Monday, November 25, 2019

Eight Tips and Tricks for Holiday Exterior Illumination

When my wife and I bought our first house, I was so excited to decorate the outside for Christmas. In reality, my lights probably didn't amount to much, but I was proud of my little house and the decorations we had. That first year, I bedazzled the house with about 750 lights. In my mind, I blinded my neighbors and caused the nuclear power station to flip the switch to the backup generator a la Christmas Vacation.

In the years following, I have shopped after-Christmas sales and added to my stockpile of decorations. Now, with 12,000 lights illuminating my house, it has gotten to the point that I need to begin putting lights up at the end of October in order to have the job completed by Thanksgiving Day--the day of the big reveal.

Over the past 20 years, I've not only accumulated a lot of tiny lights, but also learned a few things that I can share with you. So here are the Renaissance Dad Tips and Tricks for Holiday Exterior Illumination.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Thanksgiving Tree: Helping Kids (and Parents) Learn Gratitude

Fall is a wonderful time in Arizona. The temperature finally shifts from surface-of-the-sun to absolutely perfect. We are able to open our windows and go outside. And while most of the country is raking up leaves and preparing for snow, we are getting ready to enjoy our sunshine for the next six months.

But, just like the rest of the country, as we move into November, we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving. As parents, we look for ways to teach our children thankfulness. Enter our Thanksgiving Tree.

Every year, we crumble up brown packing paper in the shape of a tree and cut out dozens of paper leaves. Each evening, before dinner, each member of the family takes a leaf and writes down something that we are thankful for. The one rule is that whatever it is cannot be repeated. We get things like, "I am thankful for family" (sweet), to, "Vitamins" (weird), to, "Quesadillas" (who's not?). But as we move through the season, and the tree gets more and more leaves, our kids are learning to be grateful for all of the things that they have.

And I've come to realize that my gratitude increases. On the bad days at work, I am still thankful for my job. When breakfast is a half-warm piece of toast because I didn't have time to let it actually toast, I'm thankful that I have something to eat. When I get cut off by another driver on my way to work, I am thankful that I have a car, and thankful that my horn works (yeah, I'm still learning). The fact of the matter is that the Thanksgiving Tree is just as much for me as it is for all of us. So whether it is leaf shaped papers taped to a crumpled paper trunk, a notebook with a list, or a stack of index cards, I encourage you to practice gratitude for the next couple of weeks.

Oh, and by the way. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 28, 2019

31 Prayers for My Children

Many years ago I came across a list of 31 things to pray for your children. I thought it was a pretty cool idea, so I kind of tucked it in the back of my head for a "someday something to do." About three years ago I decided to do something with this list.

I whittled the list down to a single word or phrase for each of the things to pray for your children. Then I asked my mom, who is one of the most talented artists I know, if she would write each of the words on a heavy piece of paper. She not only wrote the words, but she did a cool handwritten border around the mat. While she was working on this, I made a frame for it out of walnut. This joint effort was a Mother's Day present for my wife.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

How to Seed a Pomegranate in Under Two Minutes

One of the most prolific fruit trees in my yard is our pomegranate tree. We've had our tree for a few years, and this year, finally, we got a bumper crop. Once I got the first ripe fruit, though, I realized how much I hate pomegranates. Not because I dislike the fruit, but because I dislike getting the edible part out.

If you've never seeded a pomegranate, let me explain what it's like. Imagine 1,000 tiny grapes all superglued to tissue paper, tightly packed in a leather ball.

I spent years trying to find the best way to seed them, reading all the infinite wisdom that the internet has to offer on the subject.

"Break them up submersed in water and all of the inedible parts float, while the seeds sink." Nope. The inedible parts sink as well, and—45 minutes of seed-removal later—half of the seeds go down the drain with the water.

"Roll the pomegranate with the ends cut off, pulling out the seeds as they loosen." Insane. This creates a mess and most of the seeds end up bursting on your fingers. And 45 minutes later you're trying to scrub the red stains off your counter.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Sour Cream Lemon Pound Cake

One of the first things I learned to bake was pound cake. Then, when we moved into a house with a massive lemon tree, I started looking for ways to use up our lemons. It was natural that I would combine my love of pound cake with a plethora of lemons. This is another recipe that has become a favorite because we're constantly looking for ways to use our lemons, and this also makes a great treat to share with coworkers.


Prep time - 30 minutes

Bake time - 1 hour

Yield - 1 loaf (one serving. Just kidding. Not really)

Ingredients:

- 1 stick of butter, room temperature* (set out the night before)
- 2 large eggs, room temperature*
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup grated lemon zest (3 large lemons)
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
A grater for zesting lemons
- 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 6 Tablespoons sour cream, room temperature*
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

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