This post is weeks overdue, but I thought you’d like to hear how we spent the week of July Fourth. In brief, it was stuffed with insulation and celebration. My in-laws traveled from Vermont to help us prepare our home for the winter. Over six days of labor, we filled the cavity between the second floor ceiling and the attic baseboards with (literally) a ton of a insulation.
We insulated our home with ground cellulose – also known as your old newspapers. Not only was this more environmentally friendly than traditional fiberglass, it was less expensive than and easier to use.
If we had installed fiberglass, we would torn down the entire ceiling upstairs to lay the fiberglass flat. With blown cellulose insulation, we need only to remove the hallway ceiling (which was already gone(, exposing the open bays between the attic floor joists. My father-in-law inserted the hose of our rented insulation blower into these bays and blew cellulose between the joists. Once the walls above the bedrooms were filled, we stapled a plastic sheet across the hallway joists and then nailed strapping in place. My in-laws cut holes in the plastic and filled the space between the attic floor and the plastic.
After five days of work, the house was insulated enough for us to run a large air conditioning unit — just in time for the 100 degree weather. Hurray! Sweat-free days are coming my way!
Thanks to the work of our family, we have a cooler home and enjoy the prospect of a cozy house this winter. (The children at church might be sorry to hear this, I won’t be baking cookies this winter just to heat the house. Last year, I baked a batch or two of cookies and then brought them to church to limit the amount we ate.)
What do you get if you work your fingers to the bone? Bony finger! To prevent this tragedy, we set aside our daily labors to celebrate the nation’s independence and my son’s second birthday.
On the Fourth, we enjoyed a grilled dinner and fireworks — much to our toddlers awe and delight. “Boom, boom!” he cried when he first heard a distant explosion, but when the real show began became silent overcome with a wonder near to fear.
For his birthday on July 6, Oliver had a day filled with his favorite things cake, ice cream, hot dogs, trucks and bicycles.
I baked a chocolate cake (from the cookbook Heavenly Cakes by the great baker Rose Levy Beranbaum) filled with homemade strawberry ice cream. Instead of icing, the cake was covered in a rich hot fudge sauce. Soft, chewy chocolate cookies sandwiched homemade vanilla ice cream.
Our tot was one happy hyper child. That night he wandered out of bed four times before finally falling asleep with one hand on the steering wheel of his new miniature John Deere tractor.
When preparing for a celebration meal or for my in-laws visit, I usually spend the week before baking, cooking and freezing food. This method allows me to relax and enjoy my company – not worry about what to feed them! I am also more than happy to let guests lighten my cooking load by contributing a dish. Here’s an example of how I plan my menu when hosting a crowd.
Oliver’s 2nd Birthday Lunch (18 guests, mostly family)
- Pulled pork BBQ (made in the crockpot and frozen one week ahead)
- Special pork sauce (made the day of the party)
- Hot dogs (defrost the day before, grill a few minutes before serving)
- Cole slaw
- Fresh veggies (brought by a guest)
- Corn on the cob (brought by a guest, cooked minutes before serving)
- Tomato feta salad (brought by a guest)
- Chocolate cake filled with homemade strawberry ice cream (made and filled one week ahead)
- Fudge sauce (made ahead, refrigerated and then reheated just before serving)
- Chocolate chip cookies filled with homemade vanilla ice cream (made and filled one week ahead)
- Iced tea (made the day of the party)