14 September 2007

Dad cooks, dad shares

One of the things I'm determined to do as the Head Household Chef, or HHC (not to be confused with Head Husband In Charge, or HHIC), is to avoid repetitiveness with my meals. Anybody can do spaghetti every Thursday and tacos on Tuesday, but I've always fancied myself an above average cook, so this will be one area where I separate myself from the pack.

What I've started to compile are some of the recipes that I try out at home, and that my wife and I generally enjoy. We typically get recipes from magazines like Cooking Light or Food and Wine, as well as from The Food Network's various TV shows. There are a few prerequisites for anything I make, guidelines that not only increase our likelihood of enjoying the meal, but that also help us stay within our budget.

The first step in my weekly meal plan is to look in our freezer and scope out the meat situation. It may sound odd to plan the meals this way, but I save a lot of money at the grocery store by buying what's on sale or marked down and then deciding what to do with it later. Then, with the freezer stocked I'll flip through a stack of "recipes of interest" to see what my options are. I generally shop on Monday or Tuesday, then wait until Thursday or Friday to plan meals. This allows me to plan a few meals based on what's currently on hand, and the rest I plan for after my shopping trip. This forces me to not only use items that may be close to the end of their shelf life, but to generally run the inventory down.

Another advantage to this method is that it allows me to choose recipes that have ingredients in common, which helps control waste. If I sound like a restaurant nerd, well, that's because I am. But that background comes in handy. I generally won't choose a recipe if I have to purchase more than 2 ingredients specifically for it, unless they're staples that I'm just out of at the time.

The result of this is that we generally, for a family of 4 who eat at home about 98% of the time, average between $50 and $75 per week in grocery costs. And we're generally not on the Dave Ramsey "rice and beans, beans and rice" diet . . this week's meal plan calls for chicken stuffed with leeks, shitakes, and mozzerella, steak with peanut sauce and broccoli, and cajun shrimp orecchiette.

I am putting together an easy-to-access list of many of our favorite recipes, just hoping that other HHC's out there (whether they're dads or moms) can enhance their families' menus. I'd love to hear from anyone who wants to share some of their favorite family recipes with the rest of us, as well. I'll keep you all posted and provide a link when the recipe list is up and running.

A New Personal Low

No, it's not what you're thinking . . I'm not depressed and my marriage is fine. I have however stooped to a new all-time low in negotiating with my children. By virtue of my title, I've inherited the task of potty training Lily. The fact that I've done it before, with Avery, has little bearing here since that was over 4 years ago and I can't even remember what I had for lunch yesterday, let alone how to potty train a toddler.

When this little adventure began last week, we made a couple of deals with the little rugrat. Bribery, you say? Hey, I'm just going with Dr. Phil's "everyone's got currency" approach. Lily loves Dora, so we dangled some Dora The Explorer panties in front of her for when she was "all potty all the time", and some M&M's (her favorite candy) as incentive for each time she has a successful session on the potty in the meantime. That seemed a lot more reasonable than paying $25 for "The 3-Day Potty Training System" offered online, and more enticing than the "Potty Party at Chuck-e-Cheese's" method I'd read about.

And then I jumped the shark. Wednesday, Lily asked to see her "results" while I was changing a poopie diaper. Conflicted, I allowed her to peek, and then answered the onslaught of resulting inquiries . . "It's a big one? It's brown? It's gross? It's stinky?" That I stand behind . . what happened the next time she pooped, however, I will question for a long time. Trying to use every opportunity to convince her that there are numerous advantages to using the toilet, when she said "I want to see it" this time, I let my instincts get the best of me. "No, Lily, you can't see it. When you poopie in the potty, then you can see it." OMG, what did I just do??? I can't believe I used poop, or more accurately the viewing of one's own poop, as a bargaining tool. That is, far and away, a new personal low for me, one I can not imagine ever surpassing. At least, that is, until one of the girls has a less-than-desirable boyfriend we're trying to "discourage". Then all bets are off!

11 September 2007

A random act of kindness?

So as I braved the 90 degree heat at noon today mowing what used to be my lawn, I couldn't make myself stop staring at the woman across the street's yard. Now I'll be the first to admit that my weeds get out of control every once in a while . . but this particular collection of weeds that greets my eye every time I open my front door is out of control. The only rational explanation for their gross neglect is that the owner’s staging some sort of protest. Perhaps she’s trying to send a message to Mother Nature in protest of our summer-long drought. Let me know how that works out for you . .

Here’s where I get conflicted (you can expect that particular phrase in about 85% of my posts here) . . one of the things I wanted to do when I decided to stay home was to become more involved in our community and the homeowners association. I think the people in charge of it now are grossly incompetent, and I’d bet there are a lot of property values going in the toilet as a result. So I plan to volunteer to take an active role in enforcing the rules of the development . . lawn mowed neatly, no unapproved structures, trash cans not in view from the road, etc. This, after all, is right up my alley. I spent 9 years managing restaurants, most of which could be boiled down to a very simple premise: Try to convince a mostly self-serving audience to not only buy in to what you were saying, but to take action for the greater good. My best estimate of my career-long success rate in that endeavor is between 2 and 4 percent.

Then where does that leave me with regard to the fledgling rainforest across the street? Honestly, I can’t keep looking at until the 3rd Tuesday of the month when the HOA meets, so if she doesn’t get it done today, I’m going to sneak over there tomorrow and just mow it for her anonymously. Does it still count as a random act of kindness if I’m just doing it for myself?

10 September 2007

I can't believe I'm a blogger . .

Today's entry, officially my first as a Stay-at-Home-Dad blogger, will be short and sweet. I look forward to offering anecdotes and advice (taken at your own risk) to all my fellow CFO's out there. That's Chief Family Officer, if you haven't seen that particular euphemism yet . . one thing I'll promise you is that this particular site will utilize any and every tool, tactic, term, and gizmo to add validation to the role I've chosen.