Thursday, June 22, 2017

Adventures in Parenting: Welcome to Your Almost 2-Year-Old (An Owner's Manual)

Hello, and Congratulations on your acquiring an Almost Two Year Old (ATYO)!  You've made a wise (questionable) decision with choosing this model.  This set of instructions has been designed to help you as learn to navigate the waters of a growing toddler and their accessory packages.

Use outlet covers.
Lock all cabinets with sharp or breakable items. 
Employ safety gates judiciously.
Do not attempt to remove batteries.  Removal or attempted removal of any components will void the warranty*.

Mouth:  This is where fuel should be added to your ATYO, approximately 4-6 times daily.   You may notices that the preferred type of fuel is also widely variable, particularly as your ATYO unit learns the word "no".   The mouth is also the center for verbal commands.  You may notice that the verbal capabilities of your unit increase over time.  This is good!  (Or at least, that's what we're told.  We've also been told the opposite is true.  It's all debatable.)  

Fingers/Arms: These can now reach counter tops, so Owners should be very wary of leaving anything lying about.  If there is a Pyrex dish of cookies on the counter and you hear a crash, you can't say you weren't warned. 

Nose: The "finger" component fits here.  

Waste Disposal Component:  You're still a ways from potty training.  Sorry. ATYO User Manual recommends continued purchase of the "Diapers" and "Wipes" accessories.

Hair: This grows at an alarming rate. You may want to find a kid's haircut provider (KHP). For short haircuts, the idea of a KHP using loud clippers may be alarming to your ATYO...but it will make the process much faster, which is ultimately worth it in the end.  ATYO User Manual recommends the "bribes" accessory pack. (Note: This accessory pack is also handy for weekly maintenance of the "fingernails" component.)

Teeth: While essential for fuel processing, you may note that your ATYO using their "teeth" on non-fuel sources, such as pets, parents, siblings, or other ATYO's.  If the latter, you will likely receive notification from the ATYO's Day Care Provider (DCP).  While alarming, your DCP will notify you that this malfunction is normal, and likely due to their instinctual reaction to having toys stolen from them.  You will get at least one of these calls a week.  This is normal. In fact, any call from your DCP that isn't telling you that your ATYO unit is sick and needs to be picked up immediately is generally considered good news.

Head: Your ATYO unit comes equipped with a highly durable cranial "noggin", designed to protect the central processing unit (see "Brain").  This component is also highly susceptible to periodic wear and tear due to the natural instability of your ATYO unit.  Typical wear & tear is not covered under the warranty*.  ATYO User Manual recommends purchase of the "first aid kit" accessory.  

You may also note that your ATYO unit is resistant to water being applied to the "head" component, unless the ATYO performs the application themselves.  Getting squirted in the face at a splash pad appears to be a joyful and entertaining event, whereas periodic washing results in howls as though you were trying to remove one of your ATYO's components.  ...Solidarity, new Owner. We don't get it, either.

Communication:  As previously noted (see "Mouth"), your ATYO unit has the ability to learn additional verbal commands over time, much like a Furby.  Also similar to a Furby, these commands may at times be garbled or not include any actual English words.  Unlike a Furby, your ATYO unit may become increasingly agitated as you try to interpret, for example, what "muh" means in this particular instance. Your unit may be asking for "more" food, liquid sustenance (aka "milk"), or perhaps its favorite book ("moo", aka "Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?")...or perhaps something entirely different.  This is frustrating for both Owner and the ATYO unit.  When you successfully communicate and satiate your ATYO unit, feel free to reward yourself with a well-earned drink or self high five.

Strange Smells: If you notice an unusual odor emanating from your ATYO unit, first check to see if there is a leak from the "waste disposal" component. Then immerse in warm water and wash gently with mild soap (see also "TROUBLESHOOTING-HEAD").  Use of garden hoses, sprinklers, or pools is also effective.

Temperament: You may notice that your ATYO sporadically and with little notice can burst into fits of rage over relatively inconsequential events, such as: 
- being told they need to sit in their chair to eat breakfast, or
- that you can't get them their milk because they're sitting in front of the fridge door and refuse to move.  

The loud noises and tears may be accompanied by wild gesticulations and rolling around on the floor. Despite what you may have been told about this behavior occurring after the unit's 2nd birthday, THIS IS NORMAL. When these incidents occur, two options are available:

a) remain calm, steady, comfort the ATYO and attempt to explain why life is unjust, or
b) cave and give them whatever they want.

Owners of older models may note that there used to be an Option C in the manual; however, as "physical adjustments" have generally become socially unacceptable, we are no longer allowed to recommend that option.   Make physical adjustments at your own risk, as these may void the warranty*.

The "binky" accessory can also be useful in many troubleshooting scenarios.

All accessories are sold separately; prices vary by location. 

You may notice your ATYO unit taking great interest in accessories for the Almost Three Year Old (ATYO 2.0) or higher models. While these are not compatible with your ATYO unit, good luck trying to keep them away from them.

User Notes:
* Unit does not come with any warranty.  Good luck, sucker.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

What I've Been Eating Lately

As I mentioned last week, I've been traveling fair bit for work and such.  It's hard when it's for work and I have to be away from The Hubs & Lil' Man, but I make up for it by trying new foods and new brews.

But first...EASTER!  Yes...that feels so long ago, but it really wasn't.  We did our whirlwind tour of the Lake to visit the grand-folks, and my mom made us her famous chicken & noodles.  Which always makes my belly happy.

THEN--the Hubs & I went on a KID-FREE VAYCAY, to beautiful PUNTA CANA! (*read in your best Rod Roddy "Price is Right" mental voice*)

Our resort was super nice, and we had LOTS of delicious food. I can't even start to share it all here, but here's a few highlights:
Breakfast: croissant, pastry, ham & pineapple, sausage, bacon wrapped sweet potato, churro, ham fritter, egg crepe, fruit, & watermelon juice
Another breakfast, with a fresh-made omelette from the beach-side omelette station.  Also, churro with chocolate sauce and chocolate filled croissant, because I love carbs. Note: I ate this exact same meal at least 3 times.
Beach-side lunch: roasted chicken, fried fish, potatoes, pineapple, cucumber, and cabbage slaw.
Note: There were also many, many drinks.

Then, we had an authentic shrimp & crawfish boil at my office, to celebrate one of my coworker's 20th anniversary with the company.  Shrimp & Bayou Classics supplied all the seafood, direct from Louisiana, and boiled up everything onsite.  It was AMAZING. (Note: brussel sprouts in a boil = GENIUS.)
I even brought The Hubs a go-cup.

Then, I had to head out of town for work for a week.  We stayed at a lovely little hotel in Farmington, MO called The Tradition Inn.  Anything it lacks in frills and fanciness, it makes up for in the attached restaurant, Spokes Pub & Grill, which sports about 40 craft brew taps.  The property is owned by the great folks who also own Crown Valley Brewing, and so you can find nearly all of the Crown beers and ciders on tap, along with a wide and ever-changing variety of local craft brews (Farmington is just south of St. Louis, so no shortage of great breweries.) 
Their food is also excellent, even down to the pepper bacon BLT.
For Mother's Day, the Hubs made me "Cloud Eggs";
How gorgeous is that?  The texture is a little weird, but still tastes like a normal over easy egg.

Then, I had to hop a flight down to Louisiana for work.  Yes...on Mother's Day.  So I treated myself in the DFW Airport to some Red Mango:
And picked up some boudin balls from Hebert's Specialty Meats:
In New Orleans, I hit up Frey's Smoke Meats with my cousin Primeaux. The meal was awesome, but a ton of food, so I had some leftover brisket.  So the next day for lunch, I swung by Martin Wine Cellar to pick up a few things to accompany it...
(Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog goat cheese, rosemary crackers, and cornichons)
...and then went down to the Pontchartrain Lakefront to enjoy a bit of sun before hopping on the plane back home.

And of course, as discussed last week, I've been eating a lot of breakfast, and sharing them on Instagram.  Not all of those breakfasts are interesting, but I try to remember to capture them all.  But the ones I didn't?  Probably look a lot like this. :)
(cereal, yogurt, & soft boiled egg.)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

What I've Been Cooking Lately

I don't have many original recipes to share lately, but I AM still cooking!  In fact, I cooked THREE meals on Memorial Day!  
Breakfast: egg scramble & home fries
[Scramble: 4 eggs, 1/2 c cheese, 1 green onion, salt, pepper, turmeric, and Greek seasoning. Home Fries: par-bake 2 potatoes in the microwave for 4 minutes, then dice (which will remove most of the peel), and saute over medium heat with cajun seasoning in about 1 Tbsp coconut oil until brown & crispy.]
Lunch: quesadillas made with manchego, smouded gouda, and leftover dirty rice
Dinner: Amazing smoked gouda grilled cheese with bacon pepper jam.

Here's a few others:
I chopped up some Holy Trinity (celery is there too, but I was using frozen, which isn't as pretty)...
To make Chef John Folse's Dirty Rice (used pork sausage instead of livers and gizzards, because ew.)

The recipe makes a TON, so I used some of the leftovers the next day to make stuffed bell peppers (no pic, they disappeared too fast) and the aforementioned quesadillas. (For the quesadillas, I added some lime juice, dried cilantro, and cumin to make it feel a little more Latin and less "Cajun taco".)

The Hubs was out of town for a few days, so I got a rotisserie chicken (to make life easy while having to cook AND entertain the kid by my lonesome) and served it up with some baked sweet potato, steamed broccoli, and homemade bread from a friend.

If you follow me on Instagram, you might already know that one of my Resolutions for the year was "eat more breakfast", as I am a notorious breakfast skipper.  I'm happy to report that at almost halfway through the year, I've not missed a single breakfast yet!  This monkey bread made for several good breakfast mornings (note: I used 1 Tbsp of cinnamon, and pecans instead of walnuts):

And these pancakes (using Alton Brown's recipe for instant mix) are also a quick and easy weekend breakfast fave.
These pancakes are a great base. I like to add in grilled pineapple bits, or chocolate chips, or some pumpkin pie spice, or blueberries...whatever strikes your fancy.

Over Memorial weekend, I made some quick biscuits from scratch while The Hubs whipped up some of his white gravy.

I've been traveling a lot the past couple months, so stay tuned for another post entitled "What I've Been Eating Lately". :)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Adventures in Parenting: Competing Priorities

Overcommitted.  I think this can describe just about anyone, but in particular seems to be applicable for most parents, and definitely for working parents.  My kid is a year and a half old, he doesn't even have any extracurricular activities, and I already feel pulled in a dozen directions.
The closest thing my kid has to after-school activities: playing outside with the other neighbor kids.

Before I had a kid, my list of priorities was pretty simple: (and not in this order)
1 - time with my husband
2 - time with my friends (mostly via weekly trivia nights)
3 - work
4 - time with family (about once a month, visiting my folks and/or in laws)
5 - church (weekly)
6 - caving grotto (once a month for meetings, and then going caving about every other month)

And then...I had a kid.  A kid whose schedule overlaps with mine for only about 2 hours a day.  He wakes up at 7:30a, eats breakfast with me for 15 minutes before we head off to day care.  Then we pick him up 9 hours later, we have dinner together, play for a bit, then he's off to bed by 8pm.  Sure, there's weekends, but in general, Monday through Friday, we get 2 hours together.
Biscuits & gravy for dinner, because he's special.

I think this is a hard concept to explain to anyone who doesn't have a kid.  But I'll make an attempt.
If you're married/in a committed relationship: imagine if you only got to spend 2 hours a day with your significant other. You can't talk/text/Facetime/Skype ANY outside of that 2 hours.  Oh, and you're going to be cooking dinner/eating for about 30 minutes to an hour of that 2 hours.  So really, only 1 hour of quality, one-on-one time together, 5 days a week.  How much of that time would you be willing to sacrifice for other things? your friends?
...going to the gym?
...or self-care, like getting a hair cut, a massage, or pedicure?
...or essential errands, like grocery shopping or paying bills?
...or work?
...or personal time, like reading or blogging?
...or extra-curriculars, like volunteering or social/networking organizations?

Based on your personal life goals and priorities, probably some of those things are easier to give up than others. For me, that last one goes out the window.  I'm only willing to do networking during regular business hours. Thankfully, I have a job that allows that.  I'm also allowed to use up to 4 hours of paid time annually to do volunteer activities during business hours.  My volunteering choice?  Donating blood.  It takes about an hour and I can only do it every 2 months, which is very manageable for me.  I can leave work an hour early, go donate, and then still get home about the same time.

But that also means I haven't been to a caving meeting in over a year, and I've only been in a cave twice since my son was born.  I also choose not to go to the after hours socials that my local business networking group hosts.  I've been asked to join the Junior League--but while I admire the work they do, I know it requires a lot of time commitments, and I just don't have that right now.

Where I used to see my friends weekly at trivia, our group is evolving, and many of us have kids now.  So we've only played trivia at our old haunt TWICE since we had our kid.  I live less than 5 minutes from one of our trivia buddies, but she's just as busy wrangling kids and quality time in the evenings as I am, so we really don't see each other much. I think we all probably manage to get together about once a quarter.  Really.  From weekly, to 4 times a year.  
Benefit of young kids: Using our kids' birthdays as an excuse to see our adult friends.

I do also have another group of fellow mom friends--we manage to get together for lunch about once every other month.  Again, easier to fit into my schedule when it's during the day and something I was going to be doing anyway. There are some friends who have kids of their own that we just haven't seen in FOREVER.  We try to make plans, but then somebody get sick or has a soccer game or any of the other million things that can come up.  Making plans when you have kids is HARD. And finding time to just be an adult around other adults is hard too, because we don't have built in babysitters (aka grandparents) nearby.  So it means a) only one of us can go, or b) we have to shell out $30-40 for a babysitter. I long for the days when you could just leave your kid with a teenager for $5/hour...assuming I knew any teenagers that lived close enough to take on that responsibility. The oldest kid in our neighborhood is it'll be a while.

As far as the gym goes, I dropped my membership.  I took a close look at my schedule, and realized there was no good way to make it least with the gym I was going to.  My gym was 5 minutes from my work, but 20 minutes from my home.  Realistically, the best times for me to go to the gym would be a) before Lil' Man gets up, or b) after he goes to sleep.  I'm not going to drive 20 minutes to another town to make that happen. I may eventually look into getting a membership at a gym closer to my house...or I may just start running up and down the basement stairs 10 times a night after I put the kid to bed. We'll see.

I do try to schedule self-care once a quarter, whether it be a pedicure or massage or just some alone time to shop for myself.  I've had two haircuts in the last 18 months. I haven't been clothes shopping for myself in...well...I mean, I bought some shoes on Amazon about 3 months ago.  Does that count?  No?!  Black Friday. I bought some new shirts on Black Friday. I mean...I didn't try them on or anything, because it's freakin' Black Friday and I gotta hurry up and get in line and they were just long sleeve tees, but still.  So like, 6 months ago.  If you mean the last time I leisurely strolled through a store and actually tried things on...probably a year.* (To be fair, I don't really like clothes shopping that much.  And the only reason I don't use Stitch Fix or MM LaFleur is because I'm also a cheapskate who doesn't like to pay more than $20 for ANYTHING.  Comparatively, I go shopping for a mixed six pack of new beers to try at least once a month.)

*Note: this paragraph was written a few weeks ago...and I did in fact do a little clothes shopping over Memorial weekend.  My favorite resale shop had a 50% off sale and I found a few shirts & dresses for work.
Bought some stuff for the kiddo and Hubs as well.

Blogs, as I've mentioned before, generally come together in 10-15 minute chunks over the course of a month during work breaks (which should account for any discontinuity in writing style, should any of my high school or college writing instructors be reading this right now). Reading happens for about 15 minutes in the evenings before bed, but I also like to listen to audiobooks or podcasts in the car.

And work is, well, work. I can't exactly give that up (technically, you can, some parents do, and that's awesome for them, but that's not me.)  I'm a salaried employee so my hours can fluctuate from week to week, and it really just depends on what's going on with my projects or if I have field work. But it's now a lot more important to me to be as efficient as possible so that I can leave work before 5pm to beat rush hour traffic and get to my kid's daycare around 5:30p, so he can get home before all the other kids go inside for dinner, so that he gets some outside play time with his friends.

And time with the Hubs...well, that's mostly us plopped on the couch watching DVR'd shows after the kiddo goes to bed. Or maybe we bust out a board game or deck of cards.  But we did recently take a kid-free vacation to the Dominican Republic while Lil' Man stayed with his grandparents.  It was an amazing trip, but 7 days was a little long to be away from our kiddo without being able to see or talk to him.

So, ultimately...we are making it work.  We are doing the best we can.  Life is different from before we had our kid.  Not better or worse...just different.  And we love our kid.  But it's an adjustment, with what feels like a constantly changing target.  We're doing a good job, and we're getting really good at this.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Adventures in Parenting: 18 Months In

Just...ignore the fact that I didn't do a 17 month post. See?  You didn't even notice until I said something.  Possibly because my 16 month post was so late.  It's been busy.  Y'all understand. I've been momming and stuff.

Weight: 28.1 lbs (75th percentile)
Height: 33.5 inches (<75% percentile)

So this little guy is in LOOOOOOOOOVE with stairs.  He REALLY wants to master them. Both going up and down.  Which is awesome and a little terrifying at the same time.  He's figured out that if he holds our hand, he can go up while standing fairly well (so long as the steps aren't too tall). Or he can just crawl up them super fast. Going downstairs is a crap shoot.  He might turn around and "reverse crawl" down the stairs...or he may try to butt-scoot down them while not holding on to anything, which is terrifying.  OR, he may just get frustrated and cry until we pick him up.
At least if he falls, his head will be well cushioned...

He's also learned to kick a ball, which is awesome...because I accidentally lied to our doc at his 15 month visit and said that he could.  So now I feel better about myself. :)

HOUSTON, WE HAVE A FIRST WORD.  And it's not "mama" or "dada".  It's "Uh-Oh".  Thanks, kid.  Hoping that's not a sign he'll be as accident-prone as his mother.  This was quickly followed by "bah" (ball), "dah" (dog) and "ayyeeeee" (hi or bye, depending on context). He *will* say "mama" or "dada", but it takes some prodding. Depending on context, "dah" can also mean "door", and "bah" can mean "bird".  He also likes to say "ahhhh duh" (all done) in a sing-songy rhythm when he's ready to get out of his high chair.  

He's solid on 3 baby signs ("milk/want", "more", and "all done") in multiple contexts (i.e. "I'm all done with this bath, Mom" and "please quit changing my diaper"). He will nod or shake his head for "yes" and "no".  There's also been a lot more parroting of syllables--for example, at his 18 month appointment, he pointed at his pediatrician, so I said, "doctor".  To which he responded "da ta", much to his pediatrician's delight.

There are also times when we KNOW he's trying to tell us something, because he looks very serious, and repeats a certain bit of jibberish multiple times.  It has to be frustrating to speak a language that only you understand.

At his 18 month appointment, they went through the MChat questionnaire, which is designed to look for signs of autism. Thankfully, everything was negative.  Our little man is very social and loves to interact with everyone...including frogs in the backyard.

Eating:  He will actually get a little mad if I don't give him a utensil to eat with.  Granted--he may only use it half the time, and be holding it in one hand while shoveling food into his piehole with the other hand, but he has to HAVE it.  He also wants to take spoons/forks from me, instead of me feeding him. And we are getting a LOT better about not throwing our cup on the floor.

Second Haircut:
Auntie T came back into town in March from Ohio, so he was finally able to get another haircut.  Really a good thing, since his mop has started to develop its own concept of style (particularly if put to bed with wet hair).
(Before: Not from the wind.  That's just how he woke up.)
His first haircut back at Christmas went Easy-Breezy-Beautiful-Cover Boy.  But this one...not so smoothly.  Auntie T thinks her shears were a little dull and pulled his hair, which upset him.  He was already past due for a nap anyway, so that didn't help.  But we got through it, and now he's a proper handsome lil' dude.

Parenting:  I'm really grateful for my Hubs. I probably don't say that enough.  But we've got a pretty good routine down and it makes for a good flow.  Most mornings, I take Lil' Man to day care, so Daddy wakes him up & gets him ready for the day while I'm making/eating breakfast, then I'll feed the kiddo while Hubs finishes his morning routine.  An example evening routine goes like this:
6:00p - Mom makes dinner while Dad plays with kiddo
6:30-7p - Mom feeds kiddo, Dad cleans up kitchen & loads dishwasher
7:00p - Mom plays with kiddo while Dad pays bills/misc from computer, then he joins in the playtime when done.
7:30p - Mom gives kid bath & brushes teeth while Dad folds laundry & cleans up the toy explosion
8:00p - Dad puts kid in PJs & finishes bedtime routine while Mom puts laundry away
8:15p - Mom & Dad kick back with a beer on the couch and watch DVR'd TV shows.

It works pretty well for us, and I'm glad to have a partner in this whole parenting/adulting thing.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Pinterest Project: Basement Bar

So, we recently did a little DIY/Pinterest project in the basement of our new house. More "DIY" than Pinterest, since we really just used Pinterest more as a "pinspiration" than anything.  Yes...typing that word made me gag a little.  But anywho...I really love how it turned out.
So our new house, which I love, came with this weird alcove in the basement. I'm 90% sure that the previous owner had a bunch of bookshelves tucked into it, but I forget from when we did the walk-through.
The basement already has tons of storage (the doors to the right in this photo are our game closet), so using it for a closet didn't seem to make sense.  Reading nook was a possibility, but it's really dark right there, so that would require adding in some lighting.  It was too shallow for a play area (plus, as the kid gets bigger, I'm sure the whole downstairs living area will become his play area).

So, what to do with it?  Currently, the downstairs living area is our "movie room" (though we haven't made much use of it yet).  So it struck us to turn the alcove into a small "dry" bar (no plumbing in this area of the basement) for drinks and snacks.  This freed up some space in our dining room upstairs (which is where our wine rack used to be, but since our new dining room is a little smaller, there isn't really space).

So...where to start?

With a fridge, of course!  We found a black mini fridge on the FB Marketplace for about $40.  Therefore it seemed to make sense to focus our build around this.  I visualized the fridge, a wine rack, and a cabinet or two for closed storage that would potentially be lockable.  Then a countertop and some shelves above.

My initial sketch. Please ignore typos.

We priced cabinets at the big box home improvement stores, but everything was higher than we really wanted to spend, or was too tall/short.  So I would periodically visit the thrift stores near my office to see if there were any end tables that might work.  I finally hit paydirt-- $7 for this fiberboard laminated TV stand.  It was in rough shape and needed some love, but overall it was sturdy, and the doors were in decent condition.
The top and the casters made it considerably taller than the mini-fridge, so we just removed those.

Then, there was the wine rack issue.  Our existing wine rack was just about right as far as height, but the wrought iron detailing along the sides wouldn't allow it to fit in the space we had left.  I searched FB Marketplace and Craigslist, but could never find anything that would work (or that hadn't already been snatched up, or the lister wouldn't respond, etc.).
Mid-process pic.  You can see how the current wine rack just isn't going to work.

I saw some pics on Pinterest showing wine racks made out of wooden crates, and had a "Eureka" moment.  We could find a crate that would work, and then use some plywood that we already had on hand to make an "X" shaped divider.  Brilliant!  Now...all I have to do is find a crate that fits the space!

...whiiiiiich was harder to accomplish than originally thought.  Everything seemed to either be too narrow or too short--but if it was too short, stacking two would make it too tall. *sigh*  So, I went to DIY Project Mecca:  Hobby Lobby.  After much searching through the store with my tape measure in hand, I found a large crate that measured 14 inches wide by 29 inches tall.  It was a little short for what we needed, but I knew we could work with that.

Meanwhile, the Hubs took care of finding the countertop and the shelves.  We recently got a Menards, and they were running Grand Opening sales, so we got some great deals on white-laminated MDF, measuring 8 feet wide--just a bit wider than the alcove's opening.  The countertop had to be notched to fit, but I think the Hubs did an amazing job.

So then...we had a dark brown laminate cabinet, a black fridge, and a light brown crate.  Guess it's time to paint!

The interwebz told me I should probably sand the laminate cabinet and then prime it.  But I am lazy.  So instead, I found black satin spray paint that would adhere to laminate.  The project took about 3 cans, which were $5 each.
We waited for some beautiful weather, and then spread out a drop cloth in the back yard, weighted it down with rocks, and I went to town. (I also painted some of our outdoor fixtures while I was at it.)
Overall, it took 2-3 coats. And I probably SHOULD have scrubbed the laminate at least a bit before starting--I think the previous owner had used some sort of oil-based polish on it at some point, so the paint didn't adhere great to the doors or front edges, but the rest looked pretty good.  In order to save on paint, I only painted the surfaces that would show--there was no point to do the sides that are hidden in the alcove. So I just wrapped onto the sides a bit.  And I only did part of the shelves as well, so that I could put down patterned contact paper instead for some fun detailing.
We used some pieces of 2"x4" to shim up the difference in height between the cabinet and the wine rack, and painted those black as well.
Once everything was coated evenly and was dry, we put it all into place, and then added the counter and shelves.  I decorated them with things that had been on our old wine rack and other miscellaneous bits and bobs. 
We also added a glass rack to the lowest shelf so we could hang wine glasses out of the reach of our little one.  Finally, we bought 6 puck lights at Home Depot to add some light, since this corner is really dark.  
All in all, really happy with the result.  It works perfectly for what we need, adds a little "wow" to the basement, and just seems like a smart use for the space.  Also--we don't spend a ton of time in the basement right now, so I kinda like that I have to earn my calories for a beer/soda/glass of wine by  going up and down the stairs. It also keeps the sodas a little more out of reach, so they're not just there to grab in our kitchen fridge.

Overall cost:
Fridge: $40
Cabinet: $7
Wine Rack: $30 (originally $49.99, with 40% off coupon)
Paint: $15
Counter: $17
Shelves: $2
Brackets: $18
Glass Rack: $12
Lights: 22