Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Back By Popular Demand...

Let's face it kids, you all missed the fatty fat fatty, did you not?

As you all know, today is (part of) Fat Tuesdayweek.  I'm sure there's some of you out there trying to get in shape, or already superior physical specimens out there saying to yourselves today, "Oh dear lordy bee, I had me-self a half a paczki and I feel soo bay-ad."  Meanwhile in America's High Five State, a man is running the gauntlet of every bad food he can tap into for the week before the clock strikes midnight and Lent begins, and it's all over for him (and running season seems to truly begin). 

Sure, I've had a good start to the year, but Fat Tuesday is a tradition, so I'm sticking with it.  A few years ago, I started stretching it out to a week Tuesday-Tuesday, because trying to fit all my favorite horrible things into one day is impossible and digestively aggravating.  Let's see what's on the board...

February 14th/7th Annual FVD Holiday Extravaganza
This requires a back-story.  I'll try to be brief.  In 2006, I got tired of being depressed on Valentine's Day.  The 14th is dad's death anniversary (2003), so if I wasn't alone on that day, usually my sh*tty attitude would make it so, and after already doing it twice, I wasn't about to just let that cloud hang over my head for life.  I called up a couple single bros and left them voicemails basically saying, screw (we used a more vulgar word) the holiday for making single people feel like a group of society's defectives and making us cower in our homes, let's go out to the bar.  We went out to the loft, we owned that bar for that night (much like we owned any bar in those days), and thus began FVD and this idea that we were the "undisputed 'Kings' of this town." 

Now that we're old, and that title has passed, two things from that night still remain:  the pledge that we'd celebrate together on that day, single or not, and not bail on our friends and when we say goodbye, we count the number of us out on our hands in unison and throw those fingers up on the top of our heads as a crown.  I think initially it started off as a cynical anti-love thing for a few of us, but it's grown into more of an inclusive thing that everyone looks forward to.  My wife secretly still gets her flowers, and dinner, and she gets drinks of top of it.  We usually end up doing more with our friends that night than we'd ever do by ourselves.  I think it's become a really nice tradition, and, no, we're not out trying to ruin anything for you mushy couples...it's never been about that, even though you may look over and realize we're having more fun than you.  Also we've made matching T-Shirts since the 2nd one, which usually turns out to be either awesome or a total nightmare.  This is because we never plan a thing ahead ever, and get the whole thing, including the design, together after work.
2012 Logo
My Wife's FVD card to me. It pretty much ruled my universe, much like her.
Anyway, chalk me up for a huge burger at Ashley's in Ann Arbor (first time we took this show outside of Flint or Detroit).  They have half the world on tap so I had a St. Feuilliien/Green Flash Biere De L'Amitie , two Founders All Day IPAs, and a Primordial Porter.  Then I finished up my shoestring fries with my wasabi sauce.

Feb. 15th
Hello buy one get one BK Chicken sandwich...two original please...
Feb 16th
I forgot and I ate healthy...stupid, stupid, stupid

Feb 17th
BK chicken again, originals again.  Ate both slow enough to realize they now taste a little like ground cardboard.  Then some night time rice krispie treats made by yours truly.

Feb 18th
It was my last pre-Lent chance to test this Five Guys place.  I still have never been to one and there was one within striking distance of the beer run my wife and I were on.  So we stopped and each of us got a burger and split a fry and a diet Barq's.  Cajun fries are good, but nothing you can't make at home, and the burgers are good, but it's about the same as a Halo Burger only thinner and taller.
After the Five Guys, we had our "Super Boris Funtime Party," watching Russian-themed movies while trying to purge the excess wedding vodka.  We managed to kill a bottle of Smirnoff, and drank a few Russian/Ukrainian beers that we realized had been expired for over a year but bought anyway.  The beer store must not move Russian beer too often.  I also realized I may have missed my calling as a bartender.

Small Carnage
Feb 19th
Sunday was Lucky's with my wife, brother, and sister for lunch.  So it was chicken parmesan, side of alfredo, and a lot of Dr. Peppers.
Then I picked up some Kroger Jammed Cookie Dough ice cream later that night.
Feb 20th
I finally had my first Taco Bell of the year.  24 total layers of burrito (two 7's, two beefy 5's)

Then, for dinner, it was time to raise the red roof...
My wife, her dad, and I destroyed a large onion and green pepper pizza, 22 wings, and a 5 piece breadstick.  Oh, and then a few hours later I knocked out a package of pizza rolls.

Fat Tuesday
After yesterday I couldn't even think about eating until maybe noon.  I've since made up some ground, and here comes the grand finale:

*Finalized Results*
2 Bavarian Creme Paczkis
1 16" Big John Steak and Cheese
A 5 mile run with Jason........wait, what the hell?  Didn't you just eat a lot of food?  Yes, but I am not human.
2 McDoubles
10 piece Chicken Nugget
2 pints of ale
48 oz of Coca-Cola
1 giant size Mallo Cup 4 pack
1 Raspberry Paczki
2 Tater Tots (yep just two)
A handful of gumballs
1 12 oz bottle Founders Dirty Bastard

...and that's it for the time being.  I will update if there's any more, but I feel semi-pregnant and there is no room at the food inn, so I figured I'd write you all and give you the food collapse that you all so missed.  Especially since this year I'm going to get very serious and snap back into gear tomorrow, when I magically turn into a very healthy, helpful, and contributing individual.  I also tend to enter what the Brewers called "Beast Mode" last year about this time.  First up on the hit list is probably the Corktown Race.  I will see you all on the other side.

Oh, and Friday we're going to bring home our Corgi puppy.  His name is "Renfield."

Renfield two weeks ago

Monday, February 6, 2012

Fuzzy Super Bowl XLVI Memories

After waking up incredibly early for 7am mass and running into my little brother there, with both of us wondering why the other was up so early on a Sunday morning, I made it back to my place to put some finishing touches on preparing the house for the big game.

The night before, with most of the work done, my wife and I marvelled at our house's cleanliness and wondered why we only get it this clean before we know people are coming to totally trash the joint.  I got home from church, and crawled back in bed with the girl and the kitten for a bit, until she got up for work.  Then I woke up, brewed some coffee and flipped on the stereo to shuffle some Velvet Underground, The Who, Hall & Oates, Steely Dan, and a few others while I finished dishes, sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming up the joint.

I moved the extra couch into the living room to provide the stadium seating, and just sat around enjoying the clean house and the music.  It was past 1pm, and I was going to flip the basketball game on as soon as anyone got there, but I was just enjoying the music, the coffee, and the clean house too much to part with it before I had to.  Nick finally showed, we cracked a few Molsons, and we turned it on, and it was pretty lopsided in MSU's favor.  Ken, his nephew, and brother-in-law showed up and brought the huge meat and cheese tray, and some hard ciders, and mike showed up with some more beer and dip.  The party was officially on.

I had Mike and Jeff help a friend of mine with his resume over a Sierra Nevada Ruthless (Rye IPA) and after that I just kind of popped into floating host mode, going around and talking to everyone.  I bounced around for a while, had a couple Founders Dirty Bastards, and then went back with Mike and Jeff and had a ceremonial run on the Arcadia Shipwreck Porter.  Then we jumped into the Atwater Vanilla Java Porter that I had loved and talked up so much.  Only this time, At-Water once again lived up to their name and it tasted like flavored watery crap.  I usually hate every beer they make, but this WAS good for the first two batches I had, and I'm hoping they haven't ruined it for good.  Only time will tell.  I made some guacamole, and bounced around a bit more, had some of Jen's enchilladas, made a store run with Jen and Jeff to get more enchillada materials, and came back with New England finishing up a long drive shortly before halftime.

The score was 10-9 at the time.  I was barely watching the game, and I couldn't really care less about Madonna and whoever those other people were, so I don't know if the halftime show was good or not.  Also, I can honestly say I don't remember a single commercial from last night either, and I don't think that all can be blamed on 6.6%, 8.5%, and 12.0% ABV beers.  I just wasn't engaged by the game, and it didn't seem like anyone else was either.  There was no cheering for TDs, no laughing at commercials, and not a lot of craziness going on at all. 

I think the majority wanted the Pats to win, but I think everyone figured the G-men would win, and whatever happened just brought out very little reaction across the board.  I spent more time in conversations than the game.  I would put my watch total for the thing at maybe 20­±5 minutes.  It was just more engaging for me to be talking to people, getting things for them, showing them where things are, and just trying to be Mr. Hostman than sitting in a chair watching a game I didn't care too much about.  I mean, did New Yorkers and New Englanders need any more reason to puff themselves up than they already do?  I didn't think so.  Either way, one of them was going to become even more intolerable. 

Most of the second half, I spent realizing that my head was a little fuzzy and I started rehydrating and getting some absorbent food in me.  Before I knew it, I'm looking at the clock, and just before 10:00pm, the whole thing's over.  This had to be one of the faster Super Bowls ever.  Also, my entire house was empty by 10:30pm.  Nobody lingered or spent the night, and the house wasn't even all that messy.  It was pretty incredible. 

I spent most of my lunch break trying to tally calories from my memory bank of the night instead of actually eating food (because I was still full), and I blasted way past that 2,500 average they quote for the average Super Bowl consumption by a person.  I'm looking at something more like 5,000-6,000 and probably over 2,500 just for the drinks.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Brent vs. the January

I would write about the Winteräufe and show you pictures of that, but it was incredibly uneventful (8K, 46:55).  This sorry excuse for winter melted all the ice and snow sculptures from last weekend.  The only thing left of it was a few ice cubes on the ground and some snow plowed in an alleyway.  Quite a bit different from last year when it was all still up and being awesome.

Last Year
This winter is pathetic.  I'm really hating it.  Besides, I'm slower than all these people as it is.  The only advantage I had was the winter when a good chunk of them are "Sissy Skinner" (NOT the senior women's tennis olympian) and stay indoors on their treadmills, and now that's gone.

You know what's also gone?  "Yep, you guessed it....Frank Stallone."

Just kidding, January's gone.  So it's time to check in on me and see if I'm completely slacking off here.

The Ones of the Twelves

1) Pick 12 things of social importance that I've had limited exposure to, but decided I didn't like and immerse myself in each of them for 1 month. 

Westerns - I know I'll lose a stamp or two on the man card for admitting it, but I was pretty sure I didn't like westerns, not even the Eastwood ones.  Westerns were always something that my Dad and Uncle Bob watched that kept me from watching real television.  They were boring, and usually just a bunch of guys riding ponies around in the wilderness until they have to kill a bunch of Native Americans or other cowboys to get some sort of reward or loot they didn't earn.

So I spent my January immersing myself within this genre of film that not only was an American staple, but seems to come back in spurts for a couple years in each decade.  So I went out and watched everything from early 1900s westerns to John Wayne westerns to 80's westerns, and beyond.

The Verdict:  It's not a genre I can continue to dismiss.  While I can still say fairly reasonably that 75% of the time I don't like them, some of the 25% I have liked have been well worth the hours spent.  However, I still haven't met a John Wayne movie I like.  I still never really jumped into the Eastwood movies, but I figured they'd be around and now that the door's been opened enough, I will see them.

Brent Approved:  High Noon, Tombstone, Westworld, Magnificent Seven, Young Guns, and True Grit

2)  Learn 12 new recipes (1/month)
That stuffed peppers recipe that I kind of concocted out of nothing is pretty much perfect, fast, and easy. Let's not forget delicious. Definitely will do that again. Other than that, I don't think I tried another new one. I know I spent about a bag of potatoes and flour trying to perfect the pierogies, and ended up with 100+ in the freezer. They must have been delicious. They've mysteriously disappeared already.

3)  Do 12 home improvements (1/month).
We got a window box/tv stand in the bay window made for the living room and it's allowed us to get rid of a lot of clutter in here.  Normally I'd be sitting and typing this while thinking I should straighten up the living room, but now it all has a place and it stays there.  I even got our stereo hooked up to everything, which has never happened until now.  We also put up a lot of our friends photos and wedding photos around the place, and it's just so much more alive in here.  I feel surrounded by good memories.  I think it counts as at least one, even though it's not the one I planned for this month.

4)  Try 12 new restaurants (1/month).
Maybe this barely counts, but I ate at the White Horse.  Now, I've cut my teeth on drinking there several times in my life, but I couldn't say I've ever eaten there.  That probably has something to do with the voice in my head that only talks about Taco Bell when he's been drinking.  Now I've finally tried their famous Black and Blue burger, and it's kind of fighting for my hometown burger affection with the Torch.  It's also been a while since I drank there and they've really stepped up their selection.  Other than that, we're still stuck in our rut, but when that rut is a delicious Thai restaurant where everything on the menu is delightful, it's hard to complain.
Trying to point to the White Horse window behind me
Enjoy the Super Bowl, everyone.  I have enough food and beer to take care of a small army, and I haven't even seen what everyone else will be bringing.  I don't it think will break 20+ people in here like the last two years, but we'll see.  I'm at 12 confirmed, and with the MSU/UM b-ball game on at 1:00pm, I fear for us and the extra 5 hours of drinking.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Snowshoeing in Search of Sasquatch

...And now Part 2 in the cliffhanger I left you with, regarding the toe:

As I write this, I've still been avoiding contact on it.  I've been walking around it, and avoiding putting any pressure on it.  My right calf has taken the brunt of it, because favoring my toe has made it do more work and it's pretty much been pulling or in threat of pulling at any given time since last Wednesday. 

Friday night as we drove up to Traverse City, I was still pretty unsure whether I would be able to do much at the Bigfoot Snowshoe Race.  Not only that, but we kept heading north and I didn't see any snow, despite what the Running Fit people said in their email.  Even in Traverse City, there wasn't a lot on the ground.  Was there enough to use snowshoes?  Sure, but not really enough to where they'd be feasible, and definitely not enough to where they'd be required.

We settled into our hotel room, and Jason called to ask what we planned on doing for the night. We eventually settled on trying out the North Peak Brewery. The food was okay, but the brews were really tame and built for people that have no adventurous beer taste whatsoever (even the IPAs). I wasn't impressed, especially when everything that looked good to me ended with our waitress informing us that they were "out" or it was unavailable, and that was after waiting 30+ minutes. North Peak, if this gets back to you, you gotta ditch that Sun.-Thurs. menu, or at least don't give it to people that are there on a Friday or Saturday. After getting back from that, I did a little leg and toe soaking in the hot tub, read a little bit of the Theo Fleury autobiography, watched a bit of HBO, and went to bed.  I woke up to a truck scraping the pavement outside my window while he was plowing some snow.  I looked out the window and was immediately excited.  We got bombarded with about 5-8" of snow overnight.

I turned off the alarm before it ever went off, and started getting ready, thinking maybe I'd get an earlier start than planned with the weather.  I was ready to go about 7:00 and hadn't heard from Jason yet, so I went off for some continental breakfast alongside all the couples with small children that woke them up way before they were ready.  The early start didn't happen, because the weather held Jason up from getting to the hotel, and it made us miss a turn out on the roads.

I can usually find the place otherwise.  The Timber Ridge campground and resort is actually where my family went on vacation every summer until my dad passed away in 2003.  For most of those years it was actually a Jellystone Park, with plenty of activities to keep us kids busy, an arcade where I hustled older kids for quarters on Centipede, and where Yogi, Boo Boo, and Cindy Bear all came to visit our campsite while my parents made us dinner over a campfire.  Even when we got older, it was something we looked forward to every year, and instead of being excited by seeing Boo Boo, I'd get asked to fill in and play him.  There was something for everyone, even when it became privately owned and ditched its franchise name.
Strapping In
The race started without us, so we tried to get out snowshoes on in a mad rush to get going.  We probably should have at least tried to put them on once before, and maybe even walked in them.  Yeah, Jason and I had never even walked in snowshoes before Saturday.  We're just not good with this whole prepping thing.  If there's ever any sort of apocalypse, don't look to us for any survival cues.  I just plan on following DEMCAD's lead, ha ha.
Photo Op
The race started off easy enough and off we went, running in our snowshoes for the first time. About 1/4 mile in we ran into a single-file track and we were stuck behind the walkers and had to stop and walk with them.  It opened up a few times, but we still got stuck behind walkers.  I was still favoring the big toe on my right foot, so the stopping and starting, along with the cold and the new angle I was putting my foot down started to take its toll on me.  My right calf started to tense up, and after that I realized how exhausting this snowshoeing really is.  I was zonked.

I was still somewhere in the middle of the pack until I realized my heel was rubbing.  I stopped and realized my back strap and the plastic grip on it had found its way to my heel and dug in just inside my shoe.  After I stopped and got that away from there, I realized I was bleeding a bit and it actually hurt a bit.  I made an adjustment and followed the group up a steep hill where it was all single-file once again.  A lot of people were holding onto branches and trees for dear life, and trying not to fall backwards, taking 5 or 6 people out with them.  Not all of them succeeded.  There were a few human bowling incidents, but I managed to make it without incident.

After that debacle, I made three more stops to adjust my shoes and that damn strap to relieve some of the heel pain.  It wasn't happening, and I was totally bombing this race.  Jason caught up and stopped with me, asking what was wrong.  Apparently he had taken a pretty good spill back there and was recovering time from learning how to stand back up on snowshoes.  We ended up sticking together and finished the first 5K loop.

After the first 5K, I did a complete stop and sit by the water station, trying desperately to find some way to rig my shoes for it to not rub.  It wasn't happening.  If there were any more people in the 10K behind us, they all called it a day and took the right turn for the 5K cut-off.  There was nobody passing us at the aid station.  I seriously thought about turning back to the 5K finish myself and just calling it a day, but, as many people have learned, Jason and I are very stubborn about finishing things.  We didn't care if we were last, and I didn't care if I ripped all my heel's skin off (more about this later), we came up for a 10K and dammit, we were doing one.

Jason and I push on into the second 5K loop with only each other and the snowy woods as company.  We lost the trail a few times and had to stop and look for the next orange/pink marker to know where to go, because it all looked the same at this point, and we had nobody ahead to follow.  About halfway through, the nut on one of the bolts on Jason's snowshoe found its way off, and he was down to only his boots with one crampon still strapped to it.  We made a couple "Cool Runnings" references about having to finish the race and continued on.  We climbed that steep hill again, and came running in the wrong way to the finish line, until my wife marshalled us back over to the left path.

We tried our best to fake a good-looking finish, despite the fact we walked 90% of the second loop and it took nearly 2 hours for us to finish the 10K, finishing dead last in our age group.  When I got in, my wife told me she had been waiting out in the cold and listening to Jack Johnson (that the PA was playing), two things she hates, so she could see me finish. I grabbed some water, some of that awful HEED stuff, took off the snowshoes, and went inside the lodge.  I was hoping for coffee or hot chocolate, but had to settle for a chili to warm me up.
I wore my Dad's old coat up there to kind of sentimentally bring part of him with me for the race to his favorite old spot, and it was soaked from both sides.  I was soaked everywhere, so we didn't stick around very long because I got really cold, really fast.  Basically as soon as I got that chili down and got a photo of the winners' Bigfoot trophy (there were 4 for each gender winner of both races), we were out of there.  I cured the cold by putting on the new Bigfoot long-sleeve and taking a short trip to Speedway for the hot beverage I so craved (and gas for the Vibe).

Bigfoot Winners' Trophy
We went back to the hotel, and I peeled half of my heel skin off in one motion, like it was a band-aid.  My toe looked pretty gross again, but I didn't feel that because it was frozen.  My calf was on the pulling borderline.  My legs were just beat to hell.  So I showered, and bandaged up a bit.  I did more hot tubbing, and we went back out in the world for some food.

After that we went to Right Brain Brewery, which was much more my speed.  Their bartender gave us a couple additional samples based on what we initially chose, and threw a couple suggestions our way.  She was very very helpful, and hooked me into a couple pints of beers I may have picked around.  They also carried the Black Star Farms Celestial hard cider, which was really smooth, dry, and tasty.  It's really high up there on my cider list now.

There were quite a few styles I really liked and appreciated (some too much), like the Firestarter Chipotle Porter.  Plenty of places have tried to make a beer like this and failed miserably.  Right Brain's is very impressive, with a great roasty taste on the trip down and a nice slow tingling burn in the aftertaste.  I haven't had better.  The tamer, staple beers are also done really well, so well that I was impressed and could have sat with pints of them all night as well.  Even some of the crazier brews, like the amber made from sweet potatoes, are accessible in their tastes.  It was a really great place and is fitting somewhere in the top 3 out of breweries we've been to for me.  Jason and Jessi both loved it too, so it was a clean sweep.
All in all, I'd call the weekend a great success.  I was able to do the race despite my toe, and despite shredding my other foot during the race.  Prices are really depressed up there this time a year, so it didn't cost very much to do this trip and get a really nice hotel.  I think this may become tradition.  The bar for this race has been set very low, so there's little chance we won't do better next time.  Besides it's fun to go to the beach in winter...right?
Are we doing this beach thing right?
Before you find your way into a snowshoe race of your very own, I have a few pointers:

1)  Make sure your snowshoes are on completely correct and tightened properly.  Even if the race is starting without you and there's no time to spare, you'll have better luck in the long run just making them right.  Don't believe me, and you'll learn the hard way too.
2)  Bring an extra coat with you so you'll have a dry coat to change into
3)  Even if you have zero access to snow, walk around in them on some grass and get used to the feel.  It's not a normal step that you'll be taking
4)  Wear shoes that leave a good deal of space between the end of your toes and the front of the hole in the shoe.  That way you won't get a clog of snow stuck under the front of your foot that can't fall through the snowshoe.
5)  Don't wear a sweater under your coat unless it's pushing near single digit (F) temps.  You won't be that cold.
6)  Make sure your pockets are zipped closed or are empty.  Anything in them will get lost with the bouncing about.
7)  When going up any steep hill, if you're not really good and balanced, wait until your shoe catches and sticks until you take the next step.
8)  Tape your heels and/or wear thick socks.  Your shoes will be moving around on your feet much more than they usually do, especially if you didn't put your shoes on properly.
9)  Be thin, because they don't even make the racing style rated for my weight (that I saw anyway).  I'm guessing it's because there's a very limited population of fat running snowshoers.
Shirt, Bib, and Button

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