Daddy Cookies: Snitching Sisters

Last Saturday morning my two and a half year old daughter woke up and came downstairs to find me in the kitchen, where I had just emptied the dishwasher and was enjoying a moment of peace and quiet before everyone else would wake up. She climbed up into my lap and happily announced that she wanted to make cookies with me. But, not just any cookies, Daddy Cookies. As a rookie SAHD back in 2001 I realized that I really enjoyed making cookies with the help of my kids. I stumbled upon a recipe in a Betty Crocker cookie recipe booklet for oatmeal-peanut butter-chocolate chip cookies that were an instant hit with both my kids and me. I’ve tweaked the recipe ever so slightly (extra vanilla is yummy!) and added the secret ingredient, The Mixing Dance. My kids named them Daddy Cookies because it was much shorter and easier to say than the official full name. At any rate, I eagerly agreed and we started to gather the necessary ingredients and the mixer.

After she pushed a chair to the counter by the mixer we began to add our ingredients, starting with the two eggs fresh from our backyard chickens. My daughter is learning to crack eggs and does a pretty nice job for someone so little. (In a related note, her tiny fingers are excellent for picking out tiny pieces of shell.) Just after we added the sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, butter, salt, vanilla and peanut butter and mixed them all up, my five year old arrived downstairs and asked if she could help. My loving two year old excitedly told her big sister that she could help us before I even had a chance to respond. I was really enjoying the fact that she was willing to share this baking experience with her sister and wasn’t feeling threatened by her sister’s presence. I suppose it’s what she’s always been used to, being the sixth of six kids in our family. Well, after we added the next two ingredients, the flour and oatmeal, my girls realized that they needed to snitch some dough. I don’t mind it but I do ask that they use spoons and that they wait until the mixer is turned off. (I know, I’m so mean.) I’ve been snitching raw cookie dough my whole life and have never gotten sick so please spare me any comments about that. I will admit that eating dough is one of my favorite parts of making cookies. All that was left was to add the chocolate chips and we would be set to scoop and bake the cookies. Except there was one small problem.

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My helpers

The can of chocolate chips wasn’t in the cupboard where it was supposed to be. With two teenage daughters and an 11 year old son in the house, I figured that there was one of three places it could be. Since my son was already gone hiking with my wife, I figured that we would check his room first. So, I told my girls that whoever found the can of chocolate chips first would get the first snitch with chocolate chips. My five year old declined, of course. My two year old, however, literally jumped at the chance to go into her brother’s room without him there (usually a no-no). As my two year old started to climb down from her chair by the counter, my five year old decided that it would be fun, after all, to get the chocolate chips and because she would be able to run faster than her little sister. As they ran through the living room I could hear their shrieks: delight from my five year old and dismay from my two year old. It grew quiet as they went upstairs into his room. I was already mentally preparing myself to not overreact or come across as harsh when the inevitable screams would resume in a few moments when one of them would have won the battle for the can of chocolate chips.

So, you can imagine how my heart delighted when those screams never happened and instead I heard giggling. I turned my head just in time to see my two little girls both carrying the jar of chocolate chips. I wish I could have captured a picture of them as they were both beaming broadly and were practically hugging each other and the can at the same time. It was so stinkin’ cute! My five year old told me that she didn’t want her sister to feel sad so she suggested that they both hold the cookies so they could both get the reward. Choking back tears of gratitude for such a kind and generous daughter, I knelt down in front of both of them and wrapped the two of them in a great big Daddy Hug. I told my five year old how proud I was of her for making such a kind and compassionate choice with her sister. They brought the chocolate chips to the counter and each put a scoop of chips in the steel bowl and we finished the final mixing as we danced one more time. As I spooned the dough balls on the baking sheet I noticed that my girls were both grinning and trying to “sneak” additional snitches from the bowl of dough. I feigned a growl as they both giggled some more and we all laughed. While my kids continue to get older I love knowing that they all have very fond memories of Daddy Cookies. 

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Fisherman’s Friend in Pike Place Market

 

I grew up in Wisconsin, not far from the legendary Frozen Tundra of my beloved Green Bay Packers and Lambeau Field. Until I moved to western Washington with my family just over four years ago I thought winter meant snow, sub-zero temperatures, ice, biting wind and all that goes with those nasty elements. Growing up in the Midwest created a certain toughness in me that I brought with me when we moved to Washington state just over four years ago. Winter here in the Pacific Northwest is vastly different than the icy, snowy and freezing-cold that I grew up with in the Midwest. One of the biggest differences is that the snow rarely comes to my doorstep in Western Washington, but rather to the mountains two hours away. In the four winters we’ve lived here, it’s snowed maybe three times, with a total accumlation of maybe 12 inches. Probably less. Despite the lack of snow and really cold temperatures, winter still presents its challenges. Instead of flakes that need shoveling we’re showered with rain. Lots of rain, which, when combined with the cooler temperatures, can make even the toughest person beg for some sunshine and warmer temps.

With that in mind, I was approached a few months ago by my friends at Life of Dad to partner with Fisherman’s Friend to promote Fisherman’s Friend throat lozenges. whiteextrastrengthMy first reaction was along the lines of Me? I don’t live in a cold-weather state? How could I contribute to this campaign? Yet, I was told that they had chosen me and my blog, so, could I please try their product and take an epic photograph with the product, pretty please? Okay, they didn’t beg, but the rest is true. I had grand plans to head up to Mount Rainier with my kids and take an epic picture up there with the package of lozenges. That almost happened. We made it to the mountain, but my 16 year old daughter bruised her ankle on a snow-covered rock and we had to leave before I had a chance to get my pic. Interestingly enough, though, my throat stayed nice and healthy while breathing the cool and dry mountain air thanks to the soothing cherry flavored lozenge. But, alas, no picture. In the following weeks the weather here didn’t cooperate with our schedule as the only days available for us to return to Mt. Rainier were rainy or too snowy in the mountains (meaning high avalanche danger).

A couple of weeks ago my 16 year old daughter and I made our way to Madison, Wisconsin, for her official college visit and tour of UW-Madison. During the 90 minute walking tour I managed to experience a coughing fit while our tour guide was telling the group about the Business School.

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Promoting Fisherman’s Friend with Bucky at my alma mater.

Thankfully I was prepared with a handy resealable pouch of Fisherman’s Friend throat lozenges in my sweatshirt pocket and popped one in my mouth. Within seconds my throat was soothed and my cough disappeared. Later on that day we met up with Bucky Badger, the Wisconsin mascot, who was out on State Street. We posed for a picture on a bench at Library Mall, and I managed to casually slip the package of Fisherman’s Friend lozenges out of my pocket in the hopes of capturing an epic photo for this blog. While I think the photo is nice, it falls short of being epic. You can judge for yourself.

 

Then, just last week, a couple of days before Valentine’s Day, some of my kids wanted to head up to Pike Place Market in Seattle. My 14 year old brought her friend and my 5 and 2 year old daughters also made the trip.

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Glittery hearts on my dome.

We were hoping to find it less crowded than usual since it was a weekday afternoon (yay for early release days!). What made the trip slightly uncomfortable was the dozens of glittery heart-shaped stickers that my little girls had happily put on my freshly-shaved bald head only hours before, thanks to the brilliant suggestion of their older sister and her equally brilliant friend. My little girls were excited that I was going to wear their decorations out in public at the market. My older daughter was slightly amused and mostly mortified, I think, at the notion of being seen in public with a giant (I’m 6’8″ tall) walking, talking, goofy, glitter-headed guy. That’s probably why she and her friend split off just after we arrived.

 

Well, I’m happy to say that I rocked that look. My girls and I received many compliments and even more strange looks. Several tourists tried to take my picture without me noticing. It was fun. My girls loved it. They were proud of their artwork and I will admit that it actually kept my noggin a little bit warmer than if it hadn’t been decorated. IMG_4053Sure, the 50 degree temps were not exactly extreme winter weather conditions, but it was raining! I’d like to think that I proved my Midwestern toughness by only wearing my Dads Don’t Babysit t-shirt and cargo shorts (of course!) with sandals (no socks) while most of the native Washingtonians were bundled in their fleece-lined jackets and long pants and Uggs boots. And, once again, my throat stayed soothed as I had popped a couple of lozenges in my mouth while we were walking. As my girls were sitting atop the brass pig that graces an entrance to the market, the epic picture that I had been searching for seemingly came to me in that moment. Fisherman’s Friend, after all, was invented in England in 1865 for, get this, fishermen! And, what is Pike Place Market most famous for? The Pike Place Fish Company and their fishermen who toss the fish! Guess what was in the background of the picture of my girls on the pig? You guessed it.

Thanks to it being a slow day (remember, it was a weekday in winter) I was able to casually engage one of the guys working there in conversation. Okay, he talked to me first about my awesomely decorated dome, but I steered the conversation to my need for an epic photo and wondered if he would be willing to help me out. Well, Nick, they guy’s name, was more than willing to help me. He suggested that I hold one of the King Salmon up as if I were preparing to throw it and he would stand next to me prominently holding the package of Fisherman’s Friend lozenges while one of his co-workers snapped a few pictures. Just before he handed me the large fish he casually mentioned that I had better not drop it as it would sell for about $300…yikes! At any rate, Nick was awesome and I think we got the epic shot that I had been looking for all along. After all, what else could show the tough relief of a throat lozenge invented over 150 years ago for fishermen better than an actual fisherman and a giant fish fresh from the chilly waters of the Pacific Ocean from Pike Place Fish Company in the iconic Pike Place Market?

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Fisherman’s Friend and my epic photo!

You can purchase Fisherman’s Friend lozenges in pretty much any store that sells cough drops or sore-throat lozenges. I’ve found it at grocery stores and drug stores alike. There are several flavors although I only tried cherry and menthol. You can check out their website:  http://www.fishermansfriend.com/en-us/ or Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/FishermansFriendUSA for more information.

Obviously this needs to be stated clearly. Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Fisherman’s Friend for this promotion. The thoughts expressed above and pictures shown are mine, except the Fisherman’s Friend pouch picture, which came from their website. 

Here are some additional photos from our fun time at Pike Place Market that afternoon.

 

 

Dining With A Homeless Man

If you’ve ever been to Seattle you’ve no doubt encountered one of the Emerald City’s biggest social challenges. Of course I’m referring to the homeless crisis. Recent data collected in late January estimates the current homeless population in King County to be well over 10,000, up 19% from last year

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(this graphic is from last year since the totals from the count on 1/29/16 were not released yet).

Like many major metropolitan areas in the United States, Seattle has tried to address this issue. In 2005 the city and county leaders annannounced a joint plan to eliminate homelessness in the area within 10 years. Unfortunately, the economy tanked and resources decreased while many people lost their jobs, driving up the need. (Check out these websites for much more information. 10 year plan and One Night Count) Anyone who visits Seattle has likely been approached by panhandlers or has at least seen people standing with signs asking for food, money or work. There are many tents visible underneath some of the overpasses and several homeless tent camps in the area. The most famous one is called the Jungle and was in the news last week because there was a shooting there that resulted in multiple homicides. Police believe that it was not a random attack and the investigation is ongoing. Sadly, the shooting took place while the Seattle mayor was making a speech about the homelessness problem facing the city.

My youngest three kids and I were in Seattle at that very time last week, having spent the afternoon at the Seattle Center, which is where the iconic Space Needle is located. We spent most of our time at either the Pacific Science Center or at the outdoor playground next to the EMP museum in the shadow of the Space Needle.

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Even though my kids, ages 11, 5 and 2, learned a lot of cool things in the science museum and had fun climbing at the playground, the most important lessons were learned when we stopped for lunch and dinner that afternoon. My kids had requested a lunch date at Pagliacci’s to get their amazing pizza. It’s pretty much become a tradition, if not an expectation, for us to eat there whenever we go to Seattle. It’s also located in an area that many homeless people frequent, hoping to cash in on the kindness of tourists. As we pulled in the parking lot near Pag’s I saw a man holding a sign indicating his need for help. As we walked past him I pulled my kids aside and asked them if they wanted to invite this homeless man to come inside the restaurant and share a pizza with us. They enthusiastically agreed and we turned around to extend our invitation. At first the man didn’t seem to understand our offer. But once he did, he eagerly picked up his small backpack to follow us up the block to the restaurant. I extended my hand to him and introduced myself and my three kids to him. Will (his name) smiled and walked along with us. I noticed people looking at us a little bit more than usual as we entered the restaurant and approached the cashier to order our food. As we sat down at our table Will started to sit at one next to ours. I invited him to sit with us as he was our guest. My ever talkative and outgoing 5 year old daughter took to him right away, trying to tell him about the fun she had playing Minecraft with her brother. She had taken to heart my admonition to treat him as just any other dinner guest. Over the next 30-45 minutes we chatted with Will and learned that he had been born in Norway, grew up in Texas and moved to Seattle to work on fishing boats, which had caused his knee injury that made him lose his job three years ago. He said he has a wife and four kids living in the San Diego area but didn’t really explain why he wasn’t living near them and I didn’t press the issue. He was polite, well mannered and soft spoken. As we parted ways after our meal ended I shook his hand again and wished him well.

Once we had returned to our car I asked my kids if they wanted to do that again on our next visit to Seattle and they all agreed that a repeat was in order. In fact, while we had been eating my 5 year old had tried to tell our new friend that he should come live with us because we have a nice home and “my daddy will make you whatever you want to eat”. I love her compassionate heart and generous spirit.

A few hours later it was time for dinner, and my kids wanted to grab burgers from another Seattle tradition, Dick’s Drive In. It’s located a block from Pagliacci’s and there are usually several people panhandling just outside the doors. In the past I have ordered extra food for them and this time was no exception. Just before I reached the door a man called out to me, asking if he could have my change on my way out. I asked if, instead, he would like anything to eat or drink. So, on my way back out to my car I gave him a hot chocolate and a handshake, during which I found out that his name is Greg. He and his buddy were together there in front of Dick’s, and while my kids and I ate in our van we watched the two men share whatever food they were given with one another.

While our actions will not solve the problem of homelessness in Seattle I would like to think that my children learned that homeless people are people, not just some problem or statistic that needs to be solved or moved somewhere else. Also, I want them to know that being kind to others doesn’t require a great deal of time or money. I think that it was also good for them (and me!) to hear that these people have families and hopes and dreams just like anyone else. I loved that this experience was so positive for them, particularly after they witnessed a scam artist in the parking lot when we were out shopping just a couple of weeks ago. Of the many values I hope to cultivate in my children, kindness and compassion for others are right near the top of my list.