Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving Weekend

Thanksgiving has come and gone and I hope yours was as good as ours. Daughters #1 and 2 both came home to share the holiday with us. Daughter#1 bought her SO and Daughter#2, The Son In Law. Before everyone descended on the house, I tried out the home brewed Irish Red Ale to make sure it was drinkable. It let out a nice fizz when I popped the top and formed a nice head when I poured it into a glass. It was quite tasty. Very Bass Ale like. I had two cases worth and our company enjoyed more than a few bottles of it.

Daughter#2 volunteered to make a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving and unlike the rest of us slackers, decided to make it from scratch. She bought a pumpkin with her and put the filling in the food processor along with a load of other spices and coconut milk to make the filling.

She mixed it all up in our food processor.

Then poured it into a vegetarian friendly pie shell.

Then into the oven. It was quite good, especially with some Cool Whip.
I peeled and cored some Granny Smith apples and mixed up the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg coating for said apples for our apple pie. I let Ann handle the crust for that pie.
Thanksgiving morning I headed out to Dulles Airport.
To pick up Daughter#1 and her SO, Matt. They flew in from Connecticut.

While waiting for the turkey to cook, we had a brunch of scrambled eggs, bacon and toast. Here we are gather around the kitchen table. I have no recollection on what The Son and I were looking at on the computer.

As the feast approached, the table was laid out in all its seasonal glory.

Of course we stuffed ourselves silly on turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes covered in gravy, add in some sweet potato casserole, peas and onions, rolls a few bottles of Virginia wine, apple and pumpkin pie and good company. The end result is shown below.

Daughter#1, never wanting a dull moment, had planned a full day for us on Friday. After a late breakfast we headed to Virginia's Prince William County's only winery - La Grange. They've beautifully restored the old mansion originally built in 1790.

Inside is their tasting area. Here we are jotting down notes as we sampled several of their wines.

Throughout the house, there are rooms where you can relax with a glass of wine and snacks such as cheese and sausage. The manly men.

And the charming ladies.

Behind the mansion, is the winery's barrel storage area and processing area.

Here is Daughter#1 and Matt looking from the barn area to the back of the mansion.

And Daughter#2 and her Matt, The Son In Law.

In the basement of the mansion, they have a little pub area where you can sit and enjoy the wine. We assumed that some of the beams were from the original building.

After our tour and tasting, we headed to Sweetwater Tavern in Centreville for a late lunch/early dinner. The idea was to go to the Air and Space Museum at Dulles after lunch, but we all decided that we had had enough for one day and headed home. We sat around and watched "Love Actually" before heading to bed.
Saturday was all about football. At noon we watched the Hokies defeat UVA. We watched the first half at home and the second half at the Original Steakhouse and their big screen TVs. After the game, I had to run Daughter#1 and Matt back to Dulles to catch their flight home. Then it was back home for the game that really mattered - Auburn vs Alabama. Being an Auburn graduate, I was thrilled to watch Auburn hand Alabama its sixth straight loss in the series. For those of you that don't live in Alabama, you have no idea how intense this rivalry is. Nothing I've seen compares to it. One of my favorite crowd shots was someone holding up a sign that had the "B" in Saban (Saban being the Alabama coach) crossed out and replaced with a "T" spelling out Satan. Well said.
Sunday morning was spent looking at some houses for The Son. The Son disparately wants out of the house and a place of his own. Just starting out and given the crazy housing market, affordable places are not that easy to come by. He works in Fairfax County, which has a median income level that's in the top 3 or 4 in the whole country with housing prices to match. So he's more or less stuck with looking at places not far from us. That has its good and bad points. As we start to look at places, its amazing how many foreclosures are out there. Each one representing the American Dream gone bad. We are working with The Son to hopefully keep him from getting in over his head. We're scheduled to look at some more places on Friday. The rest of the day we watched the Redskins lose another game in the closing minutes. Its beginning to be an all to familiar pattern. Unless a miracle occurs, it looks like another year without the playoffs. Of course given the shocking shooting death of their Strong Safety Sean Taylor, I don't think the playoffs are on their mind at the moment. Really tragic.
Because we're old and therefore earn a lot of vacation days, Ann and I took Monday off. Most of it we spent raking leaves, which seemed to have come down all at once. It took three hours just to clear the front and side lawn. We still have the back yard to do.
It was nice to have all the family plus a few here at the house for the holiday. Growing up, my Mother would have 20 or more people over for Thanksgiving. A mix of family, relatives and friends. It was load and crazy at times, but always a good time. I like to think we starting to build that here. Hope your Thanksgiving was as good as ours.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Give Me My Football ESPN

Ever since college, I've always looked at Thursday evening as my gateway to the weekend. I'm always home on Fridays now, either with a day off due to my compressed work schedule or working from home. What better way to welcome the weekend then some Thursday night college football. Oregon would be playing Arizona. The Son likes Oregon and they are entertaining to watch. Because it was being played out west, the game was schedule to start later than most Thursday night games. I could live with that as ESPN promised an hour long College Football pre-game show. I love their Game Day Show on Saturday mornings so I thought that would be a fine lead in to the game. Imagine my surprise when instead of the pregame show, ESPN decided to air a "Breaking News" show. The "Breaking News" was, of course, Barry Bonds indictment and A Rod's resigning with the Yankees. True, as bis sport stories go, the Bonds story was news. However, ESPN had already beat the story to death on their Sports Center show earlier in the evening. The A Rod story? No one cares unless they are a Yankees fan. Most of the United States could care less about the dance between A Rod and George. Watching an hour of their coverage of these two stories was like being waterboarded. I watched about 15 minutes and that was all I could take. I decided to skip the game and went to bed. Stupid ESPN.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Last Dance

Saturday night was my rowing club's annual end of year party. One last opportunity to hang out with each other and celebrate another successful season. There was food and more food and a few adult beverages as well. Below is a picture of just the appetizers.

Behind the two at the far right is the desert table and on the floor plenty of beer.

We hand out gifts to those who have helped us during the year, like our high school coxswains. Here are Jake and Katie. Katie is our coxswain. No we didn't give Jake beer. Those are sodas.

On the left is Heather. She coaches our Fitness/Recreational rowers. She's off to Germany this week. I'm envious. Heather got beer.

Wally graciously hosted the party. He also coaches one of the high school crew teams and is our operations director. Basically that means he arranges getting the boats from the high schools that we need and taking care of them. Here he's congratulating one of our coxswains. Her boat had a collision during one of our races (not her fault) and she got everyone back safely. As you might imagine, its not easy being of high school age and coxing for a bunch of over achieving adults. They do a great job for us.

And what would a party be without a few gag gifts. Here airline barf bags are given two of our more zealous women rower partiers. But they had a right to party given they rowed well and fast enough to earn an automatic invite back to the head of the Charles. A first for our club. In all fairness, I believe only the one on the left, umm, had need for a barf bag in Boston.

It was an early ending. I was home by 11:00 Stuffed with good food and fond memories.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

It's in the Bottle

The beer that been fermenting away in our basement as documented here, finally was bottled and hopefully should be ready for consumption when the daughters return for Thanksgiving. I have no idea how it will turn out or whether it will be drinkable at all. I should try a bottle to see if its carbonating, but I suspect I'll just wait and find out on Turkey Day.

After fermenting away for two weeks in the basement, we dragged the carboy back up to the kitchen. With 5 gallons of beer inside, its quite heavy not to mention awkward to try and carry up the stairs. Good thing I have a young strong helper.

One of the things I learned in this whole beer making process is how clean and sanitary everything needs to be. Not necessarily because there's any danger in drinking it, but the wrong bacteria could lead to some bad tasting beer. So clean we did. Here we are sanitising the bottling bucket.

The it was on to brushing and cleaning out the bottles and bottle caps. It was all pretty messy.

After getting things all clean and sparkling, we siphoned the beer from the fermenter to the bottling bucket. This took a while. While the beer was transferring, I put some in a glass for a taste. It actually tasted pretty good considering its flat beer at this point. Hopefully the finished product will taste even better once its carbonated.

After siphoning the beer into the bottling bucket, we decided we were hungry and left to go eat pizza. I covered the beer with some Glad Wrap.

The bottles clean and ready to be filled.

Filling our first bottle. Using the bottle filler turned out to be a pain because the tubing kept slipping off it. Eventually we filled the bottles from the tubing directly and didn't use the bottle filler. That worked out well although we still got beer all over. Considering we just had the kitchen floor cleaned the day before made Ann doubt the usefulness of this new hobby.

We ended up bottling 55 bottles of beer. Here is the first case. Our German Quality Inspector checks it out.

We'll see how things turn out and I'll let you know in about a week and a half.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Last Race

Sunday was our last race of the season. The last time our club will be on the water until next May. Kind of sad in a way. Our race in the Head of the Occoquan, or HOTO as it's known, wasn't until 2:30 so I had all morning to sleep in and relax. It's something I haven't done for quite a while. It was a beautiful day for rowing. The sun was out, the temperature was in the low 60s with a bit of wind, but not enough to make things ugly out on the water. I normally get to the boathouse about two hours before we race. This gives us time to give out boat the once over. This is our boat called the Titan.

The novice Men's coach and their boat, in the parking lot. Its the only place with enough room.
We launch for the HOTO about 45 minutes before our scheduled start time. This gives us time to row up river to the start and time enough to relax for a bit before we start to race. Here the oars are being brought down to the dock. Look we now have water!
Looking out from our boathouse, way out in the distance you can see a Club 4+ racing just outside our cove.
The novice men, being younger than our boat, race before us. Here they are putting their boat in the water.
Finally it was our turn to launch. This is my boat (minus me since I was taking the picture), right before we pushed away from the dock.
Heading out of the cove, our stern 4 takes us out.
The start line is at Fountainhead Park. I was hoping for a better picture of all the 8+s up there but it didn't turn out as well as I hoped. The boats tend to blend in with the shoreline.
Our novice 8+ up at the marshalling area before their start.
A quick shot from bow to stern of our boat.
One of our Women's Quads. They would start right after our race and come in 4th overall and maybe second in their age group.
The 8+s rowing toward the start.
I had hoped to get some pictures at the finish, but alas, the bag I had the camera in leaked and the camera got soaked. I'm surprised it still worked after drying out. We had a good race. We battled Thompson's Boat Club for probably 8 to 9 minutes side by side until we finally put them away. We finished 5th out of 12 masters boats and second in our age category. We finally topped Alexandria after finishing behind them all season, including by a mere 1.5 seconds at the Charles.
Overall it was a good a season as we've had. Speaking for the Men's side. We have a good group of novice men that will move up and join us next year. That should add to the competition for the top boat. Should be interesting and challenging. I need to grow another six inches before next summer.