Daddy Drinks: Hot Buttered Rum

° c o f f e e °, originally uploaded by ° d i + m a r s °

Rum and butter are two great tastes that taste great together. If you like both of those things, and you like to have warming drinks from a mug in winter, here's a nice one to keep at hand during the holidays.

3/4 cup Boiling Water
1/4 cup Spiced Rum
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Butter
1 Clove
1 Cinnamon stick to stir

Boil water and pour into a mug. Mix in the brown sugar and spiced rum (I use Sailor Jerry's). Add the butter and stir until melted. Use a tea strainer or infuser to mix in the clove flavor, then remove the clove. Do not eat the clove. Sprinkle lightly with nutmeg and stir with a cinnamon stick. Drink up and stay warm!

Bread & Jam

rainy saturdays, originally uploaded by MEOMI

We had a little snow storm over the weekend and spent an entire day at my in-laws' house in the country. This might sound awful, but I like my wife's family, so I didn't mind being stranded. I helped her dad to clear the snow outside, and her mom taught me to bake bread and make a batch of Christmas jam.

It is fun to learn traditional skills, and I am especially fond of any process that results in something I can eat or drink. Jam isn't hard to make when you have the right tools. Bread was easy too. Basically the bread-making machine does all the work for you.

I also learned that the primary ingredient is sugar, which explains why jam is so delicious. Hopefully I can find the time to make more bread and jam. Now I know the process, I want to try different flavors and varieties!


, originally uploaded by beebo wallace

We started Ashley on "solid" foods a while ago. My wife has made some of it herself, which is cool. She mushes up the vegetables and separates them into individual servings in an ice cube tray and freezes it for later. When it's dinnertime, we pry out one cube of food and thaw.

Eating is a fun new game. Her technique leaves something to be desired, but you can't fault her enthusiasm. She dives nose-first into each spoonful of oatmeal and sometimes she even gets some into her mouth and swallows it. She understands the basic concept. We could tell she was ready when she started taking an interest in watching us eat and drink.

Fun fact: this is also a new form of cheap entertainment. To keep her busy, all I need to do is open a bag of chips. She will stare for several minutes, enraptured, while I fire them down my yapper. The last time I had an audience watching me eat was when my Japanese host family was teaching me to eat soup with chopsticks. Now the student has become the master.

Pedal Power

I'm warming up to the idea of building a custom pedal car. This guy sells plans for "The Speeder," shown above. The body is a 55-gallon plastic drum, the wheels use bicycle tires, and most of the working parts are constructed from PVC tubing.

As I was drafting this post, I looked back at something I wrote five months ago, also on the topic of pedal cars. Wow, did I sound like a Scrooge.

My attitude about parenting sure has turned around during the last six months that I've actually been a parent. Now I can't image denying my daughter anything. That could change around the time she becomes a teenager and starts demanding keys to a real car. But, for now, all good things for my little girl!


Splish Splash, originally uploaded by nature55

Ashley has always seemed to enjoy taking baths, even when she was very small. First of all, she loves being naked, so we're off to a good start. After the initial shock of being set in the water, she would smile and flail and grab the sides of the little plastic tub.

We have always looked forward to bath night, and now that our baby has figured out what's going on, she really gets into it. As soon as her butt touches water, she starts kicking, and those legs don't stop until half the water has been splashed out of the tub. The whole time she has a tremendous grin on her dripping face.

The only trouble is actually getting her clean. She doesn't like to have her splashing time interrupted. If I grab one leg to soap it up, she kicks the other one twice as hard. It's unbearably cute. When did bath time stop being so much fun?

Happy Repeal Day!

Vintage Schlitz ad Xmas card, originally uploaded by Paxton Holley

Prohibition in the United States was ended 75 years ago today. The 18th Amendment, which outlawed alcohol, was repealed by the ratification of the 21st Amendment on December 5, 1933. This amendment guarantees all Americans the constitutional right to drink.

Anyone can celebrate Repeal Day. It's easy, just add alcohol! Whether it's a Schlitz dinner at home or pints at the local beer hall, there's no wrong way to party.

Today is a day to celebrate freedom. And what will you celebrate tomorrow? Hangover Day, of course!

Grasshopper vs. Ant

Happy Grasshopper Days, originally uploaded by madmanor24

I got a lot done over the long Thanksgiving weekend. And I learned something about maintaining a productive mindset. Start by getting things done, then it's easy to do more things.

For example, let's say it's time to wash the dishes. The trick is, to paraphrase David Allen, a "mind like dishwater." I'm more inclined to roll up my sleeves if I already spent the evening taking care of baby and doing laundry, instead of playing Super Mario Galaxy for hours on end. This is a purely hypothetical scenario. Once again I see the wisdom of my parents in using video games as a reward, compared to goofing around all day and then trying to get something done.


Norton commando fastback Interstate, originally uploaded by MotoAlchemist

We had dinner with my extended family on Thanksgiving Day, and "fake Thanksgiving" on Saturday with the in-laws. My family was very excited to see Ashley. Saturday was more fun for me, though. Besides spending time with my nieces, I helped my father-in-law lace the spoked wheels on a Honda Scrambler he is restoring.

Lacing is a tricky job! I happened to have some experience in this area from volunteering at a community-run bicycle shop a few years ago. The process is pretty similar with motorcycle wheels. There were a couple of minor setbacks until we hit on a technique that worked for getting the first wheel together. We used different colors of electrical tape to mark where everything should go, and it took three people to coordinate everything.

The second wheel was trickier. We took a break to eat and then went back out to the shop for another try. With four men looking at the problem, we were able to figure it out eventually. I scored some points with my father-in-law (always a good thing). Best of all, when he's showing off the finished bike, I can say proudly that part of it was done with my help.

Black Friday

Hallway, originally uploaded by Markus Moning

The day after Thanksgiving is either Buy Nothing Day or buy everything day, depending on your point of view. Traditionally we have a split perspective on Black Friday in our household. Which is how I came to be sitting at home with Ashley, reading a monk's autobiography, while my wife snuck out at 3:30 AM to go shopping with her sisters.

But I don't want to sound self-righteous or give you the wrong idea about my wife. She would rather not battle the crowds of bloodthirsty consumers before sunrise, but she endures it to spend time with her family. And in the middle of writing this post, I popped over to to check the deals on HDTVs.

Do I really need a new TV? Nah, of course not. The old one works just fine and I don't watch it that much anyway. Isn't it funny how there's a day set aside to be grateful for what we've got, and one day later we're supposed to rush out and buy more stuff because we don't have enough? Sorry, I'm not finished being thankful yet.


Unexpected Guests, originally uploaded by jump4joy

I've been browsing online listings for our "someday" home. We're one of those families who helped to precipitate the housing crisis by signing up for an ARM loan three years ago, and that sucker comes due in another two.

Of course, just like everyone else at the time, we didn't foresee a problem selling our house before the ARM expired. Now we'll be lucky to get out with our shirts. Suddenly "someday maybe" is more like "soon, or else."

Anyway, I don't worry about any of that. I just look at country homes and dream. Unfortunately those dreams are usually short-lived. At first glance there seem to be a good handful of affordable properties that fit what we're looking for in the area where we want to live. Then they start talking about the "potential" of the house and how it's a "handyman special." I'm sure if I were handy, I would think it was very special. But if we are going to buy something that "needs a little TLC," it had better cost a lot less than we paid for our current home.


1978 AMC Cool, originally uploaded by harley J

After my grandfather died, I drove down to Arizona with my dad to clean out the mobile home, and it was there that I made the biggest mistake of my life. "Do you want grandpa's car?" asked my dad. "If you want to drive it home, it's yours."

"Nah," I said.

That car was a 1979 AMC Concord, and it looked, well, exactly like this one. Take a gander at that gorgeous all-brown interior and woodgrain trim. I would also direct your attention especially to the color-keyed wheel covers. Then of course we have the vinyl landau roof and crushed velour seats that make a Concord "the new American success story."

One day I might like to atone for my lapse of judgment and buy one of these cars (or something like it). The problem is that AMCs in good condition are hard to come by. Luckily, rarity isn't enough to make them actually valuable. This lady got hers for $75, and here's another little beauty on Flickr that's priced at $900. That's less than I still owe on my current vehicle. Plus, everybody knows that AMCs are the cars of choice for super awesome custom car seats.

Now I wanna be your dog

I wanna be your dog, originally uploaded by e³°°°

Ashley loves our pug. Neither one paid much attention to the other at first. Lola (that's the dog) would sniff at her every now and then, or give her a lick if she came within tongue range. Otherwise they minded their own business for the first two or three months.

But now as Ashley's eyesight and hand-coordination improve, she has taken quite an interest in this strange creature. She watches Lola with great concentration. When Lola gets close, Ashley swats at her, grabbing patches of fur.

It won't be long before she's heaping all kinds of abuse on this poor animal. I wonder how Lola is going to react. What will she do when Ashley is chasing her around, pulling her tail, poking her buggy eyes? We've neglected her for so long, I bet she will enjoy the attention enough to put up with anything.

Do it now

Washing Day, originally uploaded by neilcreek

Since becoming a dad, I don't do things anymore when I want to, or even when I ought to. I do things when I can. Sometimes not even then, if it's not something I wanted to do in the first place.

An example. I walk through the kitchen, and there are dirty dishes in the sink. They would only take a couple of minutes to clean. I just handed baby off for nursing, so both my hands are free, and I don't have anything urgent going on, but... well, today I put everything in the dishwasher and I felt good about myself. Another day I would have ignored the mess and followed my original plan of wasting time on the Internet.

My challenge is to do what I know I should, whenever I can.

Daddy Drinks: Gimlet

Gimlet coktail bar, originally uploaded by germeister

I mentioned previously that I'm not typically a fan of gin-based cocktails. A bittered sling is one delicious exception, and a gimlet is the other.

Where the sling is an elaborate concoction that hides the taste of gin somewhat, a gimlet is straight-up simple. All you need to get the party started is four parts gin to one part lime juice. Or, you can go old school and mix equal parts gin and juice. Make sure to use Rose's if possible.

Once you have poured your base, you can get a little fancy, but not too much. Some recipes allow up to one part simple syrup. If you're going to garnish it, a lime slice is your only option. Anything more and it's not a gimlet.


a lovely evening cruise, originally uploaded by Laura Travels

What do I love about you at four and a half months? Your adorable two bottom teeth. Your beautiful blue eyes. Your long eyelashes, and how you crinkle the corners of your eyes with a mischievous smile. The way you furrow your brow when you're sleeping or concentrating on something, just like I did when I was your age.

You love to be naked and hate getting dressed (sleeves and collars are the worst). You're learning how to stand (with assistance), and you were quick to appreciate the advantages of vertical orientation. And you love it when I sing to you, give you baths, and lift you high in the air.

I love my little girl so much, that I can't even find a Flickr photo to adequately express my feelings. And, so: here is a picture of a boat instead.


Twister Game (Nintendo Company), originally uploaded by Gen Kanai

Our baby doesn't crawl yet, won't really roll over, and she couldn't dance... but she can really shake 'em down. Yeah, she can do the twist.

I mean, seriously, she twists all over the place.  Ashley contorts her body on the changing table to grab things from the supply basket (and stuff them in her mouth, natch).  She cranes her neck backwards to watch me playing Super Mario Galaxy.  Lay her on her back, she can spin ninety degrees in under a minute.

She can really move.  I'm sure that, before we know it, she will even be able to mash-potato.


get lost, originally uploaded by JKönig

A few weeks ago, before it started snowing, we rounded up the nieces and drove into the country. The family of a friend owns orchards and it was a beautiful weekend to visit. They had three pygmy goats and yes also a miniature horse pulling a cart. We ate fresh donuts with hot apple cider.

I didn't want to leave. In fact, after the rest of the family left, we stayed for a demonstration of mashing up apples with an antique press. It does not get any sweeter than that fresh-pressed cider.

Maybe someday my family can get an acre or three, plant some food and raise a flock of chickens. Country is good for kids. That's where I grew up. Then I had a burning desire to live in the city, and now I've had my fill of that. Time to get back to basics.

Cold Season

Sick Sick Sick, originally uploaded by delinion

We're all sick. Our baby got it first with a runny nose. The congestion makes it hard for her to sleep at night, and she's more clingy during the day, I guess because she feels so gross.

Mine started in the throat and worked its way up into my head. By this morning I was aching and exhausted. I slept an extra four hours and stayed home from work. It snowed today. Awesome.

When I'm sick, my writing gets congested too. Words come more slowly. sentences shorten. At least my fingers can still communicate clearly, because my voice, it was not so good. Ashley still cries when she needs us, and I smile at her and she smiles back. We understand each other, we're taking care of each other.


Contemplation, originally uploaded by The Green Album

I wish I could write more often, but having a baby doesn't leave much time for contemplation. Caring for Ashely isn't something I think about. It's something I simply do. My wife would say that I don't do this enough, either.

I'm trying my best, though, usually.

When I was younger, I used to spend a lot of time thinking. I was able to be alone. Whether I was out letterboxing in the woods, riding my bicycle to work, or walking through the streets of Japan, it was soothing to reflect on my day and slowly turn ideas over in my head. Now I'm lucky to get off a weekly blog post.

Oh well. This too shall pass. For now I will enjoy my daughter's company and try to be a better dad. I can think about it in eighteen years, when she's in college.

Writing Life

95- Let's see, income for 2007: SPACE!, originally uploaded by RRRayMan!

Every November for the past four years, I have participated in NaNoWriMo. Writing 50,000 words of fiction in 30 days is always hard, but I managed to do it every year. Not this time, though.

I decided to skip it in order to focus on more important things. With everything I have going on this year, I simply don't have time to draft a novel on top of it. At least, not without doing a half-assed job of everything else.

A wise man once said, that when you get the urge to write, you should lie down until the feeling passes. If I feel tempted to exercise my typing fingers, maybe I'll just blog instead.


Morning Dawn at God's Acre in Old Salem, originally uploaded by NCBrian

When I christened this blog "Dad by Dawn," it was for two reasons:

  1. As an homage to one of the best horror films of all time, and
  2. In anticipation of my early-morning fatherly duties.
It has proven to be a fitting name. As I type this from the couch in the basement, at 6:45 AM on a Saturday, Ashley is sleeping in my lap while her mother catches up on rest in the bedroom.

I have made peace with the dawn. What with dogs and babies and a long commute, I had to incorporate a new morning ritual in order to get everything done. The transition has not been as difficult as I feared. In fact, it has become one of my favorite parts of the day!

Ashley is extra-cute after a full night's rest. When I change her overnight diaper, I try to be calm and quiet, and not to get her all riled up. But that never works. By the time I have her into a fresh diaper, she's all smiles and open eyes. She wants to kick her feet and tell me about her dreams. And I can't help but smile and whisper back. I don't know any better way to start the day.

Daddy Drinks: Brain Hemorrhage

Brain Hemorrhage Anyone?, originally uploaded by TangoPango

For a supposedly horror-themed blog, I don't write much about scary stuff. I think I'm still recovering from the terrifying delivery process. You want gore? Ashley's birth was the most horrifying thing I have ever seen.

Anyway, it's time to remedy that shortcoming with a creepy cocktail recipe, just in time for Hallowe'en! This one is fun for the theatrical aspects of its creation, as well as the finished result. Pour 3/4 ounces of Peach Schnapps into a shot glass. Float 1 tablespoon of Baileys Irish Cream on top. Drop 1/2 tsp of grenadine through the Baileys to create the goo spatter.

It looks awesomely disgusting, and tastes (unsurprisingly) like peaches and cream. Not a bad flavor, if you can get past the gummy viscosity of the "brain." If you're looking for more disgusting mixed drinks, Drinknation has an entire section devoted to Halloween recipes. Boo-ttoms up!


Into the Light thru the Rain, originally uploaded by darin11111

I am daily amazed at what my daughter is learning to do, and the pace of these changes is increasing. When she was very small, we couldn't see many differences from one week to the next. Now it seems like she won't stay a baby forever, after all.

No longer is she a one-trick pony; her whole body is coordinating itself to perform the advanced maneuvers. She can roll both ways, front-to-back and back-to-front. Soon after figuring out how to reach out and grab things, she worked out how to cram them into her open maw.

She even grew her first two teeth already! I tell people that she is very advanced. Clearly, only an extra-intelligent baby could produce teeth before she turns four months old.

Indecent Proposal

This is pretty much exactly how I popped the question with my wife.

Strong Hearts vegan cafe

Photo yoinked from the Post-Standard

If you've been to the Hard Times Cafe in Minneapolis, then you'll feel at home in Syracuse's Strong Hearts Cafe. The menu is all-vegan and even though I am not a vegan, (not even a particularly strict vegetarian) I'd recommend the food here to anyone who enjoys food.

My first meal was the faux-meat "chicken" salad sandwich. After one bite, I vowed to return for every meal until my flight back to Minneapolis. That didn't quite happen, but I still managed to sample a sizable chunk of the menu during my stay in Salt City.

I had french toast in the morning, but you could order it any time, since they serve breakfast all day. It was thick slices of chewy bread topped with fresh bananas. Best french toast I've ever had. The mocha was only okay, but it did its job waking me up. Later I tried the scramble, a mix of breakfast vegetables and spicy tofu. It was good, although I was hoping for something more like the hearty Hard Times scramble that includes potatoes and feeds a family of four.

My other lunch options were the Seitan sandwich and grilled cheese. I ordered the Seitan "loaded" with their full complement of vegetable toppings, and it was so big they gave me a fork to eat it. Yummy. I had a "duh" moment with the grilled cheese, wondering why it didn't melt and it tasted funny. Because it's not real cheese, dummy!

Best of all are the signature milkshakes named after heroes like Rosa Parks and Malcolm X. I had the Earth Crisis (chocolate and peanut butter) and Bobby Sands (mint chocolate chip). How do they make such delicious, creamy shakes without milk? It must be one of their secret vegan special powers.

By the time I left, I was sort of a regular, and everyone recognized me. On my last day in town I talked with owners Joel Capolongo and Nick Ryan about how they started such an awesome cafe. I mostly asked Joel things that he already talked about in this article. The really amazing thing is that they opened the place this year, and every month have more and more customers. I promised I would tell everyone about it, although it might be a long time (if ever) before I would be able to come back.

"We'll be here," said Joel.

Daddy Drinks: Syracuse Beers

I don't travel much for my job, but I recently visited Syracuse. When I'm out of town I love to try new things. Lucky me, this city was chock-a-block with local brew pubs.

On my first night here, I visited the Armory Square district, where there are two microbreweries in one city block. Empire Brewing Company is a very contemporary bar & grill. The dinner menu boasts that they support local food producers, which endears them to me. I had a pint of delicious Amber Ale and chased it down with thick-cut fries.

Syracuse Suds Factory occupies the other side of the building. They had a more sports-bar vibe and their Amber wasn't nearly as good. Across the street at the Blue Tusk, I ordered a pint of IPA (ImPaled Ale) from Middle Ages, touted as a traditional, British style "real ale". Very hoppy and malty. I preferred the more conservative Syracuse Pale Ale.

Finally, down the way in Cooperstown, NY, you've got Brewery Ommegang. I tried a bottle of their Ommegang Witte, a traditional Belgian-style wheat ale. It may be the best-smelling beer I've ever had, and it was certainly tasty, to boot. If I had known that New York was such a paradise for beer aficionados, I would have gone sooner! As it is, I think a return trip is in my future.


Uglydog and the Vampire Roll, originally uploaded by fuzzirella

Our baby can roll. I propped her up in the crib with her fists under her head, and she heaved herself over onto her back. She smiled victoriously.

It took me a moment to realize the import of what she had done. When I turned her over to try again, she started to complain. That was very inconsiderate of me. She went through all that work to learn a new maneuver, and once she had achieved her goal, I just reached down and undid it.

So that's one more skill to check off the list. Now, if only I could teach her how to rock.

Morning's Here

Hey, get into gear! It's a beautiful morning! Sometimes we need a reminder to celebrate the simple things in life. Not everyone likes to get out of bed in the morning, but I'm grateful for every day I'm alive.

Morning's here
The morning's here
Sunshine is here
The sky is clear
The morning's here

Get into gear
Breakfast is near
The dark of night has disappeared


You Have to Make it Fall, originally uploaded by B Tal

Our daughter is on the cusp of an exciting discovery: her hands. Ashley is learning how to grab. She hasn't grasped anything on purpose, yet, although she is clutching at things more and more.

She doesn't quite have the depth perception, the fine motor skills. But she is determined. You can see the purpose in her eyes. She reaches out, arms trembling, growing steadier every day.

Sure, today she's just grabbing stuff, but there's so much potential in those tiny hands! One day she could be using her hands to sign treaties, perform surgery, throw a touchdown pass, or flip the switch on the LHC. And I get to be here when it all begins.

Daddy Drinks: Bittered Gin Sling

Blues, originally uploaded by matthew paul

The sling's origins are linked with the invention of the "cock-tail" itself. At the dawn of the 19th century, the two were practically synonymous. The earliest known definition of a cocktail gives a vague description of a mixed drink (liquor, sugar, water, bitters) and notes that "it is vulgarly called a bittered sling."

It has managed to become one of my favorite drinks, despite the fact that I normally don't care for gin (a Gimlet being the other notable exception to the rule). Here's my go-to recipe for this classic cocktail:

1.5 oz gin
0.75 oz sweet vermouth or sherry
0.5 oz lemon juice
0.75 oz simple syrup
dash or two of Angostura bitters
Soda water

Shake all but the soda water with ice, strain into a tumbler or highball over ice, top with soda, and garnish with a lemon peel.


Harvest (Summer Memories), originally uploaded by ToniVC

Fall is here in Minnesota. I'm going to skip past the denial stage this year and jump straight into happy acceptance. Autumn means apple pies and long motorcycle rides. It's also the season to reap what we've sown in our backyard garden.

Our tomato crop was iffy. Earlier in the summer, they made some tomatoes that were half-ripe, half-black-and-shriveled. Now they're cranking out big red fruit. Even the little plants, that we put in to replace the early casualties, are new growing tiny green tomatoes.

It has been the year of the cucumber, although I'm experimenting with new plants. Cukes have been growing all summer, and showing no signs of slowing. Strawberries sent out shoots but no fruit (or what they made was eaten before I could pick it). I planted a single spinach just for fun. Mostly I'm excited about our cantaloupes. We should get at least three ripe melons off the vine. It's been a good year.


[a b s o l u t] b o k e h, originally uploaded by claude...

Ashley had her 2-month checkup and the first round of vaccinations. She was very brave. After the initial shock, she calmed right down. The great news is she looks healthy and everything is where it should be.

She has been talking a lot recently. Her favorite thing is to lie in her crib and make noises at the animals on her mobile. A typical conversation starter in our house: "the music on her mobile is much better than the music on her swing."

Hard to believe she's already two--in fact almost three--months old. On the other hand, it feels like she has been in our lives for a long time. How quickly a big change can become the new normal.

My shaving ritual

Gillette British Super-Speed, originally uploaded by Oldstyleshaving

I fill a small ceramic bowl with hot water and set it in the sink. After my shower, I dump out the water, squirt in a dollop of shaving cream and whip up a warm lather. I massage that into my face with a nice badger-hair brush. Then, I pick up my vintage Gillette Super Speed and start shaving.

I'm working my way through a sample pack of blades: first Gillette (which worked fine), then Derby (not so good) and now Bic. My technique is improving. Still, I usually do a final pass with the electric to clean up my problem areas. After sealing my cuts with a styptic pen, there's a cold rinse, then the cool relief of the aftershave balm.

Shaving with a double-edge razor is twenty minutes of Zen in the morning. I have a long way to go on my pursuit of a perfect shave, but that's okay. The important thing is to enjoy each step of the journey.


Routine Action, originally uploaded by @lex Roxy

More prompt than an insomniac rooster, Lola continues to wake me up before dawn. I'm not upset about it any more, though. Instead of trying to teach our old dog new tricks, I have incorporated our early rising into a new morning ritual.

We go out, she does her business, we come in and she eats breakfast. Then she goes back to sleep and I take a shower & shave. This is where I get creative. To my wife's dismay, I have picked up another new hobby, with all the attendant accessories. I set aside my practical, functional electric shaver, in favor of a 1940's Gillette safety razor.

Yes, my friends, I have entered the wonderful world of traditional wetshaving. It's a manly routine that is simultaneously bracing, relaxing, challenging, and enjoyable (except when I cut myself, which isn't very pleasant). End result: when I'm standing in the back yard at 5:30 in the morning, instead of wishing I were back in bed, I'm looking forward to the morning shave. That's a much better way to start the day.


3034m Critical Mass red riding hood, originally uploaded by Chris[topher] Lin

Our little girl giggled for the first time when we were watching the Olympics. The laugh came out of nowhere and it was so different from her usual happy noises. We looked at the TV, then we looked at her, then we looked at each other.

"Was that really her?"

"Yep, I heard it too!"

"Do it again, sweetie! Can you laugh? Laugh for mommy! Etc."

We spent the right of the night trying to make her duplicate the sound. She hasn't repeated it yet. That's okay. I'm sure she'll laugh again soon, and hopefully, for the rest of her life.

YouTube Comment Snob

Rage Against the Machine, originally uploaded by miqul

This is a public service announcement.

Everyone run and get YouTube Comment Snob. Here's how it works: YouTube is a great site, but sometimes I accidentally read the comments underneath a video, and then I need to wash my eyes out with bleach afterwards. Comment Snob auto-magically censors comments with bad spelling, grammar, or profanity; all rules are optional and customizable.

Where before you had the braying of donkeys, you now have a beautifully edited field such as the example below. It makes the Internet safe for humans again. This is the reason Firefox add-ons were invented. Thanks, YouTube Comment Snob!

Growing up

When I was younger, I used to dread growing up. "Responsibility," I said, "what's that?" Until the day I realized that I get to decide what it means to be an adult.

The epiphany that I am in control of my own life was somewhat terrifying, but ultimately incredibly liberating, of course. It turns out that adults can have responsibilities and have fun too. You can still go on adventures when you're grown up. We can try new hobbies and explore new places and meet new people. Adults can even turn their living room into a ball pit.

Now I have another chance to reinvent myself, while I decide what kind of dad I want to be. Being an adult is awesome, and I look forward to being a great father. I love playing with my 2-year-old niece because it's an excuse to act like a kid again. The key to being a successful grownup is never forgetting what it's like to be young.

Psycho Pug

Before our daughter was born, we were concerned about the effect it would have on our pug, Lola. She's a rescue dog; we're her third owners. Her original family gave her up when they had a baby. We thought that she might be harboring some resentment, or at least view the arrival of a newborn with suspicion. So it was a huge relief when we got back from the hospital and she acted totally normal for the first couple of weeks.

Then she went insane.

These days, the dog wakes me up around 4:00 in the morning. Sometimes we can get her to go back to sleep, and she'll be quiet for up to an hour, if we're lucky. Eventually I need to roll out of bed and take her outside. It's pitch black and quiet in the city before 5. I would enjoy it if I wasn't still asleep. Anyway, she has always slept in the bedroom with us, but I think it might be time for her to get her own place.


From me,, originally uploaded by .noflickr

It was four years ago today, when the love of my life became my darling wife. Did you know that the traditional gift on the fourth year is fruit? Happy anniversary baby!


Brooklyn Office, originally uploaded by rephlektiv

My wife came to visit me at the office, so that everyone could see the baby and eat cake and give us presents. That was a fun time. Then I gave her a tour, since she had never seen where I work before, and she asked me a hard question.

"Why is your cubicle cleaner than your desk at home?"

I always maintain a clear desk at work (as recommended by Zen Habits). It eliminates visual distractions and helps me to be more focused and productive. By contrast, there's so much clutter in our home office that it stresses me out. I don't even like to spend time in that room, which means that junk keeps piling up, which causes even more anxiety.

It was clearly past time for me to do something about it, so I cleared out over half the stuff and and reorganized the room. Once that was done, I thought, "why not do this with the entire house?" And now the room is cluttered again... with piles of things to give away.


Exhausted, originally uploaded by akapumba

Everyone's usually asleep when I leave for work in the morning. Our pug is curled up in her basket in the corner. She looks up and rolls a little so I can scratch her belly before I go.

My wife and my daughter are lying side-by-side. As I lean in close to say goodbye, I notice the expressions on their relaxed faces. They are exactly the same.

Mostly it's the tiny mouth, hanging open in a triangle. When Ashley is awake, the eyes give her away as being half-me. When she's sleeping, with her slack cheeks and upturned nose, she looks just like a twenty-six-years-younger clone of her mother. They're so adorable that I don't want to disturb them. I just whisper, "I love you," and tiptoe out the door.

Baby's first road trip

thailand-25, originally uploaded by Klas Öjebo

Last Friday we packed the entire family into the car--parents, dog & baby--and drove out to my parent's lake home for the weekend. The drive there took about 3 hours. Our return trip was longer because of a vehicle fire on the side of the freeway that held up traffic for miles.

Remarkably, in over 6 hours of driving, we never had to pull over on account of the baby (although we did take advantage of an A&W pit stop to change her diaper once). My wife sat with her in the back seat and fed her from a bottle when she got hungry. Otherwise she was either napping or sitting quietly.

Our baby was such a trooper, all our fears were unfounded. She even seemed to enjoy being at the lake; her favorite activity was staring at the ceiling fan. Our first vacation was a success! I look forward to many more.

Growing pains

At home in the pumpkin patch, originally uploaded by John Carleton

My baby keeps getting bigger. Is this normal?

If she continues to grow at this rate, soon she will not be a baby anymore. She's going to turn into a little person. I'm not ready for that yet. I want to keep her on the vine just a little bit longer.

St. Paul for under $5

garden, originally uploaded by uberculture

Wise Bread's inaugural "open group write" asks: what are fun events and things to do in your region that cost less than $5? I've been planning a post on this topic for a while now, so I was happy to contribute. Here are some ideas for cheap entertainment in my hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Como Park
During the warm months, our favorite outdoor destination is the Como Zoo and Conservatory. They take donations at the door in lieu of charging for admission, which means that you can visit for a very affordable price of zero dollars. There's also a Japanese garden, a paved walking/biking trail around Lake Como, and free Carousel rides once a month.

Happy Hour at Sakura
Sakura Restaurant in downtown St. Paul is my favorite place to eat Japanese food in the city. According to a comment by EsmeR on, it's even better between 4-6 PM when the price of many appetizers is dropped to one lousy dollar. The discounted items include Edamame, Kappa Maki, and the world's best Vegetarian Gyoza.

Amateur Sports
Tickets for mainstream sporting events are not exactly budget-friendly (even a roller derby bout costs $10). But some games are so obscure that the players welcome any spectators at all. Enthusiasts of these niche sports often compete in public parks or arenas where you can watch for free. Some local groups to check out:


The Twin Cities are home to a variety of great museums and galleries. If you cross the river to Minneapolis, the Walker Art Center is free to to all every Thursday evening (5–9 pm) and on the first Saturday of each month (10 am–5 pm). Children under 12 always get in for free, and they never charge for admission to the neighboring Sculpture Garden or Cowles Conservatory.

Summit Brewery Tour
Free beer! The Summit brewery is a St. Paul landmark, and it's open to the public year-round (click here for the schedule). Your visit includes a company history, an overview of the beer-making process, and a tour of the facility that concludes with complimentary samples in their tasting room. That's a cheap date for a beer aficionado!

OMG it's the poop sign

It looks like a stop sign, but it says "poop"! I don't know what else to tell you.

Blood & Bandages

Barbershop, originally uploaded by Rigmarole

You can tell it's a manly place as soon as you walk inside. There's a leather couch in the waiting area, and a big jar of Barbicide on the counter. In the place of oversized books with photos of outdated hairstyles, you can find magazines about cars and motorcycles. It's my barber shop, and it's awesome.

I've been going to unisex salons for most of my life. Over the years, I've received my share of bad haircuts. Many people have struggled to tame my naturally curly hair, so when I found a good stylist, I tended to stick with her. I'd been with my previous stylist until she moved several states away and I got a job on the other side of the Twin Cities. Out of necessity, I started to patronize a local barber shop, and now I no longer dread my visits to the chair.

The Art of Manliness argues that every man should go to a barber shop. After a few trips to my new barber, I vowed to never again get my hair cut in a salon. I end up looking great every time, it's a relaxing environment, and my barber works as a part-time fireman besides. How manly can you get?


Otpor - Resistance, originally uploaded by Igor Jeremic

I don't believe you can ever truly be "ready" to have children. No amount of reading or instructional DVDs or even taking care of other people's kids can fully prepare you for parenthood. You just have to dive in, and learn as you go.

On the other hand, before we had our baby, I felt about as ready as I'd ever be. In the past two years I had a pair of nieces come into my life, and all my friends were having babies, so I had a good idea of what to expect. I was prepared for sleep deprivation and midnight feedings. I was prepared to change a never-ending stream of diapers, temporarily lose the use of one arm, and try to comfort a baby while she cried for hours. I was not prepared for her to fight me every step of the way.

I try to change my daughter, and she kicks and squirms. I try to give her a bottle, and she spits it out. I try to soothe her, and she screams. She's strong, and whatever I'm trying to do, she loves to resist me. And I love her for it.

I figured out that my fatherhood role is going to be a balancing act. I have to thwart her anarchic drives just enough so that she survives to grow into an independent young woman, but not enough to ever break her spirit. Which I guess makes one more thing that I wasn't prepared for.

Man Cave

wounded beast and workshop (front/side), originally uploaded by Subway eg

I love my family very much, but sometimes a husband needs to escape for a while, to take refuge in a place of his own. A place where he is free to be a man. "The distinguishing feature of the Man Cave," according to the Man Page, "is that it is designed (and decorated) by the man and for the man - basically all of the things that the woman in your life refuses to have in the rest of the house... like a poker table, sports memorabilia, video games, or even a personal keg-o-rator."

I don't have an area like this, and with a newborn in the house I'd never use it, but maybe someday. My ideal space would be an actual cave--or at least a cellar--where I could store a supply of wine and fine beers. I suppose I'd also want a wet bar for serving mixed drinks to visitors. It would be furnished with a few plush armchairs and tasteful artwork.

That's the fantasy, anyway. In reality, I would be quite satisfied with a well-appointed workshop/garage. What's in your man cave?