Friday, June 28, 2013

Blackhawks Stanley Cup Rally, Revenue and Taxes

Today was the rally for the Chicago Blackhawks after winning the Stanley Cup. Thousands of people (estimated more than 100,000) gathered in Millennium Park to celebrate. 

Some of the best parts of the celebration included the thousands of people who took public transportation, bringing much needed revenue to the CTA and Metra (probably an extra million dollars or so in a single day.) On top of that, many people patronized local restaurants and other businesses before and after the celebration. Taxis, retail, etc.

One of the bad aspects was the aftermath. Listening to the post-rally coverage on 670 AM The Score, they mentioned the thousands and thousands of empty water bottles left behind. One can only assume that other garbage was left behind. I should not be so shocked at the disconnect people have between tax money being wasted and their own actions.

Money for the children! For the homeless! For seniors! For roads! For infrastructure! For first responders!

When it comes to pitching in to save money by rolling up our sleeves, we city-folk prefer to keep our hands clean. After all, Duck Dynasty is on TV.

There are scheduled street cleaning days. You know why? First, because people litter. Second, because people in neighborhoods can't seem to take time out to sweep up the front of their house to the middle of the street once a month. Silly, isn't it?

Back to the rally. Thousands of bottles left behind. Let's start with public labor. Then there are the vehicles needed to get people and equipment to and from the park. Then there are the trash bags. Fortunately, once they take the bottles away, it all disappears. Wait, it doesn't? Hopefully, someone is making money recycling the stuff.

I'm happy the Blackhawks won. (Like, crazy happy.) I'm happy that tens of thousands of people came to my beloved city to celebrate with the team. I'm happy they gave the economy a little spike. Just pick up after yourselves, okay?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Rockfish & Quinoa Salad

Made a yummy dinner tonight; wanted to share.

Got some rockfish on sale from whole foods, $8.99 per pound. Bought two fillets, one around ten ounces for me, one around six ounces for Wife.

Made quinoa salad.
Changes: did not use Kalamata olives and added Feta on my own (Wife doesn't like olives.)

Rockfish preparation:
I knew that I wanted a white wine butter sauce, so I just sprinkled some salt and pepper on my fillet, then made the following:
For next time, I will use only the juice from 1/2 lemon and add some capers.

For Wife, I made a spicy preparation that had a little less than 1/4t kosher salt, 1/8t fresh ground black pepper, dash each of paprika and ground red pepper. Wife said it was good, though a little on the salty side.
Next time I will use 1/8t of each ingredient, thought that may still be too much. We'll see!

One Foot off the Wagon

Our house failed to sell. I had very high expectations. Inventory in our area was moving very fast. Many houses were on the market for less than a month and getting very close to their asking price. Why not ours?

The biggest reason is the bedroom layout. Overall, our house has four bedrooms and three full bathrooms. However, the second story has two bedrooms - the master and the kids'. There is one full bathroom and it is not particularly big. The third and fourth bedrooms are very small and in the basement. At the price-point of our house, people were looking for three bedrooms and two bathrooms up.

In the meantime, the house has been on the market for around eight weeks and we have had around fifty showings. Yes, 50.

The bulk of those came in the first two weeks; I think we had fifteen or twenty in the first week alone. Someone asked for a showing the first day it was on the market.

Having our house on the market means that it has to be in show condition almost all the time. There were one or two times that I let it go - didn't pick up after the kids, didn't have the laundry in check, didn't have last night's dishes done before going to bed. Then there would be a showing the next day.

When we have a showing and the house is in good order it still can take an hour to ninety minutes to completely clean. Make the beds, dust, clean the mirrors and windows, take out the trash, wipe down the bathrooms, put all of the toiletries away, wipe down the counters, sweep and mop the floors, organize the counter tops, put bills and art projects away, and vacuum. Vacuuming takes a while, too, as we have wall-to-wall carpet everywhere except the kitchen, which means that there is around 2400 sq ft of carpet.

So, if I add in laundry, putting toys away, organizing closets, washing dishes, and other disorganization, that can easily add an hour, making the task over two hours long.

In the last four weeks, I've gotten really good about keeping the house clean and organized. Vacuuming is done almost every day, regardless of a showing. Clothes are always put away. The bed is made. The dishes, pots, pans, cutting boards, and utensils are put away. The toys are stored. Mail is either recycled, paid or filed.

Now that we are in the last week of our house being on the market, (which basically means that it is off the market,) I haven't been quite as diligent. It's the first week of summer vacation for the kids, which sort of means it's the first week of summer for me. Not that I'm getting reckless, by any means, but the kitchen hasn't been cleaned all the way every night; the toys haven't been put away every night; some dirty clothes have been left on the floor in the bedrooms. Odds and ends, but they add up. And, I'm noticing.

Then, this morning, I wondered if my friends are taking bets on how long it will take before our house becomes a train wreck once again. It was never filthy but always disorganized. How long will it take before there are piles of "get to it later" here and there. Coupons, mail, excess scrap paper, magazines, empty boxes, and other good intentions. If I were my friends, I think the over/under would be around two weeks.

That's what I'm giving myself - two weeks to ensure that the cleaning thing - this homemaking thing - stays permanent. That means putting systems and schedules into place. That means continuing to wake up at 6:30am even though the kids don't have camp until 9am. (Camp? They have camp? I'll get to that next time.) A continuous regiment that is less a short-term diet and more of a lifestyle change. I've been doing it this long, why not keep it going?

And, in my soul, I know that screwing around is less fulfilling than doing my job to the best of my ability. Time management, a common theme in my entries, is the key to my success.What do I do when I wake up? Have to make the bed, right away. Immediately. Have to get dressed right away. Have to get the clothes together and to the washer right away. Lunches made. Dishwasher unloaded. Kids up and dressed. Make their breakfast. To camp. Vacuum. Windows. Dinner. Shopping. Right away.

Then I can blog. Then I can read. Then I can hit some golf balls. Then I can meet with a friend for lunch. Then I can landscape. Work out. Whatever.

No matter what, must do work first. Stay on that wagon.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Marketing blunder

I hope you're not offended if I call the person who okayed this sign a fucking moron.

16 Great Reasons to Scream in Frustration

"Stop looking at me!" I yelled. Again.

Bunny has this habit of stopping her task and looking at me. It makes me crazy.

For example, this morning, Bunny was putting her shoes on during crunch time - get out of the house time. She stopped and looked at me. I did not react in a positive manner that would be a building block for future attempts. I yelled at her.

I have explained yelling to the kids in a couple of ways. First, I rarely yell in anger but often in urgency. It is challenging for adults, let alone children, to distinguish between anger and urgency. Generally, an apology or explanation is given once the yelling and task has been completed. It is important to me that they understand my motivation and that they know that we all have moments of weakness but that being open about our moments of fault comes of great strength.  

Second, I have told the kids that I yell because it is an effective motivational tool for them. Being around many children during these last six-plus years, I have seen that some children shut down when they are being yelled at. This is not the case for my kids. And, depending on the specific situation, intimidation tactics may be incorporated with the yelling. Here is a sketch of how our conversation goes after they have completed the task under fire:
Me: Do you know why I yelled at you?
Child: (Crying or sniffling) Because I didn't get ready to go
Me: Did I ask you nicely?
Child: Yes
Me: And did you do it?
Child: No
Me: Did I ask nicely one time or more than one time?
Child: More than one time.
Me: After asking nicely and you don't respond, I have to yell. Then I know for sure that you will do what needs to be done. Do you like when I yell?
Child: No. It makes me sad.
Me: And it makes me sad, too. Would I have to yell if you did it when I asked nicely?
Child: No.
Me: Can you try to be a better listener next time?
Child: Yes.
(Hugs and kisses.)

So let's go back to the thing where Bunny looks at me. I know - well, I think - that she is looking for my approval. I suppose it would take less energy and keep a more positive environment if I have her positive feedback. Something like, "That's right, now push your heel down into the shoe."

On the other hand, she has successfully put her shoes on several hundred times. What is it that she is seeking? Also, she has a bad habit of looking away from her manual task while she is doing it, then starts grunting, then whining, then screaming when it becomes challenging or doesn't go her way. I remind her that actually watching what she is doing will lead to a greater statistical success rate. Her success rate continues to be average, at best. 

The screaming and whining is not an occasional occurrence, unless three to ten times per day is occasional. I only wish I was exaggerating.

Her are examples of times that she screams in frustration:
Getting her pajamas off over her head
Getting her dress to slide over her head because she has failed to unbutton or unzip it
Putting socks on
Putting laceless running shoes on
Keeping food on a fork or spoon
Getting an action figure to remain standing
Getting a stuffed animal to remain seated upright at a tea party
Getting JD to do what she wants him to do the moment she has decided
Getting the ankle strap of her sandals around her heel and through the eye to fasten the Velcro
Opening drawers heavy from being stuffed full of princess dresses, shoes, and accessories
Closing a drawer that is so full of dresses that it won't close all the way because dresses are sticking out
Opening tight marker caps
Closing tight marker caps
Getting a tiara to sit properly on her head
Getting said tiara untagled from her hair
Getting her seat belt on

That's all I can think of right now.

First of all, it is genetic. That's all I will say about that.

Second, I am a pretty mild-mannered dude. Unfortunately, I sometimes bottle my rising tension. Externally, I will be calm, while internally, I am on the brink of breaking. That leads me to go from a nice, "Okay, Bunny, now put the strap around your ankle then through the eye," to, "STOP LOOKING AT ME AND GET YOUR SHOES ON! IF YOU CAN'T GET THEM ON, THEN THEY'RE GOING IN THE GARBAGE!"

The best way I have found to overcome these events is planning to leave for my destination far earlier than necessary. Tardiness begets urgency and urgency results in screaming. I would say I am about 25% successful in getting the kids going at a time when there is little urgency. If that destination is dinner time and the kids need to clean up, I know I have to give them fifteen minutes to clean up and check on them every five minutes to remind them to continue cleaning. This happens once or twice a week. During a good week.

But we try, don't we?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Freezing Your Money

One way that I've been able to save a few dollars here and there is by freezing my own fruits and vegetables. It's easy if you have the equipment.

What you will need:
-the ability to spot a superior price on freezable produce
-rimmed baking sheet
-freezer that will fit said rimmed baking sheet
-freezer bags (or containers if you really want to get crazy)

I just bought blueberries at Stanley's, my produce market at North & Elston Aves. They were $0.49 per pint. That's pretty darn cheap. So I bought a case - twelve pints.

First, I wash two pints at a time, then spread them out in a single layer on to the baking sheet. Next, put the baking sheet into the freezer for about an hour. Empty the blueberries into a freezer bag or freezer container. Store. Repeat as needed.

Note: after washing the blueberries, they are wet. I know, you are shocked. This means that some of the blueberries will be "stuck" to the sheet after freezing. They come off pretty easily.

That is the key to freezing produce so that it doesn't freeze into a big ball - freezing it flat. Essentially, you are freezing each piece individually. Once each piece is frozen, the water from one won't stick to another.

I have successfully frozen bell peppers and onions, which I use a lot in my cooking. Occasionally, Stanley's will have, say, a case of bell peppers for about $2.50. I take them home, halve some and slice some, then freeze and bag. If you really want to be efficient, make veggie mixes to save time later. For instance, I mixed onions and peppers in a bag for omelettes.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Morning Rush

I kept the kids at a family-friend party until 9:45 last night. Shockingly, we all got up late this morning. Fortunately, I have developed a can't-fail method to get everybody ready and out the door on time.

Get out-the-door-ready first.

What does that mean?

Get dressed - check.

Lunch(es) made - check.

Backpack packed - check.

After those things are done, my hierarchy goes:
brush hair
brush teeth

The first things to get done are those that you can't leave without. Lunch and homework. That will screw up the kids' day a lot worse than being a little hungry. And, you'd better have some kind of granola bar, cookie, chips, (who cares?) in your cabinet for these OH, SHIT! moments. They can eat them on the way.

Potty in last? That's right - there are bathrooms at school.

And, please, tell me you haven't left the house without brushing your teeth once or twice, especially when you were a kid. One good way to combat that is giving the kids a piece of fruit for breakfast. It won't remove plaque, but it will get their breath going in the right (or less offensive) direction.

Brushing hair reduces the family's chances of being judged on lack of appearance.

Oh, and the other thing that gets this going: screaming. Wow, is that effective! JD is eating his whole wheat toast with neufchatel slowly? Scream! Bunny is taking her sweet time brushing her tiny white teeth and getting her little white sandals with the sparkly flowers on? Scream!

They will still love you. If the children of crackheads and abusive alcoholics still love their parents, yours will still love you after a good round of aggressive motivation.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Stop the Cookie

I just had to yell at the kids to stop singing the song, "who took the cookie from the cookie jar?" They could not agree on how to get the next person who stole the cookie from the cookie jar.

Friday, June 7, 2013


Sometimes I don't know if I want to laugh at Bunny or kill her.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What's New with DD

Yikes! No posts since May 17th.

House on the market. Yes, Downtown Dad's house is on the market. If we get a contract in time to close and buy a house and close on that before the new school year. That's like, 3 or 4 weeks. The good news, we've had at least 30 showings in 4 weeks. The bad? No offers. Price dropped slightly, so we'll see what happens.

If we do sell, we'll move to the suburbs. Not sure how that will affect my name. Can I still call myself, "Downtown Dad," if I'm not downtown? What a hypocrite.

If we don't sell, we'll do some remodeling for next time around.

Having the house on the market is one of the reasons I haven't been posting. It turns out that having a lot of showings is a lot of work. Keeping the house in show-condition is challenging, but worth it. Again, my challenge is time-management. Thirty to forty-five minutes in the morning. Regular picking up throughout the day. Fifteen to twenty minutes after dinner.

The NHL Stanley Cup playoffs being on and, specifically, the Blackhawks being in the Western Conference Finals certainly challenges my ability to stay on top of my domestic responsibilities. I mean, it's 3 hours that I'm virtually glued to the TV. And, I have to DVR so I can start watching after the kids go to bed so I don't get those built-in 15 minute gaps between periods to get some stuff done.

Excuses, excuses.

The house being on the market and the planning and stress that surrounds that circumstance has been weighing heavily. How much money could we end up with at the end of the sale? What will that buy in the next town? Where in that town do we want to be? Close to "downtown" or close to school? Unfortunately, in the suburbs, it's not both.

Where I live, there is a Jewel-Osco, post office, Walgreen's, and Whole Foods within three blocks. And at least 20 bars and restaurants. Oh, and the kids' school is within that radius.

Suburbia. Suburbia looks overweight. That's what I see, at least, when we go up there. And it's not that I care what people look like. Overweight is not a character assessment. But it is a lifestyle assessment. It is driving the car to get everywhere. People buy these houses with land, but how often do they get out there? Forget about public playgrounds - they should stop wasting money because nobody uses them.

Jeez, Downtown Dad, if you're so cynical about the suburbs, why the F are you moving there?

Because the transition from grade school to high school in CPS is not a smooth one. The chance of JD, specifically, going to high school with any of his city classmates is unlikely. He'll have enough social challenges, even as high-functioning on the Spectrum as he is.

And I don't hate the place. It's where I grew up. It's quiet. There are no gangs and very little crime, otherwise. The educational opportunities are outstanding.

Life could be a lot worse. We stand to make a small profit on our house, where many people have lost their asses. Wife may need to commute for a while, but the train ride is 45 minutes or less and her office is a block from Union Station. Two of my siblings and their families live there; my other sibling lives about thirty minutes and my Mom fifteen. Wife's parents would be closer, one sibling closer, one sibling further.

First things first. Sell the house. The whirlwind will take care of the rest.

One thing I know is that life moves forward, regardless of the path.