  This is not to say that I am perfect, far from it, as old habits are indeed hard to break and Sink Jenga is far too much fun to play to leave it behind entirely.

I am a huge fan of pancakes.  Not so much that it takes the top spot in my culinary repertoire, but enough that I tend to make them more than twice a month.  Now, I can imagine you just thought, "But Mr. Awesome, only twice a month? That's not a lot!" So I ask you, when was the last time you made pancakes for your family? * Crickets Chirping * I thought so... Billowing pillows of fried batter just screaming for a smear of butter and a healthy dose of syrup.  I do love it so.

Let's meet our team, shall we?
All Purpose Flour
Sugar, Salt, Baking Powder
Yes, syrup made the team.
No, it's not from Vermont.
Yes, I wish it was.

Notice anything missing?  There is no trace of a Bisquick box anywhere.  I refuse to have Bisquick in the house, because I don't need it.

I also don't want margarine in this recipe, I owe it to Mrs. Awesome to have butter in our pancakes.  I didn't settle for her, I won't settle for margarine - and neither should you.  You should also use unsalted butter.  You are going to add salt to your batter, you don't need more.  These are Pancakes, not slug killers.

I consulted my friendly neighborhood allrecipes.com and found a recipe that suited my needs and tweaked it ever so slightly.  Here it is as follows: Serves 16

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon baking
1 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons white sugar
2-1/2 cups milk
2 egg
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Add your dry ingredients first  (flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar), once you have added all of your dry ingredients, put the containers away where you found them.  Your spouse or landlord or guest will thank you.  Then whisk your dry ingredients together.  This completes two tasks:  It "sifts" your flour - yes I know it's not technically sifting, but it's close enough - which will help your future batter to be less clumpy.  It also mixes all the other ingredients together, which some folks say doesn't matter - I'll leave it up to you to decide.
Now it's time for the wet ingredients.  Put your butter in a microwave safe bowl and microwave it in 20 second bursts until melted.  Scorching hot isn't necessary.  While you are melting your butter, crack two eggs into your bowl, break the yolks and give a slight stir.   Add the milk, stir slightly, and then the butter.  Is the order important?  Possibly.  If you are like me and you take the milk out of the fridge right before adding it to your batter, then by all means stay true to the order.  Otherwise, the cold milk will shake hands with the butter and you'll end up with odd shaped butter clumps in your batter and the butter flavored party you wanted to have will be missing its Disco Ball.  You can also turn your batter into an NC-17 event and add vanilla extract.  That's right, Go for Vanilla.

Now you can stir, but here is a word to the wise:
You are not shaving ice, nor are you burning calories.  Please be kind to your batter, you'll win in the long run.  If you see a few lumps here and there, don't fret, and please don't stir faster.  Creole will be watching.
Once your batter is stirred, set it aside for a few minutes.  Get your gear together. Specifically, a flat top griddle.  If you don't own one of these, please buy one or borrow one.  This piece of equipment is by far the most used appliance in my house.  Marriage registries should automatically add this in everywhere.  

By this time, Little Awesome realized he was not the center of attention.  This just won't do...
A few minutes of coo and goo and ahhhs - 

I thought I was ready to get back to work, then this happened:   Ten minutes later we sent pictures and video to the family, then Facebook. Then, we waited to see if it would happen again... It didn't.

Back to the batter.

Your griddle should be set to 300 degrees.  By now, your batter should look like this, and you are ready to scoop.  I use a 1/4 cup measuring cup and find it to be sufficient for the size pancakes I want.  Spray the surface of your griddle with no stick spray.  You could also use butter, but I would recommend limiting the butter to your landing area.  Burned butter is not the same as Brown Butter so be careful. 

My griddle holds about 5 pancakes comfortably.  If I am feeling rather daring I will try for seven, but the surface tends to get crowded, and no one really wants a pancake scuffle, it would just be scary to watch. You'll notice eventually that the sides of your pancake will get slightly dry and a few of the bubbles will pop.  This is a great indicator that it is time to flip your pancake.  You may be tempted to lift a corner, or flip prematurely.   Currently, there are no medications for the treatment of Premature Flip (PF) so I'd advise against it.  Now, flip!

Golden spiderwebs of goodness, and a slightly crusty exterior.  That's what we want on each side.  Hate dry pancakes?  Me too.  I know syrup is a great method of re-hydration, but why spoil two good things by eating a pancake that tastes like syrup-flavored sandpaper?  As the pancakes cook, you will notice a large amount of steam rising up from the cooking surface after you flip your pancake.  After about a minute to two minutes, the steam should reduce drastically, but should still be visible.  This is the perfect time to take the pancake off the heat and place onto a serving plate.  I keep my serving plate in one of two places: 1.  The microwave - it's insulated and draft free.  2.  My oven - sometimes I turn the oven on until it has reached 150 degrees and turn it off.  This method warms the plate but doesn't dry the pancakes out.  When using this method, I make sure that my pancake landing zone is oven friendly, and I use oven mitts when handling said landing zone.  The Le Creuset casserole dish featured in the Chicken Parmesan entry is a great candidate for this method if you own one.

If you want a different style pancake, add your toppings before you flip.  Ideally 30 seconds after you place your batter on the griddle.  This will allow your toppings to sink in to the batter in a warm embrace.  Wait any longer, and you might get to find out if your choice of topping will bounce.  Not to worry, Creole makes a great Swiffer.
Last night's choice was Cinnamon Toast Pancakes.
An excellent choice, Cinnamon sugar is a delicious compliment to the butter.  I never said these pancakes were healthy...

By the end of the cooking process, and the Little Awesome show, we wound up with slightly more pancakes than the recipe stated.  That was fine, because we can always put them in the toaster in the morning and spread peanut butter on them.  I hope to hear about your Pancake Progress!  Bon Appetit!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Old Faithful has some competition, and who says going out is a bad thing?

Rule # 1 - Little Awesome can't read.

Rule # 2 - Don't believe everything you read or hear.

Rule # 3 - If you disagree with any of these rules, please refer to rule # 1 & 2.

If you're not a parent yet, keep reading.  If you are a parent, keep reading anyway and enjoy the trip down memory lane...
Old Faithful is nature's biggest description of acid re-flux.  Or, if you like, if Mother Earth was a baby - then Old Faithful is spit up.  Impressive.  Predictable.  Vast.  Tourists line up to photograph this phenomenon, ancient scholars to a degree could have set their watches to it, others just simply marveled at its wonder.

So it is with Little Awesome.  We have shown our son the labels on the formula can - "Reduces spit up" it says, "Great for upset tummies - Soothing for babies!" it promises.  Time and time again these litanies of well being and normalcy for baby, and for parents alike... Refer to Rule # 1.

My son apparently has a thing for waiting.  Waiting to lure us into a false sense of security.  He's not malicious, not yet, he's just trying it on for size.  He's been a little backed up in the plumbing department as of late.  Think of a septic tank that is too full before the enzymes can do their magic.  What happens?  A well trained cleaning crew - that's what.  The look of calm on his face while eating is one of poetry, song, and paint.  Very serene and ripe for admiring.  I enjoy feeding my son, watching his little hands in hopes that the day will come when he grasps on to the bottle, and I, will be the lucky one holding him when he does it so that I may brag to my friends like the Dad in "A Christmas Story" when he won the Leg Lamp.

But, therein lies the false sense of security.  Just when you think you've got things mastered and YOU are the Baby Whisperer, it happens.  Niagara Falls. A scene straight from The Exorcist - blech!  Spit up would not be bad if it were only a few times a day.  Alas, earwax.  L.A. has decided that he would like to be the Pioneer to make Spitting Up an Olympic Sport.  If so, I would be a proud father for sure.  I would brag equally as much.

The difficult part in all of this is not that he spits up, and not that he tries to immediately run his hands and face through it.  It is the smiling face that instantly follows the clean up process.  He knows by know (I'd like to think so anyway, let me dream) that we don't like the clean up process.  So he does what comes naturally to an Awesome, we turn the charm up to eleven.

Mrs. Awesome:     "I think it stopped, did it stop?"

Mr. Awesome:     "Hang on, let me go get the Shop Vac!"

Little Awesome:    *Beaming Bucket of Cute*


Little Awesome hasn't read in the Parenting magazine that the valve that is between the mouth and the stomach should supposedly close in the fourth month.  I hope he doesn't read rule # 2.

We took our son to the Naval Aviation Museum this weekend, as we had friends in from out of town - so free is always fine.  Our arrival was near closing time unfortunately... If you have never made it to this area to see this wonderful attraction, I would suggest you make it part of your next trip.  The best part of our visit wasn't all the planes, or the helicopter that L.A.'s Uncle painted - It was a group of ladies who were part of the custodial crew that stopped us on the way out to be subjected to my son's merciless flirting.

Ladies:    "Oh isn't he the cutest thing?"

Little Awesome:     *Beaming Bucket of Cute*

And on and on they go, singing praises and glory, laud, and honor, etc, etc, etc.

And all I can do is look at my wife and be thankful for everything she does all day every day.  She loved me enough to give me this gift of a beaming bucket of cute.  I'll take two helpings of spit up please.


Little Awesome is about to be three months old.  For us, that seems almost like a lifetime ago.  Mrs. Awesome certainly isn't nostalgic for the j-o-b she left behind, and she stays busy around the house while L.A. spends his days learning new things, like, where his hands are - and where they go - and what new locations he can stick them.

My brother and sister are both parents, and have been for a time.  My oldest nephew is well into his teens and just recently went for his Learner's Permit and passed.  We didn't venture out on the road for days.  But what I'm coming to realize is that when they were starting out on their journey, to be honest, I didn't really pay attention because at the time I didn't think this would be a reality for me.  I could continue to look back and wonder why that is, but I won't.  I will say that I appreciate the glint of understanding in their faces when I mention how things are going and they appear as if they are remembering a memory of long ago... in a galaxy far, far away.
Now I find myself wanting to call all of my family and friends at the most unlikely of times to ask the most important question... "How did you do it?"  Most of the time my imagined answers involve the lonely sound of crickets chirping.  Mostly because it 2 a.m. and everyone I know is asleep.

I do know this, L.A. is going to continue to get older, and as he does - there will be a new evolution in the type of questions that I will be asking.  Will I have the courage to Google my friends and family to find out what's happening?  I hope so.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Road to Nowhere Means You're Going Somewhere

This weekend was a big scheme by me to get Mrs. Awesome out of the house and somewhere different.  Little Awesome was really just along for the ride - or was he?

The day before we left, I told my beautiful bride that I only had two requirements:

a) We go somewhere we have never been.
b) We do something we've never done.

Now, I realize that we are broke as a joke and so zip lining over the Amazon River while whistling "Tie A Yellow Ribbon" was definitely out of the question.

I felt like the kid in that Disney Commercial that was too excited to sleep, so naturally, I was up early.  I made sure that the formula was made (and packed).  The Awesome-mobile was fueled and ready.

On the road, the sky was overcast and gray.  No importance... Rain shall not soil this da... It's raining.

But hark! Off in the distance, what do we see?  Yes, that glorious Den of Hot Doughnuts Now - Krispy Kreme.  This month's special offering of sugary goodness was Dark Chocolate.  I have a love affair with Dark Chocolate.  So much so I feel the need to Capitalize it.  Dark Chocolate.  I decided immediately that I would try all three of their wonderful creations.  Mrs. Awesome decides to play it safe and complete the half dozen with a few chocolate glazed with sprinkles.  Either way, it's glory in a box.  Little Awesome enjoyed watching how the doughnuts were made and swore to cut a tooth instantly for a taste.  In my opinion, the Dark Chocolate with Pretzels was the clear winner of the morning.

Afterwards, we continued east and traveled past Destin, FL and onto Highway 30-A.  This road took us through Seaside, Florida (where the Jim Carrey film "The Truman Show" was filmed) a midst several hundred herds of people flitting about.  There were so many people in such a small area I honestly had no idea what special event was going on.  So rather than fight the crowd we continued on through Alys Beach and to Rosemary Beach.  Rosemary Beach was my favorite, but the weather would not allow us to stop.

Getting back on the main road, we discovered that we had almost arrived in Panama City Beach.  We were both surprised, because we didn't feel like we had been on the road that long.  But here it was two o'clock and Panama City Beach was within sight.  Unfortunately, every restaurant we wanted to eat at opened at 4.  Shucks.

We had wanted to make it all the way to Apilachicola, but we had explored so much already that the time frame was escaping us rapidly.  Rather than suffer the wrath of the Awesome Dogs, we decided to head back west and see what we could find for lunch/dinner.

We initially tried Joe's Crab Shack - but the wait was almost two hours... you know how cranky Little Awesome gets when he has to wait for seafood.

So we ran... and tried Bubba Gump's shrimp.  I would have expected more varieties of shrimp, but all in all - not bad.  We had a few appetizers instead of entrees and managed to get away without spending too much and with full tummies. No dessert please - we had a plan.

On the road again and headed west in search of a sign.  A sign that read "Key Lime Pies made fresh daily".  I am a h-a-uge fan on Key Lime Pie in the summer, winter, fall, and spring.  In my mind, there are only a handful of pies that you should strive to learn how to make correctly and Key Lime Pie is one of them.  Mrs. Awesome had her navigation skills masterfully honed and she was determined that I would not miss the turn.
I didn't.
If you find yourself driving by this little gem.  Please make a legal u-turn and stay awhile.  Just reading the menu board was reason enough for me to reconsider my discovery plans.  The waitress was syrupy pleasant and gave us time to decide.  Mrs. Awesome ordered a pineapple upside down cake - I ordered Key Lime Pie of course.  Hands down, one of the top three Key Lime Pies I've had the honor of putting in my mouth.  A whole pie a bargain at $15.50 - had I the extra funds we would have brought one home and named him Terrance.

All in all, a pleasant trip.  Not necessarily the bungee jumping excursion I had built up in my head.  But spending quality time with my wife and son earned more stars and diamonds in my travel book than the Taj Mahal.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

You guys are Awesome!

You Guys are great... 

It's been a couple of days and this blog has almost tripled its page views.  I think that's very humbling, and I thank you.  

I've worked on some ideas that I would like to bring to this page, but in my mulling I've figured that the last thing we want is a box - a defined statement that shapes what this Awesome means and needs.

Little Awesome says "Gaaaah" which means "You guys rock!"

Mrs. Awesome and I are planning on setting out this weekend to discover some awesomeness in our area.  We will post some photos by Monday. Stay Tuned!

P.S.: See the Follow button on the right hand side? Push it! Don't miss an episode!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Sometimes Life Happens - Schedules? What schedules?

A week ago, Little Awesome turned two. Months old, that is.  Two is about the number of hours of sleep that it feels that we get.

Two souls trudging through the house - looking like they just stepped onto "The Walking Dead" film set.  Eyes heavy, and coordination??? Imagine trying to do aerobics while wading in mashed potatoes.

Meanwhile, L.A. is growing rapidly and learning!  He's tracking objects, smiling on purpose, saying our names - just kidding... I wanted to see if you were paying attention.

He is, however, cooing a lot at night which barrels through our sleep patterns and doesn't compliment our social skills.

Co-Worker: "How was your weekend?"

Mr. Awesome: "Bleearrrrrrrrgh!" *snore, drool*

And I would love to say that in this awesome time that we have been creative and productive. Alas, earwax.  I read my favorite blogs of domestic super powers "Plain Chicken" and "The Virtuous Wife" and "The Kitchn" hoping to find the inspiration to be a helpful partner to my wife seeing as how she is upholding the awesome while I'm at work. But all I want to learn how to craft... is a pillow.

Friday, July 5, 2013

With Great Power Comes Great Tasting Food

It's been a few weeks, and I had planned on writing several times about getting peed on and a varying sundry of topics, but decided that I might not get bogged down in a trend.  While Mrs. Awesome and Little Awesome are doing well - and there are lots of little things that he's doing that I can't wait to talk about - I thought as Monty Python would say, "And now for something completely different."

I love to cook... It says so in my profile.  Go ahead, look at it. :) Last Christmas, my Mother in Law gave me a present that I had given out before but never received.  Le Creuset is, for the most part, the go to winner when it comes to cookware.  I, however, am a huge fan of Lodge cookware when is comes to cast iron.  But on a trip to TJ Maxx I came across a Le Creuset casserole dish.  I love casseroles.  I think casseroles scream "I am a parent, and I frequent flea markets." But dog-gone it, casseroles should be a semester course in school.
I lucked out, not only was the dish Le Creuset, but it was Green.  Green is my favorite color and boy does it look good.  Now, the casserole does not have a very big footprint, either on the counter, or in the oven.  Which means that you can prep and cook with several of these without tying up your counter or oven space for multitudes of time.  As an added bonus, they are freezer safe to oven safe.  So, if you wanted to prep a meal and not cook it right away - you could place the whole thing in a gallon Ziploc freezer bag and pop in the freezer, to be taken out on those nights when you "don't want to cook".  (Author's note: If you're like me, you pretty much know that morning if it's going to be "one of those days" - take the meal out of the freezer and place it in your fridge... You'll gradually bring the temp of the dish up, reducing the chance of cracking the dish by placing it directly from the freezer into a hot oven.)  Not to mention, clean-up on this dish is a dream - it goes from dirty to almost brand new looking with a light soak and scrub.  I have yet to work the grease out of my elbow with this dish.

So, last night I had planned to make fajitas for the Fourth of July.  I didn't get home until 4 p.m. from the dog park.  I don't know about you but I make tortillas from scratch - and I honestly just didn't feel up to it.  So, I found some Chicken patties in the freezer and decided to make my version of Chicken Parmesan.

First, start your noodles boiling - salt the water first please.  The type of noodles really depends on you (I used Fettuccine noodles in this case.)  What you are looking for in the noodle is slightly under cooked.  Everyone I know throws the word "al dente" around like an old familiar sock - but what you really want is just bendable but still kind of hard.  Really, don't over think it - but if you cook your noodles too long because that's how you like it on your plate, you'll be most likely be unhappy with the end result.

Now would be a super time to pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (About 200 Celsius).

Once your noodles are under-cooked and drained, place about one quarter of your sauce on the bottom of your dish.  I find that this reduces the noodles from sticking to your dish at the end.  Then, place your noodles in the dish almost to the top.

Next up, the chicken patties - I bought the budget brand...  Feel free to use your favorite brand if you like.  Just position them on top on the noodles so that they fit well.  If you have fussy kids that don't like cutting up their own food (I was one of those kids) by now the patties would probably be thawed enough to handle being chopped into cubes.

Now, I prefer to add water to my sauce in the jar almost to the top and give it a good shake.  To me, this optimizes noodle to sauce coverage, and I don't have to open another bottle of sauce.  As the noodles begin to cook they release some of their starch - thickening up the sauce.  Viola! No watery sauce on the plate!

I also used block cheese this time as I am a heavy-handed cheese Lauder.  I love cheese and Lord knows, that I would have cheese in my veins if it was medically possible.  Using block cheese really helps me keep track of how much cheese goes on the dish.  This time I used about 1/4 of the block.

In the oven it goes for 25-30 minutes.  I placed the dish on the lower rack and put garlic bread on the top rack during the last ten minutes of cooking.  

The end result was delicious, and didn't cost a fortune.  I hate to say it, but it tasted equally as good as some Italian restaurants.

So check out your local home goods store.  TJ Maxx or Marshall's may have one of these beauties for $15 bucks or less.  In my opinion, if you spend a good deal of time in the kitchen, you owe it to yourself to invest in one or twelve.  I am putting in a standing birthday / Christmas order with my family members in hopes that they might join forces and surprise me with one (or twelve) each year.

Happy Cooking, and Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Rock and Roll All Nite and Potty Every Day!

So last night Little Awesome decided to put on a show and roll over.  I am a very proud daddy!

The gas crisis is getting better, so hopefully we'll be getting to the end of that tunnel rather soon.

We've come to grips that L.A. is getting older, as we are one month and five days into his life.  I, for one, and super stoked that I have not been responsible for any broken bones... yet.  However, if I wake up in the middle of the night I find myself staying awake to listen to see if my son is breathing.  That turns my mind into overdrive and it's typically an hour before I can wind down again.  Now, Mrs. Awesome has mastered the broad range scan super prolific hearing technique (which really sounds cool when said with a Scottish accent).  So, here I am all ears sonar, while Mrs. Awesome is blissfully asleep - and L.A. makes some slight gurgle and she's up - "Dear, I think he spit up can you check?"  Of course I can check, I am the Omnipresent father who has been listening, not that I will find anythi...


Silently I curse my testosterone muddled cochlea and shuffle off to get a Kleenex.

Little Awesome has also decided that since it is summer, it is time to wear swimwear 24/7 unless attending one of Nana's tea parties.  So diapers it is until October which makes changing time a breeze.  Which these days has become incredibly more frequent and productive.  Ever irritated by the gas crisis, L.A. has moved on to a new, alternative form of energy research - pee.  He is convinced that the copious productivity springing forth from his being will somehow redirect gravitational pull and cause a spontaneous cold fusion that will be so spectacular it will rival any Jimi Hendrix guitar solo ever played.  I am merely convinced that I will have to change shirts more frequently and invest in chalk to mark the distance on the hardwood floors -  shunning my career to become a bookie for what could be a new Olympic sport.

Be awesome everyone.  Thanks for stopping by and don't forget to join our little group.  We're glad to see you.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sleep is over-rated... This sleep has been rated MP (More Please)

Little Awesome has been hard at work this past week.  He has taken it upon himself to solve the world's gas shortage.  Unfortunately, he gets a little greedy and doesn't want to let go of what he has created...

This is a sign of things to come, I am sure of it.

We, as loving parents, try and encourage L.A. to let go - to "Use the Force" as it were.  Use his powers for good.  My son decides that screaming is a better option.

I say all of this in jest as I know and Mrs. Awesome knows that he can't help it.  He didn't get a manual to read - just like we didn't get our manual.  So he is stuck grunting and pushing to no avail while the bubble in his rumbly tumbly gets more and more gurgly by the second.

The hardest part for me is two-fold...

Number one being the sleep that eludes all of us.  Lunesta and Nitol are not a part of our household, so we are forced to get creative and spin yarns about L.A.'s condition.  Last night, we rambled about how the neighborhood could fire the mythical Rooster that wakes everyone us in the wee morning hours, or how Little Awesome could become the mascot for the new hockey team "The Massachusetts Waaaahs" complete with description of the logo on the jersey of a wailing child driving a Zamboni.

Number two being the fact that up to this point I have not seen tears stream from my child's face.  Now, being an uncle I am aware that tears are soon to be a common occurrence.  However, this is the first time that I have to see them for what they are... my son is in pain.  He is expanding like Violet Beauregard in Charlie in the Chocolate Factory and I without my "Squeezing Room" to relieve the pressure.  It's heartbreaking.

The upside to all of this, is that I'm beginning to garner more insight into my parents' lives.  I say this with the promise that I will say this repeatedly I am sure, much to my parents' glee.  They have said numerous times that "Payback is coming", and I noticed when Little Awesome first joined this world he was relatively quiet.  Quiet enough that I heard the whispered curses from my parents when my son was so well "behaved".  Surely, payback IS coming, isn't it?

So a few bribes to corporate warlords, and pre-dawn ritual dances later - my parents have their revenge.  I am certain that by their efforts that the formula that we have purchased have become tainted with mystical Fizzy Lifting Bubbles and poor L.A. for whatever reason hates being patted on the back so burps are, for the most part, few and far between.

All joking aside for my folks, it warms my heart to see them, and Mrs. Awesome's family dote on my child.  My bride deserves whatever break she can get.  When I get home I will hold my son in hopes that Mrs. Awesome will take the time to breathe and recharge her Awesome batteries.  I will lose sleep, I will listen to all the screams my son can dish out, I will dry the tears, I will be the rock and the shoulder and the ear.  My wife and child are worth it. Be Awesome everyone, thanks for listening and please come back to see us.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

2 Weeks Old and You Know What That Means... Road Trip!

A friend of mine passed away last week.  So, I felt it was right to go pay my respects to a good friend and schoolmate.

The hotel was booked and we prepared for what I thought would be about a four hour drive from our home to just outside of Birmingham.







It was a crisp, cool night outside the rest stop...

Little Awesome had just discovered that he enjoyed riding in the car, but he was hungry.  So, he decided it was time to let us know about it.  Then I had to let Mrs. Awesome know that I forgot to pack the one thing we needed.

The first rule of being a diplomat, is to immediately accept responsibility and begin working on a solution.  Hence, you eliminate the initial sting of "I'm mad at you" and you can solve the issue and grovel later.  The GPS reads 10 the opposite direction to the nearest pharmacy.  Dear Highway Patrol, thank you for not picking us up.  We made it just fine, thank you.

Apologizing and working on a solution didn't render me the hero, because Mrs. Awesome is in the back seat consoling a very hungry child.  So, technically she earned the merit badge - and I intend to never forget it.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Staying Hydrated

This... Is how I feel.  I scoffed at folks who assured me that I would need to find my sleep.  Like Captain Jack Sparrow searched for gold, like Doctor Who searched for companions, like Enterprise searched for new life, and new civilizations.

Surely my son who was rocking out an awesome schedule proudly, like a teenager proudly displays the new tattoo under his sleeve hidden from his parents, wouldn't cause me or Mrs. Awesome any trouble.

Surely, we were special...

Surely, we were different.

Well, we're not... we're really not.

Little Awesome has certainly been awesome in the "Look how much formula I can guzzle" department.  Or the ever popular, "Abstract wall painting with my own pee" has a nice distinguished vibe to it.  Or perhaps he watched "The Voice" one too many times and thought, "Louder surely must be better."

Don't get the wrong idea. I am, and always will be a silver lining kind of guy.  I find it great that the panic attacks are subsiding when I pick up my son.  Slightly ever more confident that his neck isn't going to snap like a dry twig.  I can't carry that burden that I've caused some irreparable harm to my son, and not to mention that the grainy videos that play in my brain of countless scenarios of how I would be the catalyst that my son would lose a finger or scar or whatever.  I am thankful that the video library in my head is drastically reducing in size each day.  Feeding shmeeding, I got this.

I'm taking comfort in the everyday "awesome" stuff that would otherwise not get noticed.  I'm thankful for my ability to help my bride in the home as much as I can.  Doing laundry, fixing bottles, catering to the ever increasing needs of our spoiled dogs.

In the moments when we're both tired and frazzled because Little Awesome has been up teaching Death Metal Bands from Norway how to scream, there comes a moment when he makes a different sound, or stretches a different way than he did yesterday, that I'm reminded that it's only been two weeks.  Every day is new to him and every little movement, or sound, or today's bout of gas is different than yesterday.  He's hoping that in some way, we will help him figure it out.  That even though he can't talk, and we don't understand what he's saying - he doesn't understand "English" either... He just might understand patience, understanding, and love.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Rising Price of Gas

My son is a micro-organism... A very loud micro-organism.  We spend most of our adult lives making jokes about the noises we make... Burping, farting, etc.  We forget that infant children need coaching.  Heck, I never thought they did in the first place, at least in the gas department.

My son, however, apparently creates his own magnificence, quite like one would spin a symphony out of a muse's behind.  Somehow though - he is unable to unleash that magnificence with the rest of the world.  Which, in turn, leads to teenage angst in a 7 day old.  Screaming... lots and lots of screaming.  No amount of back-patting will help, which sadly, means that all-niter's are no longer fun.

At this point, I am learning that my son needs a few things:

  1. Food.
  2. Sleep.
  3. A Clean Diaper at all times, and please utilize your ESP to know when it is happening so that I do not have to ask you to do it. Wherein I would have to invoke the "Waah Waah Waah" broken record until you finally give me what I want.
  4. A good burp or fart at all times.
  5. Love.
  6. A warm bath.
  7. Dog kisses, but not on my face.
  8. Mommy - because she is awesome.
Now, I have to remind myself that it  is eight days since my son has escaped the warm confines of being attached to my wife.  This means that he was evicted from the best 5-star hotel known to man with a free pass to the restaurant, the mini-bar, and the Chateau Le Mom Spa.  He must be pissed.

So, really, we are trying desperately to recreate that Eden in our world.  We know that here in our world there will be experiences that will exceed all of that in time.  But try explaining that to the Man of the House.

I may be tired, but I can only imagine how my wife is doing.  I think she deserves a foot rub.

For the next twenty years.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Has It Been A Week Already?

A week ago my wife went into labor after a long day at work and we were just about to go to bed.  My son... I knew he would do things his own way and all we would be able to do is stand back and watch (and push).  40 long hours of no sleep. 20 of those spent in labor.  My poor, awesome and crazy cool wife.

I always joked that wife was and is part machine, part Russian immigrant with an attitude.  I figured her pregnancy would progress something like this: Push, Push, Birth, Send Thank you notes, make breakfast, and be awesome.

Alas, things did not turn out that way - but darn close.  After our son was born and she rested for about 30 minutes.  She proceeded to stand up and walk to her wheelchair to be transferred to her new room.  Epidural Smepidural.  My wife. My beautiful, bad-ass wife.  No Super Bowl winning touchdown could have compared to the look on the nurses' faces.

My son is beautiful. I'm biased.  Incredibly so.  How it's possible to fall instantly and completely in love with something that looks like a cross between a California Raisin and a Smurf that took a shower under Gene Simmons' blood spitting routine I'll never know.  But I don't care.  Future dads, take note... your child does not come into this world wiped off.  But somehow a midst all of the crying, and smurfedy smurfness, you find a way to discover that unconditional love for your child.  With any luck it will follow them the rest of their days.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

From water to what?

K's water broke a few hours ago... no quips or jokes :) I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Prep is just like cooking... sometimes you have to follow the recipe

So there are only a few days left to go.  My wife K is doing awesome as always... The ongoing theme in her pregnancy is that she never, (well, almost never) complains.  She has been a true inspiration to me and I hope that by now she knows it.

It is a rule in our home that we live in it - and that entails that things aren't perfect, they just are.  We do what we can and we never apologize if things don't appear like a magazine shot.  However, sometimes we get overwhelmed and we become best friends with our good friend, Mr. Crastinator.

Case in point, our hospital bags.  We have been waiting and waiting to pack them and truthfully just been putting it off.  So, exasperated, I asked my lovely wife, "If this was a cookbook this would be easy, isn't there a list of what we need to take?"

"Why, yes there is." she replied, "It's in the hospital paperwork."

So, here I was half expecting this novel of things to take to the hospital... bzzz! wrong!

Everything we needed fit into two diaper bags, much to the chagrin of our dogs. Surely we would be taking them with us! Alas, earwax.

So it took about ten minutes... Thankfully a good portion of the entertainment items had been utilized by our phones.  Way to go smartphones!

Thank you hospital for spelling it out for us, otherwise we would have arrived with half the closet, I am certain of this.  It's the little things that matter.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Waiting for the son

My wife and I have been stuck in the waiting room at the OB for quite some time now.  We have been surrounded by children who have parents and guardians who do not believe in discipline.  We are sitting next to a military couple who are just a few days ahead of us.  We spent the time discussing music choices and what would be appropriate choices in dressing. We have about a week left.

I was reminded that it is part of our duty as parents to be invested in our children and their development.  It is our duty to look after them even when they begin to flex their independence muscle.  I look forward to meeting my son.