Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Belated Thanksgiving Post

This was not the first year we made a turkey around Thanksgiving, but it was the first year that we held the main event at our residence. When we were first married, I was in grad school and we lived too far from family to drive home on short breaks. These were the years when we happily accepted invitations to join friends and their families and/or friends for a holiday celebration. A lot of these get-togethers were pot-luck style, and we contributed a dish or two to the meal. One or two dishes that can be serves warm or cold is nothing compared to providing the main event yourself.

Forces combined against us timing things perfectly. I should have expected that, though, since I can't time a regular meal to be ready all at once (unless it is a one-pot-dinner). Despite loving to sleep in, the necessity of rising early on a regular basis caused both my husband and me to get up rather early, considering it was not a work day. Add in a delayed guest (weather increased travel time by about an hour), and my anxiousness to start cooking, for fear of not finishing in time. All that equals mashed potatoes chilling on the stove an hour early, corn pudding resting for an hour or so, and the turkey being allowed to rest for about an hour, instead of 15 minutes, before being carved.

Granted, I did intentionally start the turkey early to ensure it would have enough time to reach the proper temperature. You may be wondering how we were able to cook a turkey, sans oven. The countertop oven, which probably would not have fit the size bird we had, was used for things like rolls and corn pudding. But we did have another trick up our appliance sleeve: countertop roaster. (This looks similar to the one we have.)

Years ago, when we were contributing one or two dishes to someone else's celebration, our host had a countertop roaster that they used frequently. For holiday meals, it was especially handy for them because it kept the oven free for all the myriad of side dishes that they had. It also works very nicely for those who are ovenless.

When I did a search for these countertop ovens so I could show you a picture, I noticed that most returns were quite fancy, and pricey. We got ours about 3 years ago, as part of a deal at the grocery store during the holidays. It was either buy the turkey, get the roaster, or vice versa. Either way, it was a decent deal, even if I have thus far only pulled it out a few times a year.

When using a roaster like this, one should keep in mind that things will not brown like they do in a traditional oven, and cooking times are often reduced. The instructions that came with mine say a 14-16 lb bird will be done in 2-2.5 hours. Ours took closer to 3-3.5 hours, but that was because some of the organs were hiding from me, and stayed in the bird throughout the cooking process. Oops.

Aside from checking the internal temperature of the bird, this was a relatively hands off way to cook the turkey. There was no need to baste, since any steam kept inside the roaster. Overall, despite human error, I am quite happy with the roaster, and the moist turkey it produced.

Certainly helped our first time hosting Thanksgiving be a good one!

(It was wonderful to be able to use my grandparents' dining suite to entertain!)

Blog Hop!

Welcome to the 21st week of the GREEN BLOG HOP!!

For "Green" Blogs Only - Even if you're just starting out!
The purpose of creating this blog hop was not to create yet another general hop, but to help network bloggers who have taken the initiative to go green for the purpose of education and continuing efforts of saving our planet - one home at a time.  We will be monitoring the blogs and will delete those that are not deemed somewhat green.

 PLEASE make sure to put the button on your site and make a quick blog entry - otherwise we will not be reaching the most number of people that would be interested in networking!!

* Follow the blogs of the ladies in the top three spots : 
* Link your green blog article to the Linky below
* Follow as many other blogs as you want. The more you follow, the more that will follow you back!  If someone follows you, it is common courtesy to follow back.
Please remember to create a blog posting including the button after linking up - Please - It's the best way to get the word out about Going Green!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

*Drip... Drip... Drip... The joys of not being able to call a landlord.

As I mentioned in my last post, we hosted our first holiday dinner this past Thanksgiving. Since we were out of town for a work conference the weekend beforehand, this meant we were in a flurry of activity during our post-work hours on the weekdays leading up to the main event. Once we had settled down, and the only things left to do could only be done on the day of, I snuggled on the couch to watch TV. And that is when I heard it. A sound that will strike fear into the hearts of homeowners who are no longer able to call a landlord...

Drips. I heard dripping from the kitchen, so I went into investigate, hoping that it was just the faucet. It was not the faucet. Instead, I was greeted by a slow drip coming from a small crack in the ceiling.

I may or may not have mentioned this, but our kitchen is very dated: textured wallpaper, possibly-original-to-the-house stove, and carpeted floors. Lucky for us (?!), the leak was not heavy at that point, so I set down a bowl, and got out the wet vac. Upon discovering how wide the wet spot on the carpet was, I was surprised we had not noticed it when we first got home. The wet spot was probably a 1.5 - 2 ft diameter circle.

My husband and I had two moments of panic: 1) there's a leak in our roof, and it is supposed to rain the entire holiday weekend, and (2) we are supposed to be cooking a lot of food and hosting our first holiday dinner!

From our various improvement projects, we do have a smattering of tools. My husband got the dry wall saw, and started cutting around the wet area, so we could try to get a look at the leak. (This section of the roof area is inaccessible via an attic space. The leak makes me think that when we redo the kitchen, putting in a pull-down-attic-ladder would be a good idea, even if those things give me the heebie-jeebies.)

Wednesday evening ended up being full of cutting and clearing the ceiling, dealing with the spray insulation, and finding the leak! While having a leak in your roof is not a very happy thing, finding said leak within 24-hours is. We are relatively lucky in that the water was coming in directly above where it was leaking through the ceiling. No hunting for the water's path or obscure leak location. Turns out that there was a knot in the roof board. Knot - as in an actual hole. And there was a roofing nail through said knot. Water was just dripping in along the nail.

As it was Thanksgiving Day Eve, we knew that we would not be able to do much other than prevent the carpet from getting soaked. We (my husband, rather) put a bowl on the rafters underneath the leak, and used painter's tape and a bag to cover the hole in our ceiling. Classy, I know. ;)

We did check on the collection bowl regularly, and it seemed to do the trick, at least for the time being. The holiday dinner went well, and no one was drenched by roof water. Friday after Thanksgiving, my husband had to work, and went to a hardware store to see what we could do about the leak until we can replace the entire roof (a project we knew we would have to do in the future - this just brings the project into the more immediate future). Less than $10 for some roofing cement and supplies (plus much more for a ladder we needed anyway), and the leak is patched (and holding up against the recent snow).

Now we get to research our roofing options! Do you have any particular favorites?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Oh, the weather outside is frightful(ly cold).

All I can say is that at least it hasn't been a full month?

(We recently got about 3-4 inches of accumulated snow when they had predicted 1 inch of accumulation.)

As far as heating our home and staying warm ourselves, this winter season has been interesting. We have nudged the thermostat from 64 Fahrenheit to about 68 Fahrenheit. I fear we may need to go as high as 70. Really, we need to work on improving the insulation of the house, and get some throw rugs. Some good news is that our recent gas bill was not unreasonable. I take that as a sign that we are not overusing the heat and that it will be okay to turn the heat up smidge so my fingers can thaw out.

I need to recognize that this is a process and will take time.

We hosted Thanksgiving dinner for a few family members, and the colder temperatures did not seem to be an issue. I realize, though, that this could be attributed to the fact that we have 4-8 people in our house, as well as many kitchen appliances going. We used the stove, the toaster oven, the counter-top conventional oven, and the counter-top roaster (which actually became the coffee-table-top-oven and hung out in the nebulous foyer/living room area).

Aside from when I mention it here, we have not used our wood burning stove. The previous owners gifted us, whether they knew it or not, a whole slew of fire tending implements, as well as fire starters, long matches, and one 2-hour log. Said log is what we burned earlier. Now, we have no real fire fuel.

Recently, it did dawn on us that junk mail would make excellent tinder or random fire fuel. (We always set it aside to shred, but I have burned out more shredders than I care to admit. Either I am impatient, or we get way too many credit card offers. Probably both are true.) And we do have a lot of junk mail. We frequently get behind on shredding it, so it builds up. I am here admitting that we have moved boxes from one abode to another that are either predominantly junk mail, or contain junk mail as padding/filler. Not only do we have a lot of junk mail, we have old junk mail.

The other night, my husband decided to try out this junk mail as fire fodder business. He was sitting in front of the stove, feeding more credit card offers, and was quite toasty. Unfortunately, the warmth did not really reach back to the couch where I was curled up. So, junk mail may not actually heat our house, but it will raise the temperature of nearby air a bit, as well as help get a fire going. Plus, if we burn it, no dedicated con artist can piece the shredded bits back together.

So, things to do to keep ourselves and the house warm:
- more insulation
- throw rugs
- additional socks
- contained fires
- cook!
- at some point look into updating our HVAC system and thermostat

How are you doing?