Monday, November 27, 2006

Holiday

My brother and his wife from California were in town over the weekend and so we spent quite a lot of time over at Mom's in Pennsylvania. I drove back and forth on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and it seemed like just about every trip was in the rain. It was good to have the whole family together as brother-who-does-not-exist-on-the-internet-even-though-he-has-a-domain was also in for the weekend and my sister lives there.

We usually get together and play "the game" as it is referred to in my home. "the game" is Acquire, a stock market game that I picked up in the Navy 30 something years ago. In the years since we have always played on the days around the holidays when all of us are in town.

This year I couldn't find the game and so we were disappointed somewhat. I am not sure what happened to it. It's got to be around somewhere but it may be time for a new model since we were playing around missing pieces.

We also just hung out. The boys enjoyed time with their cousins and stayed over at Mom's several times.

In between all this we had a soccer tournament, the annual million man nap on Thursday during the Dallas game, put up Christmas lights in the warm weather for a change and saw my mother in law.

All in all it was a fine five days off.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Homemades

This Thanksgiving my entire family was in town and my mother made the traditional Thanksgiving day dinner and was prepared to make Italian wedding soup as the appetizer when at the last minute, my Nephew suggested that we make home made ravioli.

In retrospect this was like saying "why are we always buying cars, why don't we just make a car?" or "Hey let's make a Nuclear Reactor!"

My grandmother was the always the one who made these delightful little pasta and ricotta cheese Italian delicacies on Thanksgiving and my cousin J took over the franchise on her passing in 1999.

Our family had never made them, only eaten them. Lots of them.

Years ago, when my grandmother was getting older and no one had yet taken the on the mantle of continuing the family traditions of homemade pasta, my Aunt had wisely sat down with my grandmother and written down the recipes. She gave the recipes in book as a Christmas gift that year but I'm just not sure that we had ever tried them.

I've since learned that my wife's family made them a little differently. They would make square ones and put sugar and cinnamon in the ricotta. We consider this evil.

I had also seen my grandmother make them when I was much younger so I knew the basic steps. You make dough, you roll and cut dough, you fill it with ricotta cheese and close the ravioli .

Repeat 200 times.

How hard could this be?

First, this is a two day process. On the first day you make the dough and let it rest. Frankly, I think it's you that needs the rest and not the dough after hand kneading 24 cups of flour and 24 eggs but the recipe says the dough needs the rest.

On Wednesday afternoon, with my brother and mother as the main workers and my nephew no where in site, they started in on the first batch. They decided to break it into two batches since my mother only had a smaller kneading board. The first batch came out a bit dry since someone had misread the recipe and used half the amount of water with the eggs as the recipe called for or my brother miscounted cups of flour.

A trip to the supermarket for more flour and eggs later and they had two resting lumps of dough in gallon zip lock bags, enough for 200 ravioli.

It's a good thing the dough is rested up on the second day because it is going to have a work out. On Thanksgiving morning, t took an army of family members to perform the next few steps. My brother had brought his pasta machine so the rolling and of the dough wasn't so much of a chore but the cutting of dough circles to fill with cheese turned out to be tougher than expected.

It seems that my grandmother had one special glass for this. A glass with just the right size and just the right edge so that it was perfect for cutting ravs. I am not sure that the sacred glass was ever used for anything other than making ravs. It would be un-holy to drink from the rav glass.

We didn't have this glass.

There was much discussion about what became of the glass after my grandmother passed and we decided that my cousin must have must have taken the glass.

We were making due with a beer glass but it was slowing things down. In the end they made 200, freezing half and serving about 100.

Later in the weekend we spoke with my cousin about the glass. He said "it broke" and he has been using an aluminum cookie cutter to make ravioli. He also confessed to making the dough in bread maker and now he uses a mixer with a dough hook.


At least he doesn't cinnamon in them.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sure-crawl

Several things I was thinking about while stuck in traffic on the Schuykill yet again this morning.
  • What the heck did Admiral Wilson do in life to have that crummy road named after him in Camden. He must have pissed someone off.
  • What is a Kia "SFPH A"? A light blue was in front of me for 30 minutes at US1.
  • What does Conshohocken mean? It's got to mean something, right? "Zoned light industrial"?, "Land of many old factories"?
  • Why do most people still seem to use the cash lanes instead of ez-pass at the Ben Franklin bridge.
  • Isn't a 16 inch Tsunami just a big wave? How could you tell which wave was the tsunami? Did it wet japanese beach blankets and towels? Wash away children's beach toys? Why is no one leading a relief effort?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sure-kill

This is a different type of week for me. I am out of the office and attending training in Conshohocken, Pa - just north and east of center city Philly. Since I live in New Jersey and can't fly, the only way to get there is take the Schuykill Expressway West.

Readers from the Philly area will immediate recognize that I am in trouble. This morning's commute took 1 hour 45 minutes to travel 28 miles - and there were no accidents. This was only volume and weather related.

Schuykill, of course, is an Indian word that is best translated as "45 minutes of staring a truck bumpers" or "merge or die" depending on the dialect. The path the expressway takes along the Schuykill river was first used by the Indians to reach their summer homes along the Jersey shore and later by colonists that wanted to reach Neiman Marcus at Christmas time. The real reason that Washington's spent the winter at Valley Forge? They did not want to use the Schuykill. They said "I wound rather starve in a freezing tent rather than travel that road". Later they crossed the Delaware at Trenton to avoid the whole mess. As time went by the corridor along the river was used for train right of ways, leaving approximately 31.5 feet for the future road's twisting and turning 4 lanes.

Like I said, everyone hates this road but is forced to use it.

Philly Roads has a great quote from Bill Allen, the designer of the Expressway. Bill said "If you don't like it, don't drive it".

Thanks Bill.

I even listened to the radio traffic reports this morning before heading out. Normally, even if I do turn on the radio, I tune out the traffic reports as background noise. I tried to listen this morning, I really did. But after 40 something years of hearing "the Schuykill is backed up from Vine street to Conshohocken" everyday on every station you tend to filter it out. All I hear is "and now traffic and transit on the twos" and I completely zone out. It's like that phrase puts me in a trance. Next thing you know, the sports report is on. They could be saying that the Loch-Ness monster is eating all black cars that pass milepost 335 after "on the twos" and I would miss it. (Although that may explain the slowdown, that would take a lot of time wouldn't it? eating every black car?)

I even checked out the television traffic reports this morning. One report said that from Vine Street to Conshohocken was a 24 minute commute. 24 minutes. I really should have known better because even at 3 am this ride takes 20 minutes. This took me 1:05 Hrs. You couldn't have made that trip in 24 minutes even if you sprouted wings and flew off like those monkeys on the Wizard of Oz.

I swear the traffic reporters must be just making it up. How would you ever know if they were right? Unless your driveway connects right to the Vine Street entrance of the road, it is going to take you maybe a half an hour to get to the area that they are reporting traffic on. A lot can happen in a half an hour. Loch-Ness eating cars for example. If you asked them, they would just say that a half hour ago there was no Loch-Ness monster eating cars.

Maybe traffic reporters should the ask animals at the zoo what is backed up. The Schuykill goes right past the zoo and the animals might have a really good view. They have as good a shot at getting it right as one of those good looking traffic reporters. Mr Elephant says Eastbound at the Curve in Conshohocken is backed up. Mr Giraffe says it's going to take you 45 minutes to get to Girard. Mr Tiger says stay away from City Line. Like you have a choice anyway.

So tomorrow I take the trip again Westbound (that really goes north) and I will leave earlier. This means nothing. I have a 50-50 shot at getting to the class on time.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Band Season winding down

We spent Sunday chasing the marching band across Pennsylvania. The All States championships were held in Hershey, PA and this year we were finally able to attend. We missed the previous years because of Mrs F being in school and of course in those two years they won this championship and the Calvacade of Bands in successive years.

This year they did well and came in third but we had to leave well before the 9:30 PM scheduled awards ceremony.

My Mom and Dad came and watched through Oldest Son's band and then took off the minute He was done. We were right behind them after the next band finished up because it was cold, we were tired and it was time to go home. We also had the neighbors come with us and enjoyed the company for the 2 plus hour ride.

Next week is Cavalcade of Bands, the last real show of the season and then finally He gets a break for a while.