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". :)