Dan's ten "house things" he can't live without...

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I wrote about my ten "house things" I couldn't live without here, and then added ten more here!
As we approach the 4th of July I thought it would be the perfect time to show you Dan's ten favorite "house things" since many of them involve the grill!   After giving it a lot of thought he said these were his choices...

1.  Big Blue -
Without a doubt Big Blue is number 1 on his list!
I can't tell you how often we mention that we couldn't do everything we do around the property without Big Blue:  from mowing the meadows (it even has headlights for mowing in the dark and yes, it happens :), moving huge pieces of granite and huge iron planters, using the scoop to mix dirt for new plantings, plowing snow off of the driveway, transporting new shrubs and plantings around the property, carrying brush and yard clippings to the compost pile, using the scoop as a rain barrel, ...and on and on!  Oh-  and most importantly "tractor therapy" for Dan!  It's a real phenomenon (I didn't make it up;) ; it's where you get on the tractor and mow and zone out and meditate on life!  (hi MCC!) 
Big Blue is a New Holland  four-wheel drive, 45-horse power diesel tractor.  It has a 72-inch finish mower, turf tires, a scoop, adjustable forks that are interchangeable with the scoop, an 84"blade for grading the gravel drive and snow removal, and an 8-foot aerator attachment.

2.  the workbench -
This workbench was in the barn when we bought the property.  You can see Dan's old workbench we brought from Dallas on the right- we love our workbenches!.  While this space looks a mess, it is actually pretty organized: an organized mess, if you will- but it's where all the magic happens!  Many "shop meetings" happen around this table as we discuss ideas and pick & choose parts for different projects!  The TV has cable since it is important to keep your "workers" happy so that they'll keep working during football season-  just sayin'!

3.  favorite shoes
Specifically his:
Now, the funny part, considering how much Dan loves and wears his Mucks, is that he resisted even considering them for at least two years as I went on and on about how much I love my Bogs.  Somewhere along the line (probably after listening to me telling him how fabulously warm my feet were when we were on some walk where it was 13 degrees out and his poor toes were freezing) he caved and got a pair.  From the first wearing he was a convert.  They are super toasty for our cold New England winters and can take on the mud and muck of "mud season" with a simple washing off with a hose!
(on a sidenote- he looks sooo cute wearing them!  If I could only get him to wear a long coat he'd look just like Mr. Darcy walking across the moor; okay, well if you squint :)  Dan is well aware of my love of Mr.Darcy! )

and his...
L.L. Bean leather slippers!
He's been wearing this brand and style for years. The tie is constantly coming undone and drives me crazy, but he loves them.

I dare say it's time for a new pair!

4.  charcoal barbecue grill -
In our 1950's neighborhood in Dallas all of the original houses came with permanent natural gas grills in the backyard!  While I loved the gas grill for its convenience factor I was always missing the authentic flavors you get from cooking on a  real charcoal burning grill.  Purchasing a small charcoal grill made all the difference!
Our current grill is a Kingsford grill.  Dan was very specific that I tell you exactly what he told me he likes about it....
First, it has a thermometer on it.  Just like an oven you want to know what the temperature is inside the grill before you put food on.  The grill grates are cast iron which are best because they heat up and retain the heat (think cast iron skillet).  Dan uses a paper towel dipped in extra virgin olive oil (vegetable oil is fine too) and extra long tongs to wipe the grates right before the food goes on to keep it from sticking.
He loves all of the exterior shelves this grill has for holding plates, cooking utensils, timers, etc.  It also has an internal shelf for indirect cooking.  Yes, you are correct- the front shelf is a bit wonky; last year when hurricane Irene came through she tossed the grill across the yard.

5. hardwood charcoal -
Do NOT, I repeat do NOT, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER (did I mention ever;) use lighter fluid to start briquettes or quick-start briquettes which have lighter fluid already in them.  Ever. 
You can always smell and taste the lighter fluid on your cooked food.  
Dan swears by this brand:  Cowboy Hardwood Lump Charcoal .
(note:  he recently purchased Trader Joe's brand and didn't care for it- it took forever to light, but it did retain its heat for a very long time.)

6.  charcoal chimney starter -
If real hardwood charcoal is new to you this is how you light it.... using a chimney starter.   (My good friend Ina ;) taught me this years ago...  I've told you we've met Ina, yes?!! :) 
Dan uses two chimneys at the same time for maximum effect.  First, you fill the top section of the chimney with your hardwood charcoal. Then,  you wad a piece of newspaper and place it in the bottom section and light it.  In approximately 20 minutes (about the same time it takes to heat the nasty lighter fluid briquettes) your coals are hot and you pour them into the grill.

7.  grilling thermometers -
I do not say this lightly when I tell you that a grilling thermometer saved our marriage :)!!  Years ago when Dan was first learning to grill I would work to prepare all the other dishes and have them all come together at the same time, and Dan would waltz in with under-cooked chicken, or steak, or ....  time and time again.  Not good.  This digital remote thermometer from Williams Sonoma saved the day and the marriage!!  When looking for a link for this thermometer I realized that there are now many more options out there since we first purchased this one years ago, so we might have to go shopping ourselves!  He has also been using a simple instant read thermometer a lot lately.

8.  beer :) -
a.k.a.:  yardman juice, stonemason juice, chef juice, lampmaker juice, football-watching juice, window-washer juice, etc... !
(note:  to those of you with glass front refrigerators and under the design topic "how to decorate with beer bottles!" ;) I found that by turning the bottle labels around to the back of the refrigerator the bottles take on a "vintage" look!  I did this by accident one day and loved the look.... sorry Coors!)
(on another note:  I was thinking about this the other day-  I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and every year in elementary school we would take field trips to the Pearl Brewery !! WHO OUT THERE HAS EVER HAD A PEARL BEER?!!  Yep- we'd go tour the brewery!  Isn't that a hoot?!   I'm guessing that wouldn't be politically correct today :)

9.  headlamp -
Dan has several of these lights:  an Eddie Bauer  and an Energizer .  They comes in super handy for all sorts of situations- like grilling after dark:), hanging chandeliers at night (are you seeing a trend here?!) , working inside of dark cabinets, etc... .

10.  black licorice -
Specifically Darrell Lea Liquorice (that is not a mis-spell; it's Austrailian- you know how they talk funny!! :):)   Luv all my Aussie friends!
While black is his favorite, he really likes all flavors.
We find it at Trader Joe's!

Dan and I wish you all a very Happy 4th of July!!!