Tuesday, March 29, 2016

My Favorite Brunch and Bloody Mary: Fetch Bar & Grill

Fetch Bar & Grill
"In a perfect world, every dog would have a home and every home would have a dog." - Author Unknown

One of these days, I’ll write a post about some of the best places in the United States to raise a family if you’re a single dad. When I do, I’ll certainly include Warwick, New York where I and my family have lived since 2003. For now, though, I’ll highlight one of the many reasons the Village of Warwick is so awesome: the Sunday brunch at Fetch Bar & Grill.

A casual dining restaurant located on charming Main Street in Warwick, Fetch features a couple of great hooks. First, Fetch offers reservations for patrons
Adam Powers
and their dogs. Yes, dogs. Outdoor seating is, obviously seasonal, and preference for sidewalk dining is given to customers who want to bring along a canine companion. The staff even brings a bowl of water for man's (or woman's) best friend along with water glasses for the table and a basket of fresh French bread and raspberry butter. The second is the surprisingly scrumptious and reasonably priced menu offerings created by celebrity/chef/owner and New York Restaurant School alumnus, Adam Powers, who’s plied his trade at the likes of The Rainbow Room, for Broadway openings and nightclub parties at Studio 54, Xenon, The Underground, and The Roxy, and was featured on an episode of Food Network's Chopped.

"Abby" by Tom Hedderich
The first thing you’ll notice as you walk through the double doors into the dining room is the dog theme. Believe me, when you’re seated at your table, you’re far from a trip to the “dog house.” Themed photography and original paintings from artists such as Jody Whitsell and the award-winning watercolor artist Tom Hedderich decorate almost every inch of the walls, while the eclectic menu offers new takes on American bistro fare. I’d like to talk about the Philly Cheese Steak Eggrolls, the Turkey Pot (which is an entire Thanksgiving dinner in a crock bowl), and the Cracked Black Pepper Crusted Yellowfin Tuna included on the dinner menu, but this post is about the brunch.

While a Homemade Granola, Eggs Florentine, and Smoked Salmon Benedict are great choices, I have a couple of favorites. First of all and the flat-out truth, Fetch's Buttermilk Pancakes are the best pancakes I’ve ever tasted. I’m one of those guys who tries to keep my carbohydrate intake down as my age goes up, but these flapjacks are worth the cheat. Light inside, crispy outside, and sweet all over, Adam has found the magical formula for griddle cakes. My son, aka The Favorite Son, won’t order anything else to complement his Shirley Temple. When I’m not carb-cheating, my favorite brunch is either the Caesar Salad or the Wedge Salad followed by the Smoked Salmon Scramble, which are eggs scrambled fluffy with cream cheese and lox, although I prefer the lox on the side.

Smoked Salmon Bagel
No Sunday brunch is be complete without a Mimosa or a Bloody Mary, both of which are featured on the menu. However, Fetch’s Bloody Mary is definitely one of the best I’ve had. What’s in it? Well, frankly, I don’t know. Adam’s concoction is pre-mixed, so the bartenders just has to add your favorite vodka. The worst news I’ve heard at Fetch once after ordering a Bloody Mary for me and my date was, “We’re out of Bloody Mary mix and Adam’s not here.”

Fortunately, that’s the only bad news I’ve had from my many Fetch experiences with the possible exception of, “There’s a 40-minute wait for a table.” Call ahead. You won’t have to look too far to say, “Hello,” to Adam. Very likely, he’ll come to your table, thank you for stopping in, and make sure you’re enjoying your meal. When he asks, your answer will be an easy one. “Yes.”

Fetch Bar & Grill
48 Main Street
Warwick, New York 10990

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Advice for Single Father Job Seekers

So, after I became a partnerless parent in 2005, I spent most of the next decade away from the career for which I had the majority of my training and experience: professional management. Just like a good peddler knows he can sell anything from potato chips to computer chips or pharma to farm equipment, I believe the skills that a professional manager possesses, from the ability to build a motivated and skillful team to creating satisfied customers to managing profit/loss statement are not industry-specific. As I continued to be a father to my three children, I’ve slogged in such diverse trades as content creation and writing, energy, transportation, property management, and publishing.

When my eldest daughter started her junior year in high school and college tuition was less a light at the end of the tunnel than a freight train bearing down on me, I began to network with friends and colleagues in an attempt to return to my chosen career. A few months later, my effort yielded a leadership role with a respected national school bus contractor. However, a couple of years later, I encountered what millions of Corporate America ladder-climbers have experienced, a corporate realignment and reduction-in-force (RIF).

As a person who'd voluntarily take time away from the traditional job market and now as a part of a statistic, the U.S. Unemployment Rate, I can provide some direction to both my professional peers and my single father brothers for whom I continue to create content. If you've been a victim of termination, RIF, lay-off, or if you've voluntarily taken time away from the rat race for personal reasons, then I have a few suggestions for you.

Single dad and previously unemployed Chris Gardner whose story was told in Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith.

  1. Catch Your Breath – Chances are the work you did required a degree of skill, dedication, and focus. By association, the work was probably stressful, as well. Take a little time to catch your breath and do some of the things that make your heart happy. Finish some home or personal projects. Get organized. Have a little fun. When I worked, a friend had taken care my kids in the morning and got them off the bus in the afternoon. With the additional time, I was once again able make breakfast for my two children still at home, drive them to school, help with homework, and, frankly, enjoy them.
  2. Set the Table – If you intend to return to the workforce in a position similar to the one you’d previously held, reach out informally to your circle of professional allies and friends and tell them about your situation. Those people who know you the best and know your capabilities will keep their ears and eyes open and pass along your name when they hear about opportunities.
  3. Sharpen Your Saw – In The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball, I’ve recommended that newly-minted single dads should take some time to “Be the best you that you can be.” My advice for new job seekers is similar. Take some time to hone your skills. If you haven’t completed a college degree, enroll and get started. If you can test for the CPA, CFP, SHRM, or any other acronym, schedule the certification test, study, and get credentialed. By doing so, you’ll become a more valuable asset in the employment marketplace both as a result of the qualification and the fact you’ve demonstrated a willingness to continue your education. Speaking from experience, hiring managers dig that stuff. In my case, I’m finishing a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt program, but there are almost as many ways to improve a skill set as there are job seekers.
  4. Get Out There – Finding a job has become a lot like on-line dating or, just dating in general. There are all kinds of algorithms that recruiters use to source the best candidates that “match” the opportunity. You need to find the job that will meet your preferences just as the hiring manager needs to find the candidate who meet’s the employer’s needs. While getting out there today does include working with online recruiters like Ladders, Indeed, LinkedIn, and even Monster, getting out there also includes getting involved in your community and in your industry. Volunteer. Attend local business, service, and political events. Write a blog. Get involved and get noticed.
  5. Consider Your Options – You’ve been around the block a few times, right? You’ve done and seen a lot of stuff in your professional career and you’re more than a little competent dealing with customers, vendors, employees, government agencies, and just about anything and anyone else you can imagine. As you consider your professional career path, consider your tangible and intangible assets. Do you have a skill or unique knowledge of an industry or a group of people that may be valuable to a large group of businesses? If so, you may want to consult for fees. Do you own an asset, like real estate that could be re-zoned and converted into a business or a more valuable asset? Do you know an underserved market that can benefit from a product or service you can provide? Think creatively and bust a few paradigms as you consider your next step. 
  6. Choose Wisely – It’s cliché, but we really do spend a great deal of our lives in
    Father Like a Tree (2005)
    our chosen profession. Considering life is short, why not make the most of the time we have by choosing a career from which we don’t need a vacation? Why not choose to do work that is personally and professionally fulfilling? Build something that will create a legacy and will pay figurative and literal dividends for you and your children, and, perhaps, your children’s children? That work may not be working for a salary. When I was managing the division for the national school bus contractor, I took pride in the fact that I was able to support a team that transported tens of thousands of students to and from school each day safely, on-time, and ready to learn. When I published a book and someone would write or tell me how much he or she enjoyed it, I was gratified to know my words and ideas inspired someone else.

Bottom line? Manage your job search the same way you manage your life. Be confident. Be patient. Be smart. Yeah, we all know the adage that effective decision-makers, whether a single father, an executive manager responsible for a multi-million dollar profit/loss statement, or both, are “right” with a decision about 55% of the time, while ineffective managers go the right way only 45% of the time. It’s a fine line. In either case and in almost every circumstance, we have the ability to make another decision if the first one doesn’t work. Doing so, you just may find that right match in a job and in an employer and, perhaps, live happily ever after.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Who Wants to See Kim Kardashian's Hoo-Hah?

GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNINGSo, considering this is “The Single Father’s Guide Blog,” I address both single father parenting issues and navigating personal and romantic relationships as a single father, among many other topics. Few current events have afforded such a convenient opportunity to address both as Kim Kardashian’s recent post of a nude selfie on Twitter.

As a father of daughters, I think Ms. Kardashian’s counterfeit baby-talk, the overt, over-sexualization of her massive, imitation backside, and her constant “LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!” behavior including a tasteless sex tape provides a miserable role model for young girls. Her behavior and the complicit media scream, “Character, grace, and dignity are irrelevant. To get attention from the opposite sex, ladies, you have to artificially enhance your sexuality and then broadcast pictures of your vagina to anyone on the planet who owns a smartphone.”

As a man who has sought a life-partner through dating, Ms. Kardashian’s example has created another layer of artificiality through which to navigate to find authenticity. What a guy wouldn't give for a confident, intelligent woman who takes care of herself physically and emotionally and who is real from the tips of her toes to the top of her head.

The next time I hear some hypocritical, tedious talking head in the media blaming men or someone else for objectifying women, they’d better do a little self-reflection and ask themselves, “Do I promote behavior like that displayed by Ms. Kardashian for ratings or reader or advertising dollars?”

#KimKardashianYour15MinutesAreUp #StopGlorifyingIdiots

Kim Kardashian

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Single Father Cheat: Add Protein to Your Diet with FA!RLIFE Milk

I don't know the reason, but I always feel compelled to issue a disclaimer when I write about food. In today's case, I know a lot of folks don't think dairy should be included in the human diet. Still, you may as well refer to my blog as "The Pragmatic Single Father's Guide" dairy is an ingredient in everything thing from bread to cookies to soup.

So, recently, I had some luck with a brand of milk called FA!RLIFE, which is sold in whole, reduced fat 2%, fat free, and chocolate 2% varieties. What I like about FA!RLIFE is not only does the 2% have half the sugar of regular milk, but it also has 13 grams of protein per serving, which is nearly twice of regular cow's milk, about a third more calcium, and is hormone free. Frankly, I'm not convinced one way or the other about an adverse impact on humans who drink milk produced by cows treated with bovine growth hormones, but why take the chance?

The Favorite Son likes the Chocolate FA!RLIFE and regularly brings the 8 ounce variety to school for lunch almost every day. The Second Beautiful Daughter, who sometimes has some difficulty digesting lactose, drinks the reduced fat 2%. All four FA!RLIFE varieties contain lactase, so she feels comfortable drinking it.

FA!RLIFE is easy to use in recipes, too. While I often use Silk Soy or Silk Almond milk in my pancake recipes and other recipes, FA!RLIFE is a great option for people who prefer the taste of real cow's milk. It's a great way to get more calcium, to feel more full longer by increasing protein, and to avoid that bloated feeling that sometimes accompanies consuming dairy. Not a lot of downside with FA!RLIFE.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Single Father Economics: Housing Demand & The 2016 Presidential Election

As single fathers, we wear many hats. In addition to the sometimes overwhelming responsibilities of parenting, we also have the burden of providing a roof, food, clothing, health care, and the occasional distraction among other things for our children and for us. In my case, I’ve done that in many ways including writing, business consulting, corporate ladder climbing, and, beginning in 2007, real estate investing.

I bought a fixer-upper investment property a few years ago in the charming little New York village where I live. My thought was, if I can buy right, maintain a clean and attractive property, and treat customers respectfully and professionally, I could maintain an income flow even when some of my other endeavors weren’t producing. Maybe, I could build something for the future, too.

When I started to show apartments to prospective renters and noticed a trend. Considering my macro-economic little mind, I started to wonder about the variables that may drive housing demand and housing prices now and in the future. Considering 2016 is an election year, I wondered how politics may impact housing demand moving forward.

Based on my unscientific observations, divorced people are a significant driver of housing demand. In my little corner of the Universe, I’d estimate that a third of prospective renters are divorced, so I asked myself, “Why?”

Looking at the divorce rates over the last hundred years, it appears that two factors most impacted the divorce rates in the United States. First, Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Second New Deal provided government funds to through the Social Security Act, United States Housing Authority, among many others. Although I’m not making any value judgment on the need or soundness of FDR’s programs, the New Deals did serve to moderate the value two-parent families and made divorce a less unappealing prospect for many people considering the government subsidize lower-income divorced and single parents.

The other meaningful socio-political issue to impact divorce, in my humble opinion, is no-fault divorce, which was first made law in the United States in California in 1970. Ironically, the governor who signed the law was Ronald Reagan. In short, no fault divorce makes the dissolution of the marriage contract much easier in that it does not require either person to prove the wrong-doing of the other and, as such, neither has any financial (or other) liability exclusive of, perhaps, alimony or child support. While Governor Reagan had already changed his political affiliation from Democrat to Republican as of 1962, California voters have traditionally been a relatively moderate when it comes to politic perspectives.

Interestingly and more specifically social than economic, it appears the popularity of Facebook has more recently become a factor in divorce rates. Although not yet as significant as FDR’s New Deals or California’s no-fault divorce, the popularity Facebook correlates to an increase in divorces in the United States. Ironically, the peak of the divorce rate coincides directly with the Facebook’s initial public offering in May of 2012.

All of which brings us back to the current political climate and its impact on demand for housing. I think many will agree, New Deal programs of the 1930’s and no-fault divorce would typically be considered liberal social policies. Considering Democrats are considered more liberal than Republicans, and Socialists are viewed as more liberal than Democrats, Bernie Sanders may be the best bet to support and expand similar social policies. That may suggest that, if a Democrat takes the oath of office in January, then housing demand and related industries, from Home Depot stock to unemployment in the construction industry, will improve. On the other hand, Ted Cruz is considered socially and economically conservative candidate. According to PBS’s Lisa Desjardins, “Cruz believes that a marriage is between a man and a woman . . . ,” which means he opposes same-sex unions. If you agree with the logic, fewer marriages mean fewer divorces which means lower demand for housing. More interestingly, if Donald Trump is a Trojan horse like many believe he is, what does that mean for real estate?

To some extent, my conclusions are a little tongue-in-cheek, but only a little. There clearly are correlations between demand for housing and New Deal social policies, no-fault divorce, and yes, even Facebook. What you do with your money and your time, single dads, may be impacted to some degree on what happens on the first Tuesday this November. Now, it’s up to you to figure out what, exactly, that will be.