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Meet American dad Joel living in Portland, Oregon

Monday, 18 January 2010 by Irene Hoofs


My name is Joel Henriques.  I'm an at home dad, and live in Portland, Oregon with my wife and my 3 year old twins.  Along with being an at home dad, I try to squeeze in enough time to maintain my career as an artist.  We have a great nanny who comes over 3 half days a week so I can paint and work on my art.  My studio is on the top floor of our house, so I end up being around the kids all the time.  It's really fun for them to be able to pop in and see what I'm working on. 


Did you ever picture yourself being an at home dad?

It's funny, I actually remember when I was a boy, about 10 years old and watching that Mr. Mom movie with Michael Keaton, and thinking man, I could totally do that.  It seemed really fun to me.  I've always liked cooking and doing stuff around the house, so it works very well.  With twins it was challenging for the first couple of years.  They just turned 3 on January 1st, and it's way easier now.


Do you like to spend time on decorating your home and the children’s room?
I do love good design in all areas of life.  However, my approach for decorating these days is mostly trying to keep things from getting too crowded or cluttered.  I made a toy bench for the kids' toys in the living room, and it works well.  Clean enough to make a grown-up happy, and messy enough to keep the kids happy.  Right before the kids were born I made a "twin birds" painting for their nursery.  Along with paintings, I like making mobiles and hanging them around the house.


Are you a crafter or DIY person?
I absolutely love making things.  I'm constantly working on new skills, from welding and brewing beer, to latch hooking and embroidery.  We have a lot of family in town, which is great.  For the holidays, I hand embroidered some designs on tee shirts for all of the cousins, and our kids too.  It was fun, and everybody was excited to get them.  Also, last year I designed and built a playhouse in the backyard.  It's nice to be able to get outside even if it's a little rainy.  I painted one wall with chalkboard paint, and so far we mostly end up drawing in there.


What kind of DIY projects do you like to do with your children?
Yeah, my projects definitely changed when the kids arrived.  No more beer brewing, and a lot more sewing.  When we started buying toys for the kids I was interested in watching how they played and interacted with them, and then started designing and making toys myself.  I made stuffed animals, wooden dolls, puzzles, climbing toys, all kind of things. 

Now that the kids are bigger, we try to do crafts that are quick and rewarding.  I made a "portable zoo" one time by cutting animals out of thick paper and we colored them.  We store them in a mint tin and still play with them at restaurants.  Just recently we made finger puppets with construction paper and tape.  That was a huge hit, and again, very fast and easy.  Also, I've got a small shop in my basement with a scroll saw, and sometimes the kids come down and watch while I cut out animals or trucks for them, then we sand them together on the porch. 

Kidsart Fingerpuppets

Any tips for keeping the house clean when crafting?
My basic rule is that we have to clean up our current project before we start new one.  One mess at a time is much more manageable.

Books, websites, local shops you can recommend to get tips and ideas for kids crafting?
I usually wing it when I'm crafting, but I do have one book that I love, which is "Making Things" by Ann Wiseman.  It's a pretty well known book that's been around for years.  It has such great drawings in it, and tons of ideas.  You can usually find it online for about $5.  I've been thinking about making a craft book myself, and having it focus on fast and easy crafts with modern simple designs.  I do have a  craft blog where I post projects that I've been doing with the kids.

What do you do with all the projects your children made at home or in school?
Our kids both love to draw a lot.  We have a big folder where we keep some of our favorites, but what I do for most drawings is scan them into the computer so I can save them digitally.  It's a great space saver for sure, and also fun because I can post them online for family and friends to see and enjoy.


What are favorite games in your home?

Well, they still love silly games like horsey rides and airplane rides.  Anything where they get jiggled or bounced around.  Also, we love to play outside.  We have 3 chickens, and it's fun to pick dandelion leaves and feed them, or just run around with them in the back yard.  The kids love getting the eggs everyday too.  We eat the most delicious omelets.  It's great.


Are there musical instruments in your house?

Yes, we do a lot of music in our family.  I used to sing and play in rock bands.  My older sister, Lori is an amazing classical pianist, and my mom plays all kinds of instruments.  So yeah, lots of music around.  Now I mostly play my acoustic guitar, which the kids love.  I've written a few kids' songs that are really basic, but big crowd pleasers for the toddlers.  Whenever the cousins come over they beg me to play so they can dance around like crazy.  Also for bedtime, the kids always request a song I wrote called "Lonely Little Owl", and that's become a ritual for the last two years.  The other activity in our neighborhood that has been great for our music education is the program Music Together, I highly recommend it.


What are nice activities you can do with children in your place and what could you recommend when people are visiting?

Well for us, having friends over for dinner has been a favorite activity.  Sometimes when you have kids, you end up not going out as much, so my wife and I have different friends come over for dinner at least twice a month.  Some of them are amazing cooks and bring food and actually cook us dinner, which is fantastic.  Also most of them don't have kids, so they love to play and visit with the twins.  I think it's been really good for the kids, seeing all of our friends and interacting with them.  Before our guests would come over I used to show our kids photos of who was coming over to refresh their memories.  It really helped, and they would be a lot more communicative.  I don't need to do that as much anymore cause they know everyone so well now.


Are you a ‘cook’ or ‘food’ lover or both?
Oh yes.  I've worked in a lot of great restaurants in Portland, bartending and waiting tables, and I love food and drinks.  About 15 years ago I built my own coffee roaster so I could roast my own beans for lattes.  The kids love it when I make them steamers.  Another favorite in our house is cinnamon rolls that I make from my grandma's recipe.  Also, we get an organic fruit and vegetable box delivered to our house once a week which is an extremely big help when you have kids.  So we have a lot of good fresh food to cook with.  Portland is great for that.

Cinnamon Roll Recipe:

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 3 hours


  ● 1/4 cup warm water
  ● 1 package active dry yeast
  ● 3/4 cup lukewarm milk, scald then cool to lukewarm
  ● 1/4 cup sugar
  ● 1 tsp salt
  ● 1 egg
  ● 1/4 cup shortening, softened
  ● 3 1/2 cups white flour, measurement varies

Inside the Rolls:
  ● 1/4 cup butter, softened
  ● 1/2 cup brown sugar
  ● 2 tsp cinnamon
  ● 3/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped and roasted

Caramel Sauce:
  ● 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  ● 3/4 cup half & half
  ● 1/3 cup butter


Dissolve yeast in water, add milk, sugar, salt, egg, shortening and 1/2 of flour to the yeast.  Add enough flour to handle easily.  Knead on floured board until smooth (5 minutes).  Let rise in warm (85℉) place until double (1 1/2 hour).  Punch down, let rise again until almost double (30 minutes).   

Roll dough into oblong or rectangular shape.  Spread with soft butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar and 2 tsp of cinnamon, and chopped/roasted pecans.  Roll up tightly (length wise), seal by pinching sides together.  Cut into 1 inch slices.  Put into 13"X9" pan.  Cover and let rise until double, about 35-40 minutes. 

For Sauce, cook brown sugar, half and half, and butter in sauce pan until melted.  Then before baking drizzle about 3/4 of the sauce over the rolls, and then save the rest to drizzle over rolls again half way through baking (about 15 minutes into it).  Bake in 375℉ oven for 25-30 minutes.


What place do your children love to go to?
Our family has a house at the beach that we all go to.  It's about a two hour drive, so it's a pretty easy vacation.  The kids love playing on the beach when the Oregon weather is good.  Also it's just fun playing in a different house.  Seeing new things is great for kids, and adults too for that matter.  I must admit though, that packing is a huge effort when you have kids.  I used to be able to take one small bag on a weekend trip.  Now it's sippy cups, extra toys, books….. I'm really starting to see the value in buying a minivan.

How do you prepare for a trip, any useful tips?
We keep a pack list on our computer.  That way we can look at what we've needed to bring in the past, so we don't have to remember all over again.  It helps a lot.  Oh, and one great addition to our pack list is a medium sized fishing tackle box full of legos.  It was mine as a kid, and I just got it out of storage a few months ago.  It's very portable, and always a huge hit with all the kids and cousins.  I love fishing tackle boxes for storing things.

Can you mention some of your ‘how-to-raise-your-kid’ values?

One thing I try to always do is see things from my kids' point of view.

..Joel Henriques..

..Made by Joel blog..

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