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.

I found a recipe that seemed doable, I made sure that I had all of the ingredients, and I got started. Lemon zest, lemon juice, flour... It was all a blur as I mixed, sifted, and grated my way into family lore.

As the griddle heated up and the pancakes started to sizzle, the family came downstairs, enticed by the delicious smells of frying batter. Mouths were watering, and the kids actually offered to set the table to speed up breakfast. We loaded the pancakes up with whipped cream (one of my favorite Saturday morning breakfast toppings), and my wife made everybody wait until we were all at the table to start eating.

The kids shoved bites into their mouths, so excited for the pancakes that daddy made.

Look at that joy.



Look at that bliss.



Look at that delicious awesomeness.



And then I saw this...


...on not one...,



...not two...,



...but three faces.


While I am used to hearing, "This is the best [fill in the blank] that I have ever eaten" from my kids, instead I got, "We like mommy's pancakes better."

My epic pancake cook off was an epic flop. I could have taken the critique from Paul Hollywood, but to have all three kids reject my breakfast smarted. I guess their palettes are not refined enough for what I had planned. In my defense, these turned out better than the ones we had in the restaurant. The kids didn't like them, but the adults loved them. Maybe for this Mother's Day I'll make these for my wife, and my kids can eat dry toast.

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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