Saturday, August 30, 2014

The bocce ball tradition

I play bocce ball once a year. No more, no less.  It is a 25-year old annual tradition that my in-laws started long before I married Jeff and thereby joined the family and more importantly (just kidding) the Bocce ball tradition.  And while I have only been involved for a dozen years, I will say the tournament is certainly a tradition I await with joyful anticipation despite the fact that I never do very well. I should. Statistically speaking, I am fairly strong and athletic and I am younger than about 90 percent of the playing field. I am a distance runner so I have decent stamina and I am also not shy or timid which can be problematic with the game of bocce ball.  Yes there is really no good explanation as to why year after year I continue to lose in the first (or in a good year the second) round of the tourney, but it is the way it seems to go for me and while I try not to let it get me down sometimes it does get me down.  Maybe this is my year to get into the third round!

The best part of this long standing tradition however has nothing to do with balls.  It's the food.  And in true "Karla" fashion the food is always well organized and and the meal is perfectly orchestrated.  Everyone is assigned a dish to bring and there is never a situation where 22 pans of brownies show up and no salads. Or a situation where tons of people show up and there are no napkins. Those kinds of things just don't happen in my mother-in-law's (Karla's) world. At my potlucks, on the other hand, we are lucky if there is anything other than potato salad and brownies and if no one has to eat off the floor! If I could get just one ounce of my mother-in-laws organizational skills, then I would have just one ounce of organizational skills!!!

This year I was assigned pasta salad.  I don't really even like pasta salad, but it is my assigned lot in life this year and I am not one to complain. Plus I like to try new recipes.  And as fate would have it, I happened to be scrolling through my news feed on facebook and stumbled upon a recipe for pasta salad from one of my favorite authors and Ree Drummond Check it out  Ree's pasta-salad-with-smoked-gouda-tomatoes-and-basil/ .  I have not mixed it up yet, but I am well on my way to enjoying this delicacy.

Here is my photo journal of its production:  By the way, it was quite simple and it looks delicious so it is already an "A" in my cookbook who cares if it actually tastes good! I sure don't!

 Fresh basil and cherry tomatoes our of the garden sliced up and mixed together!  YUMMY!

Mostaccioli Pasta cooked al dente!

 The not so secret ingredient:  GOUDA and it's even smoked!

Everything except for the kitchen sink, I mean the dressing!

So I am optimistic that this salad will be a big hit. Even if it is a total flop and nobody eats any of the salad tomorrow, it is okay. And even if it sits in my fridge until I can't recognize it, nor remember where it came from in the first place and I eventually end up feeding it to my chickens in a couple weeks even then after all that it is still a success in my eyes because I brought my assigned dish and it looks really amazing! And while looks isn't everything, looks does count with food at cookouts! Tomorrow, there will be so much delightful food that even if the beautiful salad is horrible, I will not go hungry. Nobody goes hungry at Bocce Ball! That is as unthinkable as bringing a dish other than the one you were assigned!

Forget about throwback Thursday, I am doing throwback Saturday!  This picture is from our camping trip in July.  The kids created ice cream cone castles with all the fixings!  It was my kid's idea and they had so much fun making these!  We saw the idea in a book we had gotten at the library and this was good entertainment for the kids on one of the rainy days. I did cheat to buy the ice cream cones, but the rest of the supplies were items that were on hand in my cupboards so I was glad to make progress with the food cleanse challenge!

Ice cream cone castles! Is there anything else quite so divine?  I think not.
Except for maybe Bocce Ball Day              

Happy (almost) Labor Day and have a great first day of school!

Vern Out

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Go the F*ck to Sleep

Parenting is a tough gig.  I have thought about this extensively and even completed a small amount of research on the matter (with a few disturbing findings I might add).  In the interest of time, I will share just my favorite two.  Did you know that beloved children's authors Stan and Jan Berenstein actually wrote a book entitled, "Why Is Mommy Moaning?" And also that a children's book exists that is called, "Go the Fuck To Sleep"?  Until I was researching this tonight neither did I!  I will say that there are occasions when I want to scream at my children to go the fuck to sleep, but I will also add that I have never actually done that, nor do I condone the book of the same title being used as a bedtime story for young children. That would just be crazy, but it may work on teens!

Well despite all my efforts in Research and Development, the best two comparisons I have in regards to parenting are these.  And they are not great comparisons because there really is nothing quite like parenting:  

Theory One:  Parenting is like running a frickin' marathon... without training... and by the way the marathon never actually ends. With parenting, you just keep running and running and running. And just when you feel like the finish line is finally in sight and you finally have a handle on the "routine of parenting" (if such a thing actually exists because for me it feels like parenting changes so often that having "parenting" and "routine" in the same sentence might be a stretch (or possibly a violation of some lesser known law).  Anywho.. In the unlikely event that you start to feel your life is running smoothly and that you have actually developed a somewhat successful parenting routine, something will change in that "routine" and you will find yourself again challenged as a parent. It is just the way it goes so try not to take it personally. We all suffer through this.  It is a rite of passage.  
Me just moments after completing my first actual marathon (26.2 miles) 
and let me tell you parenting is way tougher than that was!

Theory Two:  And the second comparison (which honestly is a tagline I am borrowing from the Peach Corps, but I gave them credit so we're cool) is that "Parenting is the toughest job you'll ever love".  And despite all of the craziness of parenting: The unpredictability,  the cruddy schedule (24/7/365), the lack of pay (or any type of traditional benefits package for that matter), the exposure to bodily fluids and other messy stuff.  Despite all of this, parenting is still the job I love the most. I realize that it is also the most important role I have in life.  I get that and I get that I am blessed with three beautiful, healthy and energetic kids (who need my constant love, attention, support, guidance and maid duties).  So while I am blessed, it is still a challenging blessing at times.  I totally get it and no matter how you slice it parenting is tough.

Sisterhood one of life's greatest gifts!

As a parent of three gregarious kids, these comparisons are both fairly accurate for me and yet still fall short of really describing parenting.   As I work (with my husband) to simultaneously raise these three kids and help them grow up into productive adults while working tirelessly to prevent them from growing up too soon, I am astounded by how fast time is passing. While I am busy worrying about what kind of negative impact I am having on our kids, they are busy growing up faster than lice spreads through a grade school classroom.  And unfortunately that's just life.  There is absolutely nothing I can do about the passing of time so quickly, nor the unfortunate reality that lice routinely spreads through my kid's school.  Someone call the School Nurse!

Anyhow,  I am talking about a whole lot of nothing related to my food situation so I am going to attempt to shift gears.  I make no guarantees, but for the record I drive a stick shift pretty damn well and I used to be pretty good on a tractor.  Here we go!  It might be a bumpy one so buckle up!

Let me start by saying, I by no means claim to be a culinary expert, or even an average chef, or really much of a cook at all, but I do try and once in awhile I get it right.  Tonight was not one of those times. It was really pretty awful.  We had a smorgasbord of random leftover foods out of Frieda the Fridge.  She is kind of like Alexander the Great only instead of conquering the Persian Empire, Frieda conquers our leftovers with military precision. She has no field combat experience, but she sure can properly store just about any variety of excess food necessary.  

Now I don't know everything about everything, but I do know a few things about dinner time at least with my family.  At our dinner table, presentation has a lot to do with how everyone eats.  It sets the tone for the entire meal time.  I can serve up the most disgusting meal ever, and if I do so with a smile on my face and a table that is properly decorated, it will receive rave reviews. I sure dressed up the "Leftovers Smorgasbord" I served up tonight. Check it out! 

 Yes it's a tablecloth (made of fabric not plastic)

 So what if the pear is overly ripe and the chips are stale!
We didn't go to the store and that is what's important!

 You had me at PIZZA~

This table was not up to my 8-year old's strict artistic standards!

Had my 8-year old daughter set the table, it would have been color coordinated, perfectly symmetrical and able to serve the royal family had they unexpectedly stopped by for dinner.  Oh and there would have been balloons involved someway, somehow.  But for Mom, with my limited art background, this is pretty darn impressive and people mostly ate well probably because of the nice tablecloth.  

So alas we are surviving without grocery shopping again, or still, or whatever and hopefully my parenting advice doesn't cause anyone to give up on their parenting aspirations or schedule a vasectomy.

PS The pizza really was leftovers from the feeding of the Friday night set-up volunteer crew at Brainy Day last weekend.  It was not a cheating pizza!

PPS.  This girl's gonna "go the fuck to sleep!"

Vern Out

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Buns of ...


Buns of steel, that is what I want, but alas I am stuck with buns of flour.  Thanks to the generosity of a friend who recently moved and passed three dozen buns my way, I have a lot of hamburger buns to use up!  Maybe someday I will get my steel buns, until then I will be dreaming of unique ways to use these wheat flour ones up!

I am at the point in Brainy Day process where everything that still needs to be done can't be done until Friday so now I am left to worry, or to write. I chose to write!

  This is a piece of Carrot Cake.  Nothing less. Nothing More.  Just a small taste of HEAVEN that was baked with love at one of my favorite places to dine, which is my special meeting place with my dearest brain buddy, Ms. N.  Who is both beautiful and intelligent; and one of the most authentic people I know. Yes, she is every bit as amazing as ice cream, wine and coffee. And you know how I feel about all of these things!  We dined. We Chatted.  We caught up.  And at the end of it all, I took this piece of cake home for breakfast the next morning!  It was such a great day!  Ms. N I love you and I will miss you at Brainy Day! It just won't be the same without you, but PLEASE don't feel like a turd that just won't flush because that makes me sad and I wish you  nothing but HAPPINESS!

What's a Girl to do?
 With a whole lotta eggs and a couple packs of hamburger buns?

Well make egg sandwiches of course!  Weird? Probably, but I prefer resourceful.  Yes resourceful that's what I am!  AJ loves Egg sandwiches even when I make them on hamburger buns! 

 Our chickens are producing at an all time HIGH.  They must have sensed my deep
disappointment this past winter when they were stuck in their serious laying slump. So they are increasing production now to make up for it.They are doing so well that they are almost back in my good graces. Almost.  Remember how long last winter was so not quite.  

 Honestly, I have a hard time using the eggs up so I have been sharing them with neighbors and friends!  Hazel is not about to be out done by her big brother so here she is showing off what remains of her delightful hamburger bun egg sandwich!  YUMMY!

Tonight instead of being naughty and going out to dinner like I originally requested (which I realize would have been really bad and totally cheating; but I didn't actually do it so it's all good), instead we went down to dinner; Yes we went down to dig through Chester and what we found was incredible!  A friend had passed along some old burritos after cleaning his freezer a couple of months ago. I could be wrong but I think they were home-made at some point in time. So we went ahead and ate them for dinner.  I realize the picture is not great, but it is the only evidence I have that the burritos actually existed because we ate every last morsel of them because they were surprisingly really delicious despite that they had lived inside two different household freezers for longer than it takes to grow a new human life!

We are still surviving and not shopping much.  Brainy Day is less than four days away and I am trying to keep my stress level at a manageable level, but I will be honest, I am struggling with this.  I  invite you all out to participate as either a competitive runner or as a leisurely strolling walker who just wants to get out in nature and burn some calories.  Brainy Day Registration Link!

Sweet Dreams,

Vern Out

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Farewell Captain

SURPRISE!  I thought I would go ahead and surprise everyone with an update. I hope you are SUPER SURPRISED and your heart is racing, but not so much that you go into cardiac arrest because I won't be able to help you and then I would feel really, really bad if that happened!

Well writing is therapeutic for me and I am officially in mourning over the loss of Robin Williams.  I loved every Robin Williams movie I ever watched. I am still trying to perfect my impersonation of Mrs. Doubtfire that I use when I get goofy cooking with the kids. This post is dedicated to him.  I speak for millions when I say, "you inspired greatly, you taught many and you will be missed terribly". May you rest in peace and God Bless.

First of all, Depression is a BITCH.  And I don't use the "B" word often, but it is true.  Depression is a horrible illness that ruins lives and I am somewhat disappointed in myself because I had no idea that he was struggling with depression.  No idea.  When I first read he was dead on Facebook last night, I was sure it was inaccurate.  Or a joke or something.  Awhile back someone had posted that Harrison Ford had died and I got all sad only to learn it wasn't true.  So I really thought it wasn't true.  But a few minutes of surfing the net led me to realize it was.  And then the horror that it was real took hold and I started crying.  I blame my hormones, or my faulty brain because truly who cries over a hollywood actor's death?  Not me, at least not normally.  It's not like I knew him personally or we were BFFs.  He was just an actor.  But seriously, how did I not know that about his struggle with depression? What rock have I been living under? Am I really that sheltered here in Nunica?  I don't know, but I am disappointed in myself.  Not that my knowlege of his depression would have changed anything, but still I was shocked, saddened, and disappointed in myself.  Enough, though this is getting depressing and I want it to be inspiring or entertaining or funny, a tribute to one who made so many laugh. Not depressing.

Last night (before I knew of Williams passing so unforunately I can't blame my emotional state on this incident) I went to the store for fruits, veggies and heavy whipping cream for making carbonara. However, I made a critical error in allowing my four year old to join me in my quick run through the store. Well we did come out the other side of the grocery store... twenty minutes later with a few extra items:  A few of them healthy and a few of them not so healthy.

My Favorite Carbonara Recipe adapted from Karla's Carbonara
1 pound of your favorite cooked pasta

alterations: add a bunch of delicious mushrooms sauteed in the butter for the sauce or a cup of frozen peas either or both are delightful in this recipe!

1 large carton of Heavy Whipping Cream
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 egg
cook over low heat for about 10 minutes or until it thickens

add a half a pound of cooked bacon and a cup of diced ham
add cooked noodles and stir it all together
HEAVENLY FAVORITE MEAL!  Best of all everyone in our family eats this one well!

 Not so healthy ham, heavy whipping cream and cheese for carbonara!
Carbonara is my favorite comfort food by far.  I make it often when I am hormonal.  When I am sad, I cook up a batch of carbonara. When I am happy, I eat carbonara.  When I mourn a great loss, you guessed it carbonara.  And to celebrate great victories, I eat carbonara too. I also eat it to carbo load before a big race, or to recover after serious medical issues like brain surgery.  You name the occasion and I would likely choose carbonara for it. It is just such a wonderful dish.  You get all the best foods in one simple dish, cheese, bacon and mushrooms so it was somewhat fitting that I planned to make it last night, but because of the influence of my four year old I didnt actually cook it until tonight.  And it served once again my comfort food when I am so sad about the loss of Robin.  Last night, we ended up eating french fries and corn dogs because my four year old managed to talk me into the gametime switch in our menu last night as we strolled through Orchard Market  She really is persuasive. 
This is dialog from our discussion about the corn dogs.

Hazel: (full of jubilation) "Mommy look at this gigantic box of corn dogs"
Me (not nearly so enthusiastic): "yep"
Hazel (still full of excitement and sheer joy): "I bet there must be a millionty, thousand, hundred  corn dogs in that big box. mom. Isn't it spectacular"
Me: (still not excited and in a hurry mind you) "Yes spectacular indeed" PAUSE in the conversation
Hazel:  Can we eat them all for dinner tonight betuz I am really hungry and there are a lot of corndogs in that big box and then I won't be really hungry anymore"
Me (still not excited, but realizing I am about to cave in) SIGH "we better get the really big box of corn dog if you are really hungry.  I love you, Hazel"

Really though, how can you argue with that logic or refuse her the corn dogs she so clearly needed in that moment? And who can eat corn dogs without french fries? Not us. That much is for sure so we bought a large bag of those as well!

Shortly after the corn dog decision, I found chips buy one get one free and had to grab a couple bags to quiet my husband's disdain about no chips in the house.  He really is a chip addict and it is not pretty, but I try to keep him happy and potato chips in his lunch makes him happy.

Stock photo from previous shopping excursion at Meijer.
 Not so healthy potato chips for my main squeeze's lunches the next couple weeks! I swear there are some healthy things in here really soon!

 Apparently I was concerned about our gut health and our calcium intake on this shopping trip too because I bought all this stuff and more in the dairy department!  MOOOO!

 I have also been cooking up sun tea a lot this summer.  This is primarily due to the fact that we have a crap ton of tea in our pantry and I am determined to use it up before summer's end! 

I have been craving Frosted Mini Wheats for months now so I fed my craving for dinner last night since my daughter selected corn dogs and french fries for the rest of the family to have for dinner.  Don't judge. It had been a long day and she is really cute, very intelligent and highly persuasive!  She might be a politician or a lawyer someday.

                          I occasionally still do actually cook real food out of Chester for my family these days!  This was my latest creation Penne pasta with peppers, zuccini, mushrooms and marinara sauce!  We dined on this last week before I fell off the wagon and went shopping last night and bought corndogs and french fries.

I will leave you with my favorite Robin Williams quote, "No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world"  Use these words to inspire today.  You can make a positive impact on someone so get out there and make a difference. 

Carpe Diem~ Seize the day!

Vern Out

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Check Please!

You likely will not hear from me much this month because it is Brainy Day month! You can visit for more details.  The cliff's  notes history behind this great event is that in January of 2007 I had to have emergency brain surgery to treat inexplicable hydrocephalus: to learn more about hydrocephalus visit to say that it was a traumatic event that left a mark on my life would be a vast understatement.  So once I recovered from the whole ordeal, I founded the Brainy Day 5K Trail Run/Walk.  It is a celebration of life, a way to honor those struggling with brain conditions, a memorial of lives lost and an opportunity for the community to advocate and raise research money for those who suffer from brain conditions.  Consider this your personal invitation to join us!  It is a wonderful family event and I would LOVE to see you all there.

Stanley is our Family Pet.  

Stanley was supposed to be a hunting dog, but my husband never trained him.  Plus, it turns out he is just good at being an amazing family dog so we LOVE him and snuggle him and we call him...STANLEY! 

One side note, there was a week of time a few weeks ago when I dined out (at a variety of real, honest to goodness restaurants) a total of seven times.  Now to set the stage a bit for this story, I will share some background information.  We don't really eat out much. By not much we are talking like once a month TOPS. So seven times in a week is definitely a RECORD for us! So while I am still not grocery shopping much, that particular week we ate out A LOT!  In all honesty, I realize this was totally not cool in lieu of my plan to eradicate all old food from our domicile, but it was just so much FUN!

We ate world class BEST in Michigan onion rings at ; a pair of incredibly fresh and locally grown lunches at ; a delightful dinner at my personal favorite restaurant Hearthstone; I also enjoyed a dinner at because we had a giftcard from Christmas that was burning a hole in my pocket and more importantly we ended up without kids unexpectedly for a night.

 One of the main reasons we dont eat out much is because of our kids.  They make it way expensive to eat out; they never eat the food that well; they behave like wild chimpanzees or mustang and we spend the entire time coaching them instead of enjoying our meal.  It is just your basic train wreck when we drag our kids out to eat so we reserve it for very special occasions. Like Book It-the school reading incentive whereby kids can earn coupons for free Pizza Hut pan pizza!  I committed to this program the past two years because my daughter's class participated and because I struggle to motivate her to read.  Anyhow, the last time we ate out to redeem her coupon, my kids literally tipped the table over. Dishes flew EVERYWHERE. There was some lame explanation my kids gave me, but it really boiled down to the fact that they were indeed acting like wild animals as I tried to grab another slice of pizza.  It was the worst feeling in the world and we truly didnt eat out for a very long time after that little episode.

Anyhow, back to the current story.  I followed this all up with a delicious breakfast at the Village Baker after a tedious project at work left me feeling weak and extremely hungry.  It was truly a smorgasbord of dining out frenzy for me that week and I remember it with fondness.  However, it was not in the best interest of my ambition to empty my pantry or Chester for that matter so I am renewed in my mission to do just this.  I will eat out no MORE (at least for awhile) Besides that I will be much to busy to eat out or grocery shop during Brainy Day Month, I mean August!

Did you know that 1.5 in every 1000 births in the U.S. is a baby born with hydrocephalus?! Sad, but true. Stay tuned for more random statistics!

Have a good one and I hope to see you at the finish line on August 23rd!

PS I also ate out at Old Boys Brewhouse for lunch during the EATING OUT CRAZE and that is actually the one restaurant that I took my kids to last summer and they not only behaved like little angels but they also cleaned their plates and mine too! So if you like to take your kids out to eat I recommend them!

Vern Out