Sunday, June 30, 2019

Storage Coffee Table with Puzzle Tray


Spring is a very busy time for educators. We're preparing for standardized testing, Advanced Placement testing, end of the year ceremonies and celebrations, etc., etc., etc. It is the time of year when my sanity starts to slip, and I need to make a focused effort on taking care of myself.

There are many things that I do to keep my sanity, but one thing that keeps me going is a good project. Having a project that I can focus on, especially one that takes both mental focus and sweat, is my way of recharging. A few years ago I had a stained glass project that kept me going through the end of the school year. This year, I had a woodworking project. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Renaissance Dad Tool Review: Greenworks 60V Brushless 10-Inch Pole Saw

I am a power tool enthusiast. When my wife and I were first married, I used to plan house projects around the new tools that I wanted (sorry, not sorry, sweetie). When I wanted a router, I convinced myself that baseboards and trim would be easier and nicer if I cut them myself with a router and router table. When I wanted to make my own compost, I convinced myself that owning a chipper/shredder would be the best way to go. And on, and on, and on.

But sometimes I see a tool and I wonder if it is really necessary, or I arrogantly think, "Yeah, some people will need to use that, but I can make do with what I have because I've got the mad skills." Some tools seem like superfluous space-wasters. I used to think that way about a jointer, until I got one and realized how much easier it is than trying to use a table saw or planer to do the same job.

That is the question that ran through my head with a pole saw. For those who may be unfamiliar with this tool, it is like a chainsaw at the end of a pole (you may ask yourself why one wouldn't just attach a chainsaw to a pole and call it good. The answer is because that is completely unsafe, but I'm sure there is somebody on YouTube who has done this and posted step-by-step instructions).

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

All Natural Deodorant That Works: Strong Enough For Men and Women

Let's talk body odor...

I used to teach junior high English. About twice a year, I would have a conversation with one of my classes that would begin with, "You guys stink!" I would then talk about cleanliness and deodorant. If the students were really lucky, I would then make them diagram a sentence with the subject "I", the verb phrase "will use", the direct object "deodorant", and the adverb "tomorrow". Yeah, I was an awesome teacher.

As my wife and I have moved towards trying to avoid chemicals, deodorant has been a struggle. For years I felt like my two options were either to use chemicals or to use natural deodorants that didn't really work. In fact, I felt like most natural deodorants just kept me in the habit of applying deodorant on a daily basis without actually doing anything for me.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Summer Reading List for Your Kids: 13+ Books to Keep Your Kids, Tweens, and Teens Occupied

Four years ago I wrote an article about some of my favorite books as a recommendation for summer reading (if you missed it or if you need some outstanding books to read, you can check the article out here). Most of the books that I recommend in that article are for teens and older. Great for parents, but maybe not much help for your kiddos.

If your kids are anything like mine, they attack books during the summer like a starving Tasmanian devil devouring carrion. It seems like they read almost every book in the library before the first week of summer is up and are always looking for new recommendations. So leading into this summer, I thought that maybe I could get some help from my kiddos, and--after some coaxing--I got them to tell me about some lesser known favorites. Don't expect in-depth book reviews here (have you ever tried to get a story synopsis and thoughtful critique from an eight-year-old?), but these are kid tested and approved! If you have a reader and a library nearby, here are some recommendations.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Host Foreign Exchange Students and Make Lifelong Friends

When my older brother and I were in high school, he was sold on the idea that we should host a foreign exchange student. I have four brothers, and at that time our family had two in high school, one in junior high, and two in elementary school. I think my parents' response was something along the lines of, "That would be a great experience for all of us. Let's do it." But, being a parent now, I can only imagine the internal monologue went something like, "There are already five of you. I can't imagine life being any more chaotic, so why not?"

Monday, April 29, 2019

Dad-Made Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

A few weeks ago I took a "mental health day" prior to the end of the school year. The end of the year
for principals is crazy. I have multiple night events as everybody is wrapping up the year. Every Saturday is booked. And I was in such bad need of a haircut that I was regularly getting some sort of comment that contained the phrase "mad scientist." So my personal day consisted of a haircut, getting contacts, and having a late breakfast with my wife.

In the midst of my errands, my wife and I went out to eat. We shared something that I had never heard of: lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry compote. They were delicious - so light and fluffy.

So that following Saturday I decided that I would surprise the whole family with breakfast. Instead of making the daddy standard - Dutch Babies - I decided that I would branch out. We happened to have some ricotta cheese (something about me thinking I would make homemade ravioli while my wife was out of the country), and we still had lemons on our lemon tree. I could use the wonderful Interweb and find a recipe for lemon ricotta pancakes, the whole family would think that I was a culinary genius, and Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry would show up at my door asking me for tips.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Life Changing Walk

As a school administrator, my weekly schedule is insane. My mornings are a whirlwind trying to get my oldest daughter and I out the door while my wife is busy with the other two kids. I often have one or two evenings with school events, a Saturday event, and the following Monday comes before I have a chance to blink.

While I get quite a bit of time with my oldest, since we go to the same school and spend time in the car together, my younger two need a little more time with me. But between dance lessons, piano classes, performances, competitions, concerts, and school events, I never know if I'm coming or going, and that special time can be difficult to find. 

Every Tuesday our two girls have piano lessons, lasting thirty minutes each. My middle daughter gets dropped off at her teacher's house, and I bring my oldest after school. I often spend the half hour waiting for

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Renaissance-Dad Tool Review: GreenWorks Pressure Washer

I have owned a GreenWorks electric pressure washer for several years, and it has been a great tool to have. It has also made me quite popular, as family and friends without pressure washers regularly borrow it. So when I recently had the opportunity to get my hands on the newer version to see how it compared, I jumped at the chance.

Right out of the box, I saw the same quality that I've experienced with all of my GreenWorks tools. It took less than ten minutes to put together, the components were solid, and the instructions were easy to follow (not that I actually read the instructions. I'm not Lord Business...). 

The GreenWorks pressure washer is a 2000 PSI, 1.2 GPM beast. If you're unfamiliar with what this means, the PSI (pounds per square inch) refers to the pressure of the water coming out (cleaning power), the GPM (gallons per minute) refers to the amount of water coming out each minute (1.2 gallons), and beast refers to the fact that this will be able to tackle just about any chore on my property. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Homemade Calzones: Give Your Kids Whatever They Want

My family has a wonderful tradition. Every Friday night is family movie night, and for family movie night we eat one of two things: nachos or pizza. For those that either know me or have been following Renaissance Dad for any amount of time, you can safely assume that we have turned these two family movie night staples, which are typically considered junk food, into semi-healthy meals. We make our own nacho cheese, and our pizza has a made-from-scratch crust.

Long ago we gave up trying to come to a consensus as to what toppings we put on the pizza, since everybody has their own variation of what the perfect pizza is. So we generally have one cheese or pepperoni pizza, and one with a mild assortment of vegetables that at least one kid will eat.

But this past week I had an epiphany. Lightning struck my brain (Movie quote? Anybody?). What if I give in and give every kid exactly what they want? And what if I make them put their own pizza together?

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Knots and Wormholes: Why I Like Working with Imperfect Wood

My wife's grandfather spent his entire life in Fonda, Iowa, which is a lot smaller than it sounds (and it sounds pretty small). He and his brother had a portable sawmill, and when a storm would pass through the area, they would go around milling up wood. He had an incredible supply of black walnut in his basement, and often, when my wife and I would visit, I would spend time just looking at the lumber. What can I say... I'm a wood junkie.

He passed away several years ago, and none of his sons were into woodworking. So one summer, my father-in-law loaded up his boat with hundreds of board feet of black walnut and drove it out to Arizona (you may be asking why he loaded up his boat. Many of the boards are twelve feet long or longer, and the center of a boat is the best way to transport that much lumber of that length).

As we were unloading the walnut from the boat and stacking it up in my workshop, I noticed that quite a few of the boards had knots, rough edges, and wormholes. The knots and the edges are something that I'm used to working with, but the

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Making Money with a Side Hustle

It seems like everybody these days has a side hustle. Makeup or oils, cookies or cleaning products. Most people have something that they do to make money on the side.

My first side hustle was in 7th grade. I went to school one day with some Little Debbie Nutty Bars in my lunch. Somebody offered me a dollar for one of them (sucker!). I took that dollar, bought another box of Nutty Bars, and sold all six packs for a dollar each. My awesome little 12-year-old self had netted a $6 profit in one day, and the entrepreneur in me was born. Over the next several months, I amassed an empire the likes of which Connolly Junior High had never seen. Soda, candy, Little Debbies, and treats were provided by yours truly. I shopped sales, established a clientele, and eventually had to carry two bags to school: one for my school supplies, and one for my store.

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