Asking Ronald McDonald the Obvious Question

via www.threadless.com

Here's a reprinted t-shirt from Threadless I found today. Cynical? Sure. Harsh? Kind of. Funny? Yes.

But who wants to wear a t-shirt with a puking clown on it - even if it's rainbow puke?

(I guess the fact that the t-shirt is reprinted kind of answers the question for me...)

"Not So Happy" by Lora Zombie, $20, men and women's sizes only [Threadless.com]

Jennifer Lopez's Nursery and Other Recent Posts On Babble

Casablanca Cribs in Jennifer Lopez's Nursery
Jennifer Lopez has a (typically) ostentatious nursery and published pictures of them in People Magazine. But the crib is actually quite nice if that kind of decor is up your alley.

Audible Launches New Kids Site
Download audio books for your kids and stop putting Spongebob on their iPods.

7 Days of BPA-Free Plastics: CamelBak Water Bottles
Something to check out when you reach post-sippy cup nirvana.

Jessica Alba Gives Tastybaby
Jessica Alba gives baby food as a party favor for her shower. Seriously.

Mariah Carey Has a Hello Kitty Boo-Boo on American Idol
Mariah Carey is obsessed with Helo Kitty apparently. And she wears the same Band-Aids on American Idol that my kids wear.

Big Deal: FLOR Carpet Tiles for Kids On Sale
FLOR has a couple of child themed carpets on sale now.

Tip the magician.

So the other night I'm out with my ladies eating dinner, and a table-side magician approached us. Before I had children I would have tried to avoid it if I could, and if I couldn't I would just tell him that I wasn't interested. But now I've got a three year old who, although her experience with magic is very limited, her experience with balloon animals is not.

So after it was all over, it occurred to me that I should give the guy a tip for the floating card trick and the pink dog on a white balloon leash. So I handed him $4, to which he thanked me and went onto the next table. But it occurred to me, how much are you supposed to tip the magician?

As it turns out, I happen to know a guy through a friend of mine who is a magician and who has some experience working table-side, so I emailed him (quite out of the blue from his persepective) to find out what was appropriate. As a magician with an MBA, he gave me a rough frequency estimate of what people tend to tip:

$2 (20%); $5 (60%); $10 (15%); $20 (5%)

He said the high-end would be for tables of many adults where he "freaks them out" for 7-10 minutes, and small families like mine with a few tricks and some balloon animals would be $2 - $5. He also said many restaurant magicians are paid by the restaurant and shouldn't accept tips (I've never seen one), and those that work solely for tips usually work it into their act somehow ("A person wanted to leave me a tip once, but all he had was this poker chip...").

So I guess $4 is a decent tip for the situation I was in. And if you've finished this lengthy post about tipping magicians, chances are you have way too much time on your hands.

(A person was looking to figure out how much to tip the magician, but all they had was this random blog entry...)

[Big thanks to Frank from ConnectWithMagic.com - the best slight of hand guy I've ever seen close up.]

My new favorite kitchen tool.

Pizza_cutterWith a 3 year old and a a 14 month old in the house, it's the small discoveries that I tend to get the most excited about.

A lot of the food that I serve my girls for meal times first gets cut up into smaller pieces. Most often it's to make bite-sized pieces for my youngest, but sometimes it's simply for the unpredictable whim of a three year old. I used to use all kinds of methods - tearing it up, using a case knife or whatever I had handy. Then the other day while I was cutting up a piece of cheese pizza I had a moment of clarity. I can use the pizza cutter to cut up anything.

Grilled cheese? No problem. Don't want that crust on the sandwich? No problem. Cut the chicken nuggets in half so they'll cool quicker? It takes two swipes. And I'm betting you already have one sitting in your drawer somewhere. I know it's not going to change the world or anything, but like I said, it's the small discoveries that can make your day.

And if you don't have one (or can't find yours) you can get the one I have (pictured) here from Amazon.com.

Prepping for Thanksgiving 2005

Thanksgiving is almost a week away, and if you're the cook in your house like I am, it's time to start thinking about what's for dinner. I'm probably going to stick with some of the same recipes I did last Thanksgiving, with a few new twists.

  • Turkey. This year I'm probably going to grill the turkey like I did last Christmas. I ended up using this recipe from Alton Brown, and it came out great. The wood smoke gave it a great smokey flavor, but the real trick (I think) was the brining. You can't stuff a grilled turkey, so the dressing has to be made separately. I'm debating making two birds and roasting the other, but I don't think I'm going to have enough guests to justify that.
  • Dressing. Last Sunday we had "pre-thanksgiving," where I try out the new recipes that I might use this year, and one of the winners was this Southwest Cornbread and Chorizo Dressing I got from Sunset magazine. It was really tasty, with the salty/savory chorizo balancing out nicely with the sweetness of the butternut squash. I used to make a cornbread and andouille stuffing I got from Emeril, but this one is way better.
  • Stock. The only other thing I'm going to try this year is to make my own chicken stock. I know, it's a little over the top, but it's something that goes in a lot of recipes and I'm hoping that the real stuff will make everything taste that much better.

Baby longnecks.

KidsbeerWhen I was a little kid we had candy cigarettes. Looking back that seems like a pretty messed up thing, but this beats it by a mile. In Japan they are marketing non-alcoholic beer to children called "Kidsbeer" (and they've been doing it since 2003). Here are direct quotes from the article:

Asaba [the creator of Kidsbeer] said kids and other people "can raise a glass with this, even if they cannot drink any liquor."

Satoshi Tomoda, president of the beverage maker, said: "Children copy and mimic adults.

"If you get this drink ready on such occasions as events and celebrations attended by kids, it would make the occasions even more entertaining."

"Even kids cannot stand life unless they have a drink," reads the product's advertising slogan.

Is there some massive cultural disconnect that I'm missing here? There has to be, right? "Even kids cannot stand life unless they have a drink"??? Are you kidding me? It sounds like they wrote it in The Onion.

Kidsbeer proves hit suds for minors
[The Japan Times] via Boing Boing
The Kidsbeer Shop if you're interested in picking some up (and you read Japanese).

Ice cream ball.

IcecreamballThis summer I bought an ice cream maker (the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker), and even though I really don't need to eat ice cream (I really need to go to the gym), it's been a lot of fun. Then for father's day my wife got me another way to get fat - the UCO Play and Freeze Ice Cream Maker.

It's a really good idea. You put the ice cream mix into the metal cylinder in the center of the ball, and then you fill the rest of the ball with ice and rock salt and start shaking. The ice cream freezes, but you need to keep moving the ball to agitate it. They make it for camping mostly, but we used it on the fourth of July with a bunch of kids and they loved it. The best way we found to keep it going was rolling it around to each other in a circle, as shaking and passing it gets tiring quickly.

I know the summer's halfway over, but trust me. It's still not too late to have fun while putting on some extra pounds.

UCO Play and Freeze Ice Cream Maker. $27.99 from Campmor.com

Trapped snacks.

SancktrapSometime while we were away last weekend my baby turned into a toddler. The problem is, I'm not really up on the toddler gadgets and other stuff, but I did see something cool that I wanted to share. Friends of ours have a 15 month old daughter who had this cool contraption full of Goldfish crackers - the Snack Trap. As you can kind of see from the picture, the lid is perforated so little hands can get in and grab some finger food without spilling all over the floor. Not only does it keep things clean, but it allows kids to feed themselves (which I'm starting to figure out is something important to toddlers). It's probably not news to a lot of you, but I think I'm going to pick up a couple.

The Snack Trap. $4.99 each from Snack Trap.com

Old school McDonaldland.

Today we're going to Chicago to visit with Grandma & Grandpa and to watch my beloved Red Sox beat up on the Cubs. Consequently today's post is empty short, but I did want to call your attention to a one thing.

In the comments of my post about the changing face of Ronald McDonald two days ago, MDD reader P.R. Nelson posted a link to this: Two All-Beef Patties Special Sauce Lettuce Cheese Pickles Onion on a Sesame Seed LIE! [Stayfreemagazine.org]. It's basically comments and links to video of really old McDonald's McDonaldland commercials. It's really something amazing to check out.

Well, off to the airport. Wish me luck and make sure to look for me on ESPN on Sunday night.

Suckling a Big Mac.

McdonaldsbabyNot to cop all of my blog entries from Boing Boing, but I have to mention this picture I saw there last night. It's apparently an ad from a European McDonald's, and even though it looks like it has to be fake, supposedly it's real. The thing is, back in the day when some of us were pretending we ran a McDonald's of our own, I bet this ad would have seemed cute to most parents. Now it just looks sinister.

Via Boing Boing, via WFMU, via Stay Free.

The best recipes.

NewbestrecipeSo after my success with corned beef, soda bread and bread pudding last night, I finally decided I had to blog about my new favorite cookbook, The New Best Recipe. Written by the people from Cook's Illustrated magazine, it's got something like 1,000 recipes for basically everything - but what makes it so great is their methods. They take on a recipe for something, like roast chicken for instance, and they try every recipe and permutation they can think of and then come up with what they think is the best, based on taste and ease of preparation. And they explain their methods before each recipe. It's really great, not just for a handy general purpose cook book, but by explaining why the recipe is the way it is, it encourages you to think about what you're doing and hopefully become a better cook.

The magazine is great too. It's essentially the same thing (recipes and methods), with additional magazine stuff like reader questions, tips, and equipment information. Think of a Consumer Reports for cooking and you've pretty much got it. Both are recommended.

The New Best Recipe. $22.05 at Amazon.com

Prepping for Thanksgiving.

I’m a dad wholikes to cook, and the older I get Thanksgiving is becoming more and more one of my favorite holidays. Even though I’m not hosting this year, I’m still planning on cooking a few things. Here’s a rundown of some of what we’ll be having:

  • Turkey– I heard the other day that 95% of all Americans have Turkey on Thanksgiving. If you’re having issues, here’s the Butterball Turkey-Talk Line (1-800-BUTTERBALL).
  • Roasted Butternut Squash Soup A big success last year, it’s even better if you make it the day before.
  • Mashed Potatoes – I made this garlic version last year which came out well, probably because it uses 3 sticks of butter and 1½ cups of heavy cream.
  • Green Bean Casserole – A holiday classic I still love.
  • Grilled Asparagus – No recipe here. Just skewer the asparagus into little rafts, season with salt, pepper, olive oil and grill.
  • Shrimp Toast – An appetizer I’ll prepare a few days beforehand and freeze before cooking.
  • Vietnamese Grilled Beef and Basil Rolls – An appetizer from the Barbecue Bible and one of my wife’s favorites.
  • Similac Advance Infant Formula with Iron – Strictly for Madame.

Barbecue bible.

Bbqbible_1For a lot of us, figuring out what to do about dinner is something we have to deal with every day. Now that I’m cooking most every night, grilling has become my latest obsession. It has mostly been spurred on by grill-master Steven Raichlen and his book The Barbecue Bible. The recipes are from all around the world, and it’s written in a way that’s both interesting to read and really easy to get the concepts. He’s also got a TV Show on PBS called Barbecue University where he cooks recipes from the book. It’s inspired me to use a rotisserie, woodchips and smoke, even make beer can chicken. If you’ve got a grill and some outdoor space, I would definitely suggest picking up his book.

Diaper bags for dads.






2/21/2011 UPDATE! If you're looking for info on the best diaper bags for Dads, this post has old information. Check out my updated post on Modern Day Dad:

The Best Diaper Bags for Dads - An Update


So like I mentioned in my first post, the first dad-related thing I ever looked to purchase was a diaper bag that I could wear proudly. I’m going to be the one wearing it, not my child, so I definitely wanted something without ducks and bunnies and something that wasn’t made specifically for moms (or was from a woman’s bag designer). This wasn’t such an easy task – even the “daddy bags” at diaperbags.com (of course there’s a diaperbags.com) are more like mom bags that aren’t overtly feminine. The one I found that I liked the most is the Dad Field Bag from Jack Spade. It’s basically a large messenger bag, with insides designed for baby stuff (pockets for bottles and diapers, a changing pad etc.) and dad stuff (ipod, sunglasses, headphones). It comes in lots of color combinations (I chose grey/orange) and it works great.

Since then I’ve found two others that could work.

One is the Skip Hop (available at Amazon for $50.00), a diaper bag that’s designed for over-the-shoulder or over-the-stroller use. It’s not specific for dads or moms, but looks O.K. enough to wear for a dad (clean lines, solid colors). There’s also the Diaper Dude bag (available for $54.00 at Amazon), which is another messenger type bag, a little smaller than the Jack Spade bag which is actually kind of good. And both of these bags come in camo for those still celebrating the camouflage revolution. I was able to check out both of them this past weekend at Nordstrom’s, and I definitely liked the Diaper Dude bag the best. The Skip Hop was OK, but it didn’t attach to my Bugaboo Frog particularly well (I guess it’s made for lesser strollers).

Also on Modern Day Dad:
The Best Diaper Bags for Dads - An Update (2-22-2011)

Careful what I wish for.

The first day flying solo has come and gone, and everything went about as well as I could have expected, except one thing. Once you settle down to begin the bottle feeding, there’s really no going back (unless you want to get up, undo everything, piss off the baby, and get what you forgot). There’s no more, “Honey, could you hand me the remote?” Thanks to a little practice and a well placed pillow, I’ve got it now so that Madame is on the pillow and I hold the bottle with one hand. The other hand is pretty much open to handle the remote, which is good if I want to watch TV, but yesterday morning what I really wanted to do was read a book. The wife can read and breastfeed all night long if she wants, but what about the literate dads?

I figured there must be a solution, and the closest thing I’ve found is the Oprah-approved Gabriel Break-Away Feeding Pad ($24.99 at Amazon). This thing drapes over your shoulder and holds the bottle right at nipple-height on your chest so you can hold the baby with the other hand. I guess this would solve the problem (if you can get the kid to use it in conjunction with a pillow), but at this point what the hell am I doing? Strapping on a fake boob so I can read a book for 30 minutes? I need to suck it up and watch some TV like a normal dad, and be thankful it’s not my nipple the baby is tugging on.

Bottle feeding marketing blitz.

We've begun transitioning Madame from breast to bottle feeding (in anticipation of the wife going back to work), and I'm happy to report it's going quite well - from her perspective.

My perspective however has been quite different. There are seemingly a million choices for bottles, nipples, formula, warmers and everything else you might want to use to nourish your kid. It's hard to figure out what's best, and like most things you end up using whatever works. The trick is what works is also usually whatever you use first - and that's where they get you. For what it's worth, here's our breakdown:

Formula - The most genius marketing I've seen to new parents so far is from the people who make Enfamil. We got a can of it at our prenatal classes at the hospital, a can of it at the hospital when we had the baby, and then a week or two later we got a package delivered to our doorstep from Enfamil with more formula. 3 free cans total. I figure it's at least $50 worth of formula - a big incentive to crack it open. And if we use it and it works, then hey, we'll probably go buy it for the baby because it's what she likes. Remind you of anything? Hey man, the first one's free - then come back if you want some more...
We decided on Similac because that's what both of us had as babies, and I had read that in a taste test Similac tasted best. But we've always got that Enfamil for emergencies.

Bottles - We're going with the Playtex VentAire, mostly because we received more of those as gifts than any others. But they're kind of a pain in the ass, because the VentAire rubber thing on the bottom of the bottle means you can't put the bottle in a warmer, and it's better to make the formula in another container first to avoid excess bubbles. But the kid seems to like it (see pitfalls above) so we're staying with it for now.

Warmer - I just need something to keep one bottle warm in the middle of the night so I don't have to go downstairs and make one, so I picked the Philips Portable Baby Bottle Warmer. I've only used it a few times, but so far so good. It's got an adapter for the car, but it says not to use it while the car is moving. As I don't spend much time in the car while it's in the garage, I probably won't be using the adapter much.