Dad Spotlight: Meal Delivery Services

On February 25, 2016, in Food, by Chris Baccus
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dadspotlightepisode60I really enjoy my time chatting with Chris & Don on their podcast Dad Spotlight. This past week we discussed Meal Delivery Services. If you haven’t had a chance to read my review of six meal delivery services, please take a moment. And if not, here’s your chance to listen to me discuss our family’s experience.

Plus, Chris & Don ask some great questions about the review that I didn’t cover in my write-up.

You can click here to listen to the full episode and please remember to Subscribe to the podcast: http://www.dadspotlight.com/episode-60-meal-delivery-companies-with-chris-baccus/

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Our household is pretty good about brushing our teeth.  Every morning and every night before bed the boys have to get ready, that includes brushing.  My wife and I used to do all the brushing for them, but as they got older we have turned the reigns of responsibility over to them.  Of course, this now means a less than rigorous attempt at cleaning one’s mouth for the satisfaction of getting said “chore” done as early as possible.

The Firefly company reached out to me a couple weeks back sharing information and sending a pair of toothbrushes that are Star Wars themed.  They come in Darth Vader and Obi Wan Kenobi styles.  You get a choice of being good or bad.  Funny thing is when the toothbrushes arrived, the boys fought over who was going to be the good guy. Apparently, I’m raising freedom fighting rebels, not members of the dark side – parenting win for us parents!

I’m personally a bigger Star Wars fan than our boys and I’m hoping that will change a bit as the new series of films arrive over the coming years.  Seeing old movies with dad is fine, but you want something to feel like your own to really love it. Here’s to J.J. Abrams getting it right and making Star Wars as awesome for my kids’ childhood as it was for mine.  So, the Star Wars themed toothbrushes were cool, but they weren’t that much of a draw for the boys until they found out they make lightsaber sounds and they could battle each other.

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The battle then took place. Eventually, they did brush their teeth.  My wife and I really liked how the toothbrushes timed one minute of sound and character voices to help the boys take the time to brush longer than they normally do.  Amazingly, they stuck to it and fingers crossed the novelty doesn’t wear-off.

My wife was somewhat interested in having her own adult version after she heard Ewan McGregor’s voice.  Perhaps Firefly can make a version from Moulin Rouge that has McGregor signing for one minute to help adults brush longer too.

If you’re interested in learning more and possibly winning a trip for four to a California amusement park, checkout the Firefly #BrushBattle Facebook page and enter their Sweepstakes. (You must enter before June 30, 2015.)

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Also, as if it’s not obvious enough already in life, you can learn more about the benefits of brushing your teeth.

Kids In Crisis Infographic

Disclosure:  I received free products from Firefly for this article. All thoughts and opinions are my own. My experience may differ from yours.

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I Played Frogger for an Afternoon and Loved It

On February 3, 2015, in Family, by Chris Baccus
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We are gamers.  That’s why we were high-fiving each other all week counting down the days for the Neon Retro Arcade to open last week.  It’s a new arcade that opened in Old Town Pasadena. It’s full of classic arcade games like Mario Bros, Q-bert, Frogger and many more.

You buy unlimited play for $10 a hour.  So for $30 the boys and I went game to game playing tons of video games I hadn’t played in about 30 years and they had never played before. How did a bunch of 8-bit games excite two 8 year olds?  They loved it!  They had a great time playing the classics. Plus how awesome is it not having to worry about running out of quarters?

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We can’t wait to come back.  We all had a blast taking a break from our systems at home.  Neon Retro Arcade is soon adding a menu thanks to the restaurant next store. Just note there are no alcoholic drinks due to city code.

If you find the time, take a trip to Neon Retro Arcade and see if you can beat my high score on Frogger, though I’m sure it no longer stands.

Location:

28 S Raymond Ave
Pasadena, CA 91105

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A Moment to Reflect on Someone Very Special to Me

On October 29, 2013, in Family, by Chris Baccus
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Last week I lost the relative I was closest to in my family, my grandma Laddie Yamada. She was quite the influence in my life and someone I will never forget. No one really forgets their grandparents, so that is nothing unusual; however, I had a situation with my grandparents that is still relatively unusual but one that seems more usual the more I hear others stories growing up.  I lived with my grandmother and grandfather my senior year of high school and through college.

The fact that I even went to college is a bit of a miracle in and of itself.  Prior to moving in with grandparents after my parents’ divorce and my not getting along with my mom’s odd boyfriend, I finished my last semester at Gresham High School with a 1.8 GPA.

I can probably count the times I did homework at home on one hand up to that time in my life nor do I recall one situation where my parents showed much interest for my education other than the obligatory look at a report card.  Now I didn’t always do a 1.8 GPA, in fact I only did that once. I got mostly As, Bs, and a rare C. So I wasn’t a bad student by any measure. The 1.8 GPA came after the divorce and with me living in my parents’ old house with our neighbor who rented it while their new home was being built. My mom, brother and sister had already moved back to Los Angeles (we moved to Portland when I was 6 years old from LA.)  Let’s just say I enjoyed my freedom that last half of my junior year of high school.

Grandma with her dad Henry

Grandma with her dad Henry

I share this because I was at a crossroads.  Moving out of my mom’s boyfriend’s house was good by me after only living there for a month or two. Besides, I “lived” on an army cot in a pool house that was infested with ants with her boyfriend playing country western music loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear it. The guy was a total ass and eventually had problems with the law threatening his neighbor with a gun. I still have a theory to this day that going nuts and wanting to shoot things, like your neighbor, is the natural result of listening to country music 24/7 at loud volumes.

Long story short, my grandparents took me in.  It was a radically different environment from my mom’s new life and even my prior life pre-divorce.  The first notable thing was the amount of things to pick-up and read throughout the house – things being books, magazines, and newsletters.  In my parents’ house, the only thing to read lying around was TV Guide. No joke.

Living where you are in arm’s reach of reading something is a very different experience.  I kept picking up things to read.  All of it, stuff I had never read before and I found the more it was around the more I did this. I’d flip through a stack of magazines one afternoon reading various articles and the next day read some political newsletter. I even started reading books. Up until this time, I had read one book cover to cover for school: Of Mice and Men.

Grandma and my dad

Grandma and my dad

My grandmother had a lot of politically conservative things to read in the house including Reason and Insight magazines, newsletters from Patrick J Buchanan and Ron Paul.  She had one newsletter that came monthly that I always read cover to cover called Imprimus. It was from a small conservative college in Michigan that took no government funding and would have talks from visiting politicians, heads of state, and thought leaders that adorned the pages of Imprimus. It was my senior year of high school that I became very aware of Hillsdale College and how I wanted to attend it, but I was broke and my grandparents were never ones for recommending taking loans of any kind.

So I finished my senior year of high school with a 3.75 GPA after changing my perspective and being very active with school, including doing homework and reading what I was assigned plus more.  I even started my first writing as a staff member on the school paper, writing about politics and current events from a conservative, libertarian perspective, back then defending Exxon during the oil spill and criticizing Hillary Clinton. I was a good little right-winger.

Living with my grandparents I went to Pasadena City Community College and took night classes. I worked a couple jobs mostly as a teller at Bank of America and at the same time working in customer service at Six Flags Magic Mountain. I saved like crazy to afford Hillsdale College with grandma very supportive of what I was doing. I did also get some financial support from my dad to add to my savings as he had taken my child support and sent it to my grandparents who put it all towards my college fund.

Eventually my grandma and I went to Michigan to look at a couple schools focusing mostly on Hillsdale. We toured the campus and also Albion College, but knew Hillsdale was “our first choice.” It was my first choice, but it was clearly hers too.

Grandpa and grandma

Grandpa and grandma

I applied and was accepted and graduated from there in winter 1994, I stayed an extra semester as a transfer student to finish all my credits. I learned a lot and changed from an Economics major going in to an English major going out, mostly because my political mind was changing and I had also burned myself out on reading a lot of Economic books during high school and community college. I also met Stephanie who would later become my wife and mother to our wonderful twin boys.

None of this would’ve ever happened without my grandparents, and mostly my grandma. It was the environment she lived that influenced me. There were piles of books, a garden in the backyard to use for cooking, and the constant care and encouragement to think big. That last part was always there long before moving in with them.  It manifested itself in many ways growing up.  Whether it was my taking an interest in Impressionist art at 10 years old and having my grandparents buy me pastels and draw with me. Or when I wanted to make a rug and we went to the sewing place to learn how to do latch-hook rug making. Or when I loved skateboarding and they drove me to my first skate park.

I wasn’t spoiled. It was never about getting the latest toy or buying me something that was ostentatious or doing whatever I demanded as a did. It was about listening and being a smart parent then responding in a positive way as an opportunity to enrich a child’s life.

I had that feeling and that care far more from my grandparents than my parents. That’s not a knock at my parents, they had their own challenges in life and like every parent were learning what being a parent is about, plus I was the first kid.  Also, my grandparents weren’t perfect parents either; though, they were perfect grandparents at least for me.

Grandma and Oscar playing in 2008.

Grandma and Oscar playing in 2008.

My grandfather Yoshio passed away several years ago and that was very hard. He was definitely the most loved and respected person in our family.  Everyone loved grandpa. Laddie was far more complex than I want to share here.  For me, her passing away last week meant I lost someone very special in my life. She was someone who dramatically changed my life for the better in so many wonderful ways.

Peace grandma. Thanks for instilling a love of reading and cooking in my life and mostly thanks for being involved in an unconditional loving way. I love you and will miss you.

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Spending the Day Picking Berries

On June 6, 2013, in Family, by Chris Baccus
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A conversation at home.

What are we going to do this long weekend?
How about picking blueberries?
Why? Can’t we just buy them already picked?
But It’s fun.
Really?
Let’s just do it. What else is there to do today?

And that is how we ended up at the Underwood Farm in Ventura County the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.

I honestly was looking forward to the drive more than the farm. I had picked strawberries a long time ago when I was 13 years old in Gresham, Oregon.  We had a couple strawberry farms near our subdivision that kids would hear about how you could make money filling baskets of berries. With only a meager paper route at the time, yes I had a paper route – boy do  I feel ancient, making some extra dollars picking berries sounded like a great idea.  That is until a couple friends and I decided to do it one morning.

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We went down to the field and were given large wooden buckets to fill with berries.  We were told what to look for and to be gentle placing them in so as not to bruise them.  I believe each bucket paid us 50 cents or some small amount like that.  Bending over and squatting to get each tiny berry off each plant was tedious.

What was more frustrating was watching the berry pickers who did this all the time.  They picked a heck of a lot faster than us and it seemed like forever to fill the bucket meaning we were not going to make the money we had hoped for.

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My time at Underwood Farms wasn’t about speed or making a few dollars.  It was all about getting outside and spending time with the family. Oscar and Theo had a great time walking through the fields finding blueberries and asking mom “is this one good? How about this one? Is this one blue enough?”

Underwood Farms takes you out to the blueberry bushes on a tractor train and then you fill large plastic containers.  They also have raspberries and strawberries you can pick too; though, Memorial Day was just blueberries and a small amount of raspberries.

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The farm also has some barn animals you can feed where a small twenty-five cent vending machine will give your kids some food for the sheep, goats, chickens and alpacas. There is also a wooden play pickup truck that all of the kids were climbing on next to a small market full of fruits and vegetables.

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It really was a fun excursion from the city, plus it’s less than a hour away. Most importantly we came home with some beautiful, tasty blueberries!

Learn more about Underwood Family Farm.

An Appreciation for Home Cooking Begins at Home

On April 26, 2013, in Family, by Chris Baccus
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I was reading an interview with food author Michael Pollan earlier today. He did an interview with Grub Street NY as part of the promotional tour for his new book Cooked. The interview talked a lot about Pollan’s experience with food through his family and mostly from his mother.

This got me thinking about my own personal experience with food, especially the early days.  I grew up in the late 1970s and 80s when the growth of convenience food was taking root as more families moved to two-income households and family meals cooked by mom was becoming less and less of a normal thing.

In our house it was still the norm. My mom stayed at home. Mostly that is when my parents weren’t separated or later divorced; though, by the time of the divorce I was 16 and I was pretty much done being raised by my parents. The last part of “living at home” was with my grandparents, but that’s a whole other story, and yes home cooking continued at grandma’s house too.

Back to the food.

With a stay at home mom and one who was half Italian and half French, a home cooked meal was pretty much every night.  We had a lot of typical things from the 1970s and 80s so it wasn’t some locavore, sustainable farming exercise.  There were a lot of canned vegetables, especially corn and green beans but I never minded. I loved both and would in fact come home from school sometimes and eat a whole can of corn that I would cook then add a  little butter to it.

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Still there were issues of Gourmet and Bon Appetite magazines that arrived in the mail from time to time.  This was both good and bad. I recall one dish my mom used to make that I never liked, though I do now. She made a ground beef and rice stuffed bell pepper.  She might as well have served me calf’s liver and boiled brussel sprouts.

So there were definitely moments when I could’ve done without Gourmet magazine’s influence, but for the most part home cooking was instilled into what we did at home as a family.

My mom also became known for a particular dish that to this day comes up in family conversation – lasagna. “Barbara’s lasagna” is legendary.  I have the recipe on an index card in my recipe folder; though, I’ve gone my own way with it and make mine in a similar though different manner. Still I’m sure side-by-side my mom’s would win.

387715_2806650369933_124449867_nIt’s that pride that comes from making a stellar dish that eventually made me love cooking. Without a home where that happens, one misses what the joy of cooking is really all about. It’s not about it being a chore; though, yes it can at times feel that way. No it’s about making that dish your family and friends love. Everyone lit up when lasagna was made or another favorite family dish, goulash.  No one ever gets excited when some pre-packaged convenience food from the freezer is thawed and heated up.

Some things have changed with time and it’s a bit different in our home. We mostly buy from local farms and what we can’t find there we buy organic.  It’s also maybe once every 3 months that we have a canned vegetable. We have raised our boys on eating fresh fruits and vegetables with every meal so our kids eat tomatoes, bell peppers, green beans, carrots and just about every kind of fresh fruit.

Home cooking is fun; it’s memorable, but most of all it’s an important family experience I did eventually come to appreciate more and more as I carry the tradition on today with my own family.

Thanks mom.

 

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Gaming In-App Purchases and How to Prevent Them

On January 13, 2013, in Family, Featured, by Chris Baccus
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I hate — emphasis on hate — games that use In-App Purchases (IAPs) especially games targeted at small children.  It’s been a vicious sneaky way for app developers to make some big money before parents wise up to what is going on while an innocent child doesn’t fully understand what they are doing to mom or dad’s credit card.

The latest story dealing with this sick tactic comes from The Guardian, “Parents told to beware children running up huge bills on iPad and iPhone game apps.” I’m sure it won’t be the last either.  With rapid adoption of tablet computers – many predict tablets will outsell laptops in 2013, this issue will grow.  It is far easier to give your toddler or young child a tablet to play on than say your home computer or laptop.  Tablets are light and easy for kids to understand using simple touchscreen motions. For instance, my two boys understood my iPhone at age 2, a similar type of interface as my iPad.

So what should you do as a parent?

Here is my approach:

  1. Try to avoid any game that is designed around In-App Purchases (IAPs.)  There are many great games that don’t use this tactic and I deplore it as a parent when buying a game for my child. So try to avoid games that use this.
  2. Change your iPad (or similar device) settings to not allow in-game purchases.  Here is a screenshot of that setting from my iPad 2. It is in your Settings application.  Go to General –> Restrictions –> (Enter your Restrictions Passcode) –> In-App Purchases setting and turn it to “OFF”

Do #2 regardless. This will block any in-app purchases without a password.

And please don’t get me started on all the manipulation from Disney’s Club Penguin. Genius game design though as a parent I find it repulsive.

Here are the screenshots for changing your In-App Purchases setting to off on an Apple iPad:

Step 1: Go to the Settings application and find the General setting

Step 2: Click on the Restrictions setting:

Step 3: You should be prompted by a password request. If not, please set a 4-digit passcode:

Step 4: Set the In-App Purchases setting to OFF:

 

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Let the Robot War Begin!

On October 28, 2012, in Family, Featured, by Chris Baccus
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Our son Theo told us about a year ago that he wants to be a “robot builder” and race car driver, when he is not building robots.  Oscar decided to join in the idea too.

Fortunately, our move to California br0ught us a 10 minute drive to a Rolling Robots store where robot building can happen at age 6.  We signed up a for a Sunday morning robot workshop where Theo made “Robo6” and Oscar made “Robot1.”  The robots took about 2 1/2 hours to build ending in a robot battle where claws were used to try to pullout each others robot wires.

The boys had a great morning building and playing with their robots.We’ll definitely be back.

 

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Notes in a Lunchbox

On December 8, 2011, in Family, by Chris Baccus
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No surprise to anyone who knows us or reads this blog regularly, but we rarely have the boys buy lunch from the school cafeteria. This is great in so many ways:

#1: We control what our kids eat, not some school lunch meal planner.

#2: I think it’s cheaper though doubtful with all the organic this and organic that. But I like to think we are saving a few bucks this way.

#3: Lunchboxes are so cool these days. Our boys have personalized lunchboxes by Yubo.

#4: My wife Stephanie’s art degree gets used every morning.

I like Reason #4 the best because it’s always interesting seeing what napkin art is happening every morning.  The other day, I noticed the picture above. Apparently, Theo wanted a dancing clementine (orange) in his lunch. Ta Da! Dancing Clementine with top hat and dance shoes created in a minute.

Perhaps I should start having Stephanie pack my lunch. I wonder if I too would get dancing fruit?

Do you pack your children’s lunches and if so do you leave a note or some artwork for them to enjoy later that day?

 

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Family Cooking Time: Pizza Balls

On October 10, 2011, in Family, Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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Getting our boys to eat something new is never easy; though, it’s a lot easier when we include them in cooking the meal. Tonight we did a recipe my wife found from the website Weelicious: Pizza Balls.

Pizza is by far their favorite meal (unfortunately.) Making pizza a new way made it a bit more interesting for us, but for Oscar & Theo there was doubt about what it is that came out of the oven and ended up on their plates. See, it didn’t exactly look like pizza so it received some scrutiny. Fortunately, after a few bites they agreed it was “yummy” and the best part is we can control what ingredients go into this pizza.

We made a few alterations from the Weelicious recipe.  First of all, we used Eden Organics Old Fashion Pizza Sauce.  Yes it is from a can, but unlike others it has no sugar and honestly tasted fairly close to my homemade recipe. Here are the ingredients:

Organic Roma Tomatoes, Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sea Salt, Organic Basil, Organic Oregano, Organic Black Pepper, Organic Roasted Garlic, Organic Dried Onion, Organic Thyme

Not bad. For the dough, we bought frozen pizza dough from Whole Foods. It too is pretty good and only with a few ingredients, no chemicals or sugar. For the inside we went with mozzarella cheese, sliced black olives, and diced green peppers added to the pizza sauce.

Wrapping the pizza balls is fairly simple. You just make several 3″ round discs and let the kids spoon in a tablespoon of the inside mixture. Then fold over the dough to shape a mini hotpocket looking “ball” and add to a greased oven-safe casserole pan. Heat the oven to 425 and cook for 20-25 minutes.

One change I’d make after doing this recipe is to add the cheese to the top of the pizza balls 5 minutes before they are finished cooking. Adding at the beginning, like the recipe calls for, burns the cheese.  Cooking for a small time-frame should make for a little brown coloring and keep some of the flavor of the cheese.

For the full recipe, please visit Weelicious Pizza Balls.

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