Top Dad Ads from Super Bowl Sunday 2013

I have not seen all of the Super Bowl ads yet, but did it seem as if car makers and others were pitching directly to parents last night? Maybe it’s just our middle-aged bias clouding our judgment. Here, through a father’s eyes, are the Top Dad Ads from Super Bowl Sunday 2013:

1. The Flaming Lips appearing in and providing the soundtrack for Hyundai’s “Epic Playdate” ad was cool, but the clincher was after the montage of extreme activities showing a day filled with frivolity the youngest child asks, “Dad, what are we going to do tomorrow?” Moms, dads and kids everywhere bobbed their heads to the music and nodded their heads in agreement throughout this commercial.

2. All parents will likely agree that Hyundai knocked it out of the park for our demographic this year. Another favorite ad was “Team”, in which a mom provides car service for a team that will stand up to the bullies that hogged a football.

3. Speaking of car service, parents of teenagers were simultaneously rooting for the underdog who gets a kiss from the queen of the dance while cringing at the thought of their teenager taking Dad’s Audi for an adrenaline-fueled spin afterwards. The marketing side of me also loved that Audi added a link to the song, “Can’t Win Em All” by Hanni El Khatib.

4. Kia’s modern-day take on a virtual, space-age stork delivering babies around the world was a little over the top. Our favorite part was the kid activating the B.S. meter at the end, and the parents instructing the car to quickly change the subject.

Slight aside… another Kia favorite from before the Super Bowl:

5. I don’t have daughters, but I can see how a dad can reach this point, Doritos or no Doritos:

6. I made a very similar milk run on Saturday morning:

7. Toyota taught us to be careful what you wish for, but that does not stop me from wishing Toyota had linked to “I Wish” by Skee Lo that plays near the end of this ad (Was that song really from 1995? That seems like just yesterday). The good news for you is that Commuter Daddy is a full-service operation. “I wish I was a little bit taller. I wish I was a baller….”

8. This Volkswagen favorite is more from our professional than our parental side. “Respect Boss Mahn!”

9. A glimpse of Super Bowl Sundays of our future from Taco Bell:

Creating a community with shared gardens, one neighbor at a time

We’ve begun sharing our backyard container gardens with our neighbors this year. We weeded and prepped the beds, and while they planted a wide variety of vegetables — many more than we have done in the past when maintaining the garden ourselves. Our job is to continue to weed and water the beds (Mother Nature has been a huge help with the latter since the plants went in a couple of weeks ago; we’ve only used the hose a few times). Eventually we’ll share in the harvest with our neighbors.

Who knew we were part of a trend? According to the Wall Street Journal, communal backyards are a thing now.

The interesting nugget in this story is that some real estate agents frown on the practice, but really, what’s the harm? Yes, it would be up to new homeowners to work out a new arrangement with our neighbor should we ever have to move, but shouldn’t we be striving to be doing more sharing in our lives, regardless of the impact on property values?

We live on a main road. We don’t have much in the way of a neighborhood. Anything we can do to foster a sense of community, even if it is only with one neighboring residence, has got to be a good thing. Plus, we’ll have fresh vegetables as an added bonus. Maybe we’ll even get to the kids to try some….

Breakfast variety does not spice our children’s lives

During the work week, breakfasts are simple affairs and fairly routine.

  • Sam, our oldest, is usually the first one up and fends for himself. The decision tree is very rigid. He looks first for sugary treats, especially on Monday. Leftover cinnamon buns or donuts don’t stand a chance. If there’s nothing in that category, he checks out the cereal selection. If nothing meets with approval there, he toasts a bagel. He will usually skip an accompanying drink.
  • Mason, the middle child, looks first for sugary treats. If none, he grabs a Pop Tart. If there are none left, he moans until he is convinced to have cereal, an English muffin or a granola bar. He will be three bites into whatever he is eating before he asks for someone to get him an apple juice.
  • The first words out of youngest Benjamin’s mouth almost every morning are, “Juice please!” Armed with orange juice in his drink bottle, he toddles off to sit with his brothers. Some mornings he’s hungrier than others, but upon being asked what he wants for breakfast, he always replies, “What do we have?” His tastes run less sweet than the other two boys. While he will eat a Pop Tart or a sugary cereal, he usually prefers two slices of bacon, an occasional egg or a half of a bagel. Because of the juice, though, he’s usually not hungry until after the two older boys go to school.

Weekends, though, are another matter. Without a bus to catch or work to check on, we all have a little more time to be deliberate in our breakfast preparations. Yet, there is a ritual to the weekend breakfast routine too.

Mason: “Dad, can you buy us some donuts?”

Or…

Benjamin: “Dad, can you make us some pancakes?”

I’m a softy for making pancakes. I love to make them, love to serve them and love to eat them. It always brings back memories of my grandfather firing up the griddle for my sister and I when we would be visiting the Cape. So hardly a weekend passes without me making pancakes on one of the mornings.

The other weekend morning is up for grabs, however. Sometimes, Brandy will make a coffee cake. Other times, Pillsbury rescues us with cinnamon rolls or Flaky Twists (a variety of Pillsbury’s breakfast roll products). And every few weeks or so I will make a Dunkin’ Donuts run.

Fruit salad? Not so yummy, yummy for our boys.

Yesterday, when Mason asked for donuts, I initially said no, but only because I had an alternate plan. Why give Dunkin’ Donuts our money when I am perfectly capable of making donut holes at home. While it had likely been 20 years or more since I last made them during a high school home economics class, I am a seasoned and wiser cook now. Mix the though, stick them in hot oil, and a new entry in our breakfast menu would be born.

When I announced my plan, there was excitement in the air. “Daddy is making donuts!” Mason exclaimed to everyone in the house. There was dancing on the stairs. There were angels voices in the air. Chickadees joined in song from the trees beyond.

A few minutes later, though, the euphoria was tempered.

“I can smell the donuts,” Mason said, this time with less vim in his voice. “They don’t smell very good.”

“Trust me,” I replied. “They’ll be great. And I’ll sprinkle your cinnamon sugar on them.”

Mason asks for cinnamon sugar almost every chance he thinks it will match what he is eating. I had him back in the fold. Soon the donut holes were all draining on a paper towel on the counter. The sugar was applied. Four were added to each child’s plate. They ran for the kitchen.

Then they took a bite.

“Dad, these don’t taste like donuts,” Mason said.

Benjamin tried to cushion the blow to my cooking ego. “Dad, is it OK if I just eat this much?” he asked, motioning to two that he had taken a single bite from. “I’m full.”

So am I, now that I ate theirs yesterday and and consumed a large portion of leftovers today. The silver lining is Brandy and I liked them. They were a perfect coffee accompaniment.

For the kids, though, it will be back to the breakfast rut for a while. They won’t be easily convinced to try a tweaked recipe. Once you have emblazoned in their taste buds that they don’t like something you’ve made, it will take some time — and probably a lot more sugar — for them to give the dish second chance.

Commuter Daddy’s 2009 Readers’ Choice Awards

Hello, 2010. We’ll get to you soon enough. First, we have some 2009 Commuter Daddy business to handle.

Welcome, dear readers, to the second annual post dedicated to you. It’s the Commuter Daddy 2009 Readers’ Choice Awards! You thought I forgot? Nay! Nothing is more important to a blogger than interacting with the audience. It’s only fair to let you choose the content when the opportunity arises.

So below, please find the list of 2009 posts that you read the most, and the New Year’s resolutions they inspire (which is sure to also inspire future content):

  1. Jelly Belly cycling team… who knew!?
    I have not yet acquired the jersey, nor have I tried Sport Beans. They’re still on the wish list. It’s neither the jersey nor the jelly beans that make the man, though. It’s the cycling, and I’ve done nearly a ton this past year. Despite a 2-month layoff at the end of the year because of illness and minor surgery, I still managed to travel 1,748 miles on two wheels in 2009. That included completing my first organized group ride, plus completing my first metric century. It also included taking the bike with me on business trips, something I intend to resume when the weather warms. Meanwhile, though, I’m back in the saddle on the Cape when ice and snow are not covering the route, thanks to Santa bringing me a balaclava. I resolve to tally 2,500 miles in 2010, and complete a century ride.
  2. Cooking in the cubicle
    I still haven’t tried this, but I do have a new source of similar inspiration: George Egg’s Hotel Survival. I resolve in 2010 to try cooking more than Lean Pockets in my hotel room, and turn the experience into a Commuter Daddy blog post.
  3. Cooking in the car
    I haven’t tried this either, and am less likely to do so this year — at least until I have mastered hotel cooking. However, I do need to lose weight, so I do resolve to forego candy on my commutes. To know me is to know I have an acute weakness for Skittles and Jelly Bellies. They helped me quit smoking four years ago, becoming my substitute for the half pack a day I would smoke on my Cape-to-Providence commute. I quit smoking cold turkey once I put my mind to it, so I think I can do the same with candy. Once that is tackled, we’ll see what can be done about my midnight ice cream weakness.
  4. 25 Things about CommuterDaddy
    See item 13. I still may not tackle the sump pump project this year, but I will resolve to install drainage at our side door to prevent water from running down the basement stairs.
  5. Podcasts for the musical commuter
    I never did get around to sharing the marketing, history, comedy and other miscellaneous podcasts to which I subscribe. That will be coming soon to a blog post near you. I’ll aslo update my music, sports and food lists.
  6. On the road with Hulu
    Still loving Hulu at home; not so much on the road. This reminds me that I resolve to read more books in the coming year. One a month would be great. That was my goal last year, too, but I fell well short, which means I am either working too hard or watching too much television. Probably both.
  7. Airports improving water options
    I did leave the water bottle at home when making a day trip last week. I wasn’t sure how well it would be received in the wake of the Christmas terrorism attempt in Detroit. I will get back to toting the empty coffee mug and water bottle through security on the next trip.
  8. Join Commuter Daddy at Detours and Onramps on Wednesday, March 25
    This was my favorite event as a panelist in 2009. I resolve to continue to eschew journalism-specific events in the coming year, except those for which I’m invited to speak or am helping organize for NENMA. I don’t intend this as a slight to any of my friends, colleagues and peers. There simply is more to be learned from those outside our industry than insiders. The mobile-specific events I attended in 2009 affirmed that. There will be more of those on my docket in 2010.
  9. Germs trump green at Connecticut Lavazza
    I ran into this again when ordering coffee at the Starbucks inside the T.F. Green Airport in Providence twice in the last three weeks. The barista said she was under strict orders not to refill mugs directly, and had to pour coffee into my mug by using a paper cup. Give me a break. Let me come behind the counter and fill it myself, or put out some urns for those of us who want a plain ole coffee. Why sell the mugs if you can’t refill them directly? Contrast that with the Dunkin’ Donuts at the same airport, which had no problem refilling my mug without a paper-cup middle man last week. Guess who is getting my business from now on? Thanks, Dunks.
  10. Dear, Coffee Shop Owners: Wi-Fi Influences Purchase Decisions
    I saw some signs outlining wifi time limits at Coffee Obsession while stopping in there with the boys a few weeks back. Sigh. It won’t stop me from going there, though. I’m usually in Falmouth to shop, or else have arrived there by bike, so I rarely have my laptop in tow. Plus, I could never give up Coffee Obesssion’s Mexican Mocha Latte (make mine a double, please).

This list ignores the fact that the two most read posts in 2009 were actually published in 2008: Check Engine Haiku and Commuter rail linking Scranton, Poconos with NYC receives fed money. I get the message. You, dear readers, want more haikus and items about commuter rail, or maybe what you’re really saying is you want commuter rail haikus. Either way, we’ll see what we can do.

Meanwhile, I’ve also resolved to write more this year. That, plus the goals set above, are more resolutions than I’ve ever set for myself. Wish me luck!

Sushi irony

The cafeteria at the offices where I am working today often has an ethnic food offering. Some days it is Indian food. Today it’s sushi. My stomach is doing a little happy dance.

Here’s the irony, though: While I’m eating sushi, two Asian women next to me are eating pizza. Hope that’s not because of their opinion of the sushi!

Tide To Go pen saves the day — and the pants

Note: I’ve not been paid by either Mars or Procter & Gamble for the product mentions that follow, though I’d gladly accept their endorsement of my commuter musings.

Drinking accidents are nothing new on my commute. Food accidents are less frequent, but do occur. Luckily, I now have leather seats to minimize the lingering impact on the car.

The impact on my clothing is another matter.

On the drive to New York earlier this week, I was nearing the end of a package of Dark Chocolate M&Ms when suddenly one disappeared. It was still dark out, so I fumbled around for it. When I didn’t find it by feel, I figured it must have reached the floor.

I later stopped for a coffee refill, and looked on the floor for the wayward M&M. No luck. Figuring it was under the seat, I decided to leave the search for later. I refilled my coffee mug, chatted with the clerk about her neighbor with six daughters (God bless that neighbor!), and headed back to the car. Just before entering, I spied the M&M’s fate: Melted, on my seat.

I tried to execute a quick check of my pants, looking over my shoulder and doing an unorthodox twist to see if the M&M had left a mark behind me. Not finding one, I wiped the mess off the seat, and thanked my lucky stars as I headed back to the highway.

After two coffees, the next stop was naturally oriented toward a biological break. After washing my hands, I tried a mirror-aided check of my pants and discovered my stars had not beeen so lucky. The M&M had indeed left a mark.

Luckily, this was an overnight trip, so I fetched the pants that had been packed for the next day, changed in the bathroom, and headed for a pharmacy or grocery store to buy a Tide To Go pen. I figured if the pen could work its magic on the stain, I’d be all set to wear the revived pants the next day. If not, I’d go clothes shopping that evening.

As I was dabbing and swabbing the stain with the pen, though, I was a bit discouraged. Though the stain was fading, I could still see where the chocolate smear had left its mark. I dabbed and swabbed some more and hoped for the best, but was nearly certain I’d be heading for the store after my meetings that day.

Cut to arriving at the hotel later that night. I grabbed the previously stained pants from the back, and voila! No more stain! I could detect the slightest trace of it, but only because I was looking for it and knew where to look. Chances were, no one was getting close enough the next day to notice. The shopping trip was averted, making the Tide To Go pen a great $4 investment. It will now be an omnipresent tool in my commuting arsenal.

As for Dark Chocolate M&Ms, I’ll be crossing them off my commuter dining list.

Cooking in the cubicle

First, there was Cooking in the Car. Now, we bring you Cubicle Cooking: Chicken Pesto Pasta (MacGyver Style)

I’ve seen a lot of office coffee makers over the years, including my personal one that we had in production pod back in my projo.com days. I’m not sure I would have wanted to cook a chicken breast on its burner, much less eat it — which probably explains why we went out for coffee more often than not.

Still I admire the ingenuity and potentially increased productivity highlighted in Mark Levine’s post (with a tip o’ the chef hat to Jack Lail for calling my attention to it on Digg). And when Google is not your employer, you have to make do with the tools you’ve got.

Plus, who knew that National Cubicle Day (or perhaps Veal-Fattening Pen Day?) and Space Day were in the same week? Coincidence? I think not!

Should your cubicle cooking experiment fail, or should you need an insurance policy against the coffee maker’s bacteria buildup, you could always follow the example of Cubicle Drunkeys:

And really, why wait for National Cubicle Day to celebrate the 3-walled life? Any of these gadgets and toys are bound to make your space a destination for your co-workers, and the social epicenter of the office. Don’t forget to accessorize your cubicle, too.

Luckily, though my home office is in an alcove — the scientific term for cubicle — I don’t have to resort to the coffee maker for preparing chicken. The kitchen is in the adjacent room. Besides, the coffee maker has been toast since our electrical incidents a few weeks ago, and we’re back to using the French press, which does not make a very good grill.

Cooking in the car

The amount of time I spent in my car this week wasn’t significantly more than usual, but the compressed schedule made it seem so.

Was up-and-at-‘em early Monday, hitting the road at 5 a.m. on the dot for the drive to headquarters in Middletown, N.Y. Drove into New York City at a more reasonable hour on Tuesday. Parked on Eighth Street, only to learn the person I was meeting with had meant to direct me to Eighth Avenue. So I hopped back into the car to relocate it and make the meeting for which I was already tardy.

Then drove to Waltham on Tuesday afternoon for the Detours and Onramps conference at which I was speaking the following morning. Returned home to the Cape Wednesday afternoon after the speaking gig and lunch.

I felt as if I needed a shoehorn to extract myself from the car.

Along the way — and I’m not certain which leg of the trip this was — I was catching up on some podcast listening, and I heard a Splendid Table interview with Bill Scheller, author of Manifold Destiny: The One! The Only! Guide to Cooking on Your Car Engine!.

(When you’re truly the one and only, you can put exclamations in your title. That’s in Strunk and White, isn’t it? I’ve misplaced my copy. Surely the book’s publisher followed the guidelines.)

I haven’t read Manifold Destiny yet, but if ever there were a book that was perfect for a Commuter Daddy, this would have to be it. It has been added to the Wish List/reading queue. I hunted for a companion blog, but haven’t come across one. If you know of one, put a link in the comments.

During the interview, Scheller did say that American cars are generally the best for cooking while driving. My recently acquired VW may not make the cut (see item#18). Looks like I picked the wrong period of my commuting life to go with an imported car.

My biweekly, 4.5-hour trips to Middletown, though, have got to be ready-made for some slow roasting if I can find the right place in the engine compartment to park some vittles. It would be the ultimate multitasking feat. Maybe Prius Pork can be transformed into Passat Pork?

Porsches are apparently right out. I’ll keep that in mind the next time I’m in the market for one.

You know it’s time to lose weight when….

As I was filling Benjamin’s water bottle at the refrigerator, he started giggling.

“Dad, look at your belly!” he shouted

“What do you mean?” I asked. “What does my belly look like?”

Without missing a beat, Benjamin stuck out his stomach as far as he could, arching his back for effect, so that he had a good beer belly going himself.

Quite the little personal trainer our youngest has become….