Wow What A Thanksgiving Weekend we had this year

It all started on Wednesday night at my Aunt Bea’s house with my Aunt Bea and Clora, my parents and Avery while we waited for Fran and Family to arrive from Michigan.  The food of the night was going to be Blue Fish that I got from my co worker Tim Szwedo caught on one of his fishing trips.  My dad had marinated the fish for a bit and then grilled them on the grill.  Fran and family arrived right at 6:30 in time to sit down and eat.  We sat around for a bit and talked and laughed.  Avery and I headed out around 8:30 to hit Acme and then to crash out a bit for a bit.

Thanksgiving started for me at around 8:30 in the morning while I got the smoker ready for the big bird cook.  I actually used The Minion Method for the Charcoal burn.  Using this method kept the temp at a constant of 250 degrees for the whole 5 hour cook.  The turkey had been marinating in a red wine marinade sine Monday.  It came out of the marinade a nice dark purple color.  After the smoker had leveled out to a steady temp the Turkey was put on the grate at 9:00am.  I then moved back inside to start work on the Rye Bread Stuffing.  This turned out to be a great stuffing.  After getting that in the oven, it was time to start on another new recipe for Smoked Sausage Jambalaya another recipe that was a hit for dinner.  While working on all of these new recipes I had a pot of Cranberry BBQ Sauce cooking up, which was talked about a lot last year and was requested to be made again.  Other then making gravy and un canning the canned jelled cranberry sauce onto a plate I was really done cooking by 1:30.  My cousin Tim and family showed up around 1:45 and then it was a constant flow of family arriving till about 2:15.  I took the turkey off the smoker at about 2:15 and let it rest till about 2:45 and handed it over to my dad to carve while I got the rest of the food on to the table.   We finally sat down by 3:00 and the food was passed till about 4:30 as well as the great conversation.  The turkey was perfect and moist and had a great smoke ring around it.  The last person left around 8:00 and I was finally able to sit down and relax and to start thinking about Christmas dinner.

Friday was a day of working at some side jobs and going into work for a bit……but dinner was a treat, we did another pizza off at my Aunt Bea’s house, but with a twist…we did white pies only.  We got pies from Top Road Tavern & Pizza, Fedelos Family Pizzeria, Abruzzi Pizza & Cafe, Kings Pizzarama, Palermo’s III(Ewing), Limoncello’s Pizza.  The winner for the second year in a row for the Bilancio Pizza Off was Palermo’s, it now holds the title in both the Tomato Pie division and now the White Pie Division.  It was a fun night just hanging out talking to everyone. Dean brought some beer he had just bottled that day.  It had a great taste but it will be better after it sits for a few weeks in the bottles.  It was an early night because I ate so much pizza that it just made me tired.

Saturday morning started with me heading to my Aunt Bea’s to hang out with my Uncle Fran for a bit, so since I go there early enough I got a home cooked breakfast which was nice.  We all headed our separate ways for a bit to meet back at the house for dinner.  Which consisted of leftovers brought over from my house from Thanksgiving as well ham from Bath Packing.  Dinner was great and of course the conversation was good to.

It was great seeing my uncle Fran and family since it’s rare that we see them much since they are up in Michigan..tried to talk them into coming back for Christmas but since the snow will be flying by then I doubt we will see them till the La Vigna Picnic in July.

Well time to go and see about Christmas dinner now….

To see all the photos from the weekend head over to here.

Time it is a flying

So we are into August already and it seems like Avery just got out of school for the summer and now she has only a few weeks till she goes back. Anyway things have been crazy through the last part of July and the beginning of August.

The end of July always has the La Vigna Family picnic and that always means a lot of work for most of my family, getting the games together for the kids and getting the property cleaned up and ready. This year was no different…well yea it was…it rained most of the week before the picnic so most of the work was compressed into Friday. Thursday was the worst of the rain and of course that was the night most of my cousins and I went to see a concert at the Blueclaws Stadium in Lakewood, NJ.

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The bill consisted of Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Bob Dylan. It was an interesting show. My cousins Tim & his wife Meghan, Henry and Ira all enjoyed the show in the rain. Henry, Ira and I spent all of the night down on the field just talking through Willie Nelsons set and then rocked through John Mellencamp. Bob Dylan came out and totally confused me. The band he has is great and sounded tight, but then Bob starts singing and I couldn’t understand a word he said, but that is the mystery that is Bob Dylan. We enjoyed the whole night rain and all. It was good to be at a concert with my cousin Ira who we don’t see enough of and when we do it’s not long enough.

The day of the picnic turned out great even though it was a little bit hot, but the people that made it had a good time. I shared the announcing and running the games with my 2 uncles, Dean and Fran. It was fun running the water balloon toss and of course the watermelon seed spitting contest. We raised some good money selling this years calendar and Dean and I caused some controversy in the family with the 50/50 this year. So I say that the 2009 La Vigna Picnic was a success and we are already planing the 2010.

Carolyn has had the surgery on her foot so they could get some samples of the bone to see if there is any infection in the bone. We haven’t heard yet back about the lab reports. We have been back to the doctors many times so they can change the dressing. So we hope to get a negative report back about the infections so they can close up the wound and we can move on to the fall without any more foot issues.

Avery is driving now…..with a licensed driver in the car of course. She is getting better each time we go out, so I think if we keep her schlepping Carolyn all over the place while she is not allowed to drive.

Well that’s it for now…not much going on with me other then work and more work and Karma.

Carolyn Update

Yesterday Carolyn had an appointment with another doctor. This time an infectious disease doctor to take a look at her foot and determine the course of action to take about the bone infection. She told us though that she can’t do anything about it for 2 weeks. The reason for this is that Carolyn has been on antibiotics for 4 weeks and any test that are done on the bone infection will be masked and they won’t know what kind of infection it is.

So after 2 weeks Carolyn has to go to another Podiatrist to have a biopsy on the bone and then the culture will be sent to the infectious disease doctor and then she will determine the course of intravenous antibiotics to prescribe. The good news is that they will be doing this on an out patient bases so she will be doing the intravenous stuff at home and not in the hospital.

So that’s what’s going on here in at the Bilancio house hold. Avery does her driving thing next week so by picnic week she will be driving us nuts wanting to drive. Thank goodness I have a manual transmision and she won’t be learning that for a while. 😉

It’s a Major Award. I won it!

So the WhiteTrashBBQ blog was running a contest called the MUG® Root Beer Father’s Day Brew-B-Q kit give away. All you had to do was write a story about Dad and his grill and why you or your dad deserve the kit. So I sent in a two part story of the times my dad destroyed the meat and vegetables he was grilling. So I won 🙂 I got the fathers day Brew-B-Q kit, the kit included a Mug® themed cooler, apron and all the ingredients to make the MUG® Root Beer Southern Specialty Brew-B-Q Sauce as well as the recipe it self. So here is the story I sent in. Sorry dad had to throw you under the bus for this one. 🙂

The making of my Dad’s Montauk burger

One summer my parents and I went with 6 other couples to spend a week in Montauk. Well on the night that watching the kids fell to my parents my dad had decided to make burgers for all of us. So he went out and bought an hibachi grill and the makings for the burgers. He also stopped and got a bottle of jug wine some Carlo Rossi paisano to be exact . After getting back to the house he got the fire started and a glass of wine in his hand. Then he started getting the burgers made and had another glass or 2 of wine. When the fire was ready he headed out with the burgers and put them on the grill and proceeded to have a few more glasses of wine. So when he finally came with the burgers and served them up one side was as hard as a Charcoal Briquet and the other side was raw…thus we now make sure when dad is going to make burgers for us he isn’t going to make Montauk burgers.

Last year he was working the grill at his nephews wedding and wandered away to talk to family….while he was away the vegetables he was grilling ignited in to a nice blaze of glory. Luckily I was near by and put out the fire….I ended up doing the rest of the grill cooking that night.

Now don’t get me wrong when my dad is focused on the grilling at hand he does a great job it’s when he has had a few to many glasses of wine or there is a distraction such as his brother or other family members that he doesn’t see all the time that things go wrong.

June couldn’t come to an end soon enough for the Bilancio family at Puritan Ave

So June started out ok I got to see a Nascar race at Pocono Speedway (yes I am a Nascar fan) on the first weekend. Then it just went down hill from there. Carolyn got an infection in her foot from a blister and had to admitted to the hospital for 4 days so they could pump her full of antibiotics and to get her blood sugar numbers under control. She was put on insulin to keep her numbers down so that didn’t make us happy since her doctors were trying to control her diabetes with oral meds. Now she has to go see a Podiatrist about her foot, an Endocrinologists for her diabetes and be on a ton of meds. She isn’t happy about any of this. I am trying to keep her spirits up, but I don’t think I am doing a good job. I am not very good at comforting people….hey if you have been reading this journal or grew up with me you already know this.

Last weekend was the Arora company picnic and of course it rained (don’t get me started about the weather this June) and my dad’s cousin Angelo was the clown. He told me that Uncle Bob (Robert Immordino) was in the hospital,but with all the things going on that I had to cordinate at the picnic, it completely fell out of my head. So I had totally forgotten about it till my mom called last night to find out if I had any information. From what info I got from here, he isn’t doing that well and they are at the stage of just making him “comfortable”. Uncle Bob for those of you who don’t know my family is the oldest living member at this time. He has been a big supporter of La Vigna. The circulation department (me) have butted heads with him a few times but nothing to get to bent about. He was the “Lawrence Township Historian” for many years. He came up with some great ideas to get the word out about Italian-American history and is a true historian.

The great part of June is, Avery finished school on Monday for the summer and she is already sleeping late and trying to enjoy the summer. She did ok on her finals and most of all her final grades were in the 90s. She starts driving in July with her 6 hour mandatory driving lessons, she then gets her permit and then the “can I drive?, can I drive?, can I drive?” mantra will start when ever we leave the house. I really can’t wait for her to get her license next year even though the insurance will go up, but a person who can drive herself to dance and other activities makes dad happy (because we all know this journal is all about me). I am happy that her grades are great and I don’t have to hold the license up as a reward for her to do better in school, like my parents did. So now that she is going to be a Junior in high school, the hunt for college will be on as well as getting the funding to send her there….

So I am praying that June ends without a funeral and that my wife gets better sooner then later and we can have a happy relaxing summer. July is usually the month of William with my birthday, and all my family starting to invade NJ in July for vacation and thefamily picnic, but it’s looking like the month of William won’t be happening this year again as planed. The family picnic will have a cloud over it this year with Uncle Bob in the hospital, but I am going to try to make it a great time for all and try to come up with things to make people forget the downers of life and enjoy the love of family and the high points of life at this years picnic.

Hey at least the weather has to be better in July then it was in June………Right?

I am now the father of a 16 year old daughter

Well this month I have hit a new milestone in my life. My daughter turns 16 this month. So does this mean boys will suddenly start appearing at the front door, she is going to start driving soon, she is going to get a job and then she will be going to college in a few years. I am sure my dad looks at me now and chuckles to himself as he remembers his son turning 16. I wasn’t that bad as a teenager but I did have my bad points. It makes me feel a little bit older, but it also

So now my daughter is turning 16 and I can see the change in her already, she is becoming more independent and is living her own life without her parents always being there. She is off to the mall more and hanging out with her friends. She passed her drivers ed class with an A+ and aced her written test and is looking at Carolyn’s car with a whole different look….I know in her mind the word “MINE” flashes up when she looks at it. So now we have to get here signed up to take the 6 hour mandatory behind the wheel class then it will be a year of “Can I drive? Can I drive?” all the time. This will be more of a problem for my wife since she has the car with the automatic transmission and my truck is manual. 🙂 See I was thinking when I made that purchase.

I know it sounds like I am complaining but I think it’s great that she is now 16 and is growing up and is starting to make a bigger mark on the world. So Happy Birthday Avery and may you have many more. Hey she can start working now…hmm rent is starting to sound good. 🙂

Catch up with William

This morning I realized I am starting to really turn into my father. Yesterday I caught my self loading the dishwasher and this morning while Karma ate his breakfast I unloaded the clean dishes and loaded in the dirty ones in the sink…now I know I have caught myself doing other fatherisms…I have caught myself listening to public radio on the drive to work, going to bed early and getting up at the crack of dawn (I think this is a Bilancio Family seems all the Bilancio men do this one).

So 2009 has started and we have seen the washing machine die. The repair guy came over and took about 30 seconds to look at it and tell me it wasn’t worth fixing and then charged me $94.00. All he did for his money was turn on his flash light look under the machine ( I had already taken the bottom front panel off) turn on the machine and then turn it off. It didn’t take us long to get a new one. In the 2 hours I took off from work I spent a total of $400 for the repair guy and a new machine.

The TV is the next thing that is probably going to die in the next few months weeks. For the last 2 years our TV has had a green tint to the picture. Lately the yellow gun has been dieing and intermittently been tuning the TV off. So we have been saving our pennies to buy a new TV soon. I guess it wouldn’t be to bad if the TV died, but being a TV addict it would make go mad.

Christmas was a good one this year. I worked with my mom to make a 4.5 course Christmas dinner. We spent all of Christmas day cooking.

First Course

Crab Louie on a bed of Lettuce with a slice of Avocado

Second Course

Beef Tenderloin slatherd in a Mustard Sauce
Roasted Potatoes
Stuffed Tomato
Artichoke Hart

Vegetarian Second Course
Instead of the Beef Tenderloin

Portabello Mushrooms drizzled with Olive Oil and then Broiled. Topped with caramelized onions and sauteed spinach.

Plated with the same vegetable as the beef.

Salad Course

Salad with dried cranberries and pecans drizzled with a vinaigrette dressing

Dessert Course

Hazelnut and Chocolate Cake
Eggnog Pound Cake

Avery has passed her drivers ed class at school and passed the test to take her 6 hours of mandatory driving with a certified driving instructor before she can get her permit. So after March when you see me my hair will have probably gone gray and my left leg might occasionally start pressing the imaginary break as I have flash backs of her driving. 🙂
Avery has also just finished her Midterms and it looks like she will be making the honor roll. (Hey a Fatherism my father was never able to say. 🙂 )

Carolyn is doing good and is enjoying her job at one of the local elementary schools as a monitor for the after school program.

So that’s about all that’s been happening since Thanksgiving. I will be making a better attempt to get more info up on the site. I am working on a big side web project that I have been wanting to get done, but life has been getting in the way. More on that I hope in a few weeks.

Happy Thanksgiving

Here in the United States, it’s Thanksgiving today so no work for William….but I am working in the kitchen cooking t-day dinner for my whole family except for my uncle who is in Michigan with his family…stupid snow.

So the day started at 5am with a quick download of a Gov’t Mule show to listen to while I got the smoker fire up and the turkey on. I got the bird in the smoker by 6:44 and it’s a cooking. 🙂

I have gotten the turkey giblets in the pot with some onions and celery and carrots and bay leafs so the stock simmering an making the house smell great. I have started the Cranberry BBQ Sauce I am using as a dipping sauces. I will be doing starting the stuffing in a few hours as well as the gravy when the turkey is done.

I want to say that I am thankful for my family and friends, even if I don’t get to see my friends all that much.

So have a great Thanksgiving with your family and friends….

UPDATE: Turkey came off at 9:44am it took 3 hours to cook on the UDS

OH Yea..Carolyn has an interview

Carolyn has been hitting the pavement the last few months looking for a job. With the economy the way it is not many people are hiring. Yesterday the local school district called to schedule and interview.

So today at 10:30 she has an interview for a position in the after school program in one of the elementary schools so please keep your fingers crossed that she does well and they hirer her.

More later

What has happened to the family dinner of my youth

What happened to the big family dinners that I remember from my childhood? Maybe I have watched the Godfather movies too many times or too many Sopranos episodes where the families would get together for dinner on Saturday or Sunday and I am projecting that onto our family, but I seem to remember getting together a lot at 90 Eggerts Crossing for meals when I was a kid.

I don’t mean holiday meals those we still do, just at different locations in Mercer County. I’m talking about the Sunday morning breakfasts and the meals in the yard during the summer with Rose and Louis, Fran and Angelica, Clora and Dean, Henry and Tim, Bea and Ray, John and Bea and Terry and Willie and me and sometimes other family members and friends. Those are the meals I am talking about, and the birthday celebrations with a huge carrot cake and funny hats.

It seems when Rose and Lou died, things began to change. Family gatherings were fewer and something seemed to be missing when we did get together. It’s understandable that things change. A few of us moved away and we all have families and lives of our own. Sure, today we visit once in a while or meet at wakes or weddings and on holidays. It just seems we are always in a hurry to get through dinner and get back to our lives.

In the old days the adults used to sit around the table and talk back and forth while the kids would go outside or into the other room to play. Now when we get together we are in a hurry to eat and get going. We meet at diners and restaurants too much these days where we are always having to go, so we can’t sit and talk and the food is not as good as if we cooked it ourselves. With the amount of money we spend for our meals we could have better and more food if we were to cook it ourselves.
I get a glimmer of these family dinners I am discussing at La Vigna meetings, when Fran and Corine’s families and Aunt Bea and Aunt Lorriane descend on the beaches of the Jersey Coast or on the days leading up to and after the picnic in the yard at 90 Eggerts Crossing. These glimmers always just make the loss of these dinners felt much more in my mind.

It was these family dinners that gave me the sense of what the family is and taught me to respect and cherish the family as a whole as a child. I feel that my child and my cousins’ children have been cheated out of a wonderful piece of heritage and learning of family.