Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Irrigation drain valves

Here's a tip for those of you that are getting ready to turn on the sprinklers or irrigation. Turn off the irrigation drain valve! Yeah, who knew. Here's the story. Two days ago I decided to turn on the irrigation for the summer, so I turned on the valve at the curb then went and watched all of the heads to make sure they were ok. A couple needed fixed but that's another story. So I went back inside to do other things. A couple hours later I went down stairs to check the laundry and guess what? That's right a flooded basement. Even worse it seemed to come from the carpeted room. Pretty soon my kids are giving me roving reports of where water is puddling up. I was finally able to track it down to the irrigation control box behind the house. The whole box was flooded and seeping in through the basement foundation. I thought the pipes had developed a leak, but I turned them back off at the curb just to make sure. Needless to say the immediate worry was getting the basement carpet dried. But I called my landlord over to show him and the first thing he asked was about the rear irrigation drain valve. UMMMMMM!!!! I turned the one off in the front!? He grinned and said "No, there's one in the back also" OH. Sure enough I had left the drain valve wide open. That leak I thought we had. It was all my fault, now to tell the wife. So please for irrigation preparation, please check all of your irrigation valves.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Estimate for car repair

Just a little update on that fender bender. I went around town and got couple of repair shops to give me an estimate for car repair on my door. They were nothing like the repair estimate the insurance adjuster gave me. I need to go back to my insurance and see if they will give me a new estimate. For car repair at one shop was over 23oo dollars. Another gave me a closer estimate at about 1800 dollars, but both leave me with a lot more than my 500 dollar deductible left owing. Course there are hundreds of websites who promise a quality estimate for car repair sight unseen, but I don't think I will trust any of those. Anyway just a little side note in case anyone was wondering.

Barbecue Entertainment

Here's a thought? While you are busy with this barbecue, whether it is a gas grill or a charcoal grill, what do you do with your guests? Do you let them mingle among themselves? Do you have games ready to play? Does it help to have another party host to help? I'd like to get a few ideas from you on this. I personally have my wife to help and she usually chats with the adults and let's the children entertain themselves in the backyard. I've tried setting up a volleyball net but unless I get it started myself it never seems to get used. What do you do? Please leave a comment and let me know.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cable outlet installation

I decided I wanted to add cable into our room the other day so I called the cable company to see how much it would be. Wow! Prices have gone up since the days I worked for the cable company. So I decided to do it myself. So there were a few things to figure out before I started to wire a cable outlet.
  1. Is it going to be on an outside wall or an interior wall? The outside walls have insulation in them making a wall-fish through the attic almost impossible.
  2. Do I have a crawlspace under the house to go through, or maybe I have an unfinished basement? Unfinished basements are my favorite route because there is no crawling and you can still hide all of the coax cable wire.
  3. How far away is the location of my cable outlet installation from the cable junction box? If it is only a few feet I might think of simply going along the siding and straight through the outside wall.
  4. Do I want the cable to be inside the wall or will going through the floor be acceptable? Straight through the floor is the quickest and easiest and the cable can always be pushed down into the carpet when not in use. However this is the least professional looking

In my case I do not have a crawlspace or unfinished basement therefore I went through the outside wall and ran the coax cable wire along the siding. I also know that we will be getting vinyl siding soon that will cover the coax up.

I used a 1/2 drill bit for the hole so it was slightly larger than the cable wire. I also found a special drill bit with a hole in the end so I could strip back the cable and tie the center wire or stinger onto the drill to pull it through the wall. Once the hole was drilled I begin stringing the coax cable wire from the cable junction box to the drill point. Here I watched for obstacles where I needed to run the cable under or behind to keep the cable wire flush with the siding. These included gas pipes or gutter drains, even other wires. Once I made it there I stripped back the cable and attached it to the drill bit and head into the room.

In the room I started pulling the drill bit out (keeping the drill attached to help with grip) to get the cable through the wall. This was not easy so I twisted the drill and bit slightly as I pulled, taking care not to spin the bit as this could break the cable. Once I was through I put on a cable fitting and attached a wall plate. I like to use sheet rock screws to screw the plate to the wall.

Back outside I started to attach the cable to the siding with screw clips. But first I pushed a little bit of cable into the wall for some slack in the future. Instead of going straight across the siding I like to go down to the lowest point or to a seam in the wall to tuck it in there. Now I placed a screw clip about every 2-3 feet pulling the cable tight as I went. Also I used some silicone sealant around the hole to seal up the leak. Once I made it all the way around to the cable junction box I put on another fitting and got another cable splitter with an extra port and hooked it all up. (I went to the local cable company and got a free splitter). Now I was ready to watch t.v. in my room.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Charcoal Grilling and the tips to success

So I've decided to graduate to the charcoal grill. I mean they say it does add flavor to the meat and I would like to say I have some actual skill. But where do I start? Well here's some steps I have gathered on how to succeed. I guess the first thing is whether or not I want to try using lighter fluid or go with the chimney starts like the pro's recommend. Why do they swear by a chimney? No lighter fluid smell or taste, and they say it starts the charcoal evenly and faster.
Next of course is how much to use. Here more is better, but a rough estimate is enough to cover the area of food being cooked. Does that make sense? If you are going to have enough burgers to cover a single plate, maybe 4 or 5 then enough charcoals to cover that same plate in a single layer. If you are going to cook for 20 then you'll need enough charcoals to cover a larger area with a single layer. Here too we are only working with food that is being grilled or cooked in under 20 minutes. Burgers, hot dogs, chicken breasts, or steaks.
So to start you simply fill the charcoal chimney first with newspaper then your charcoal briquets. Light the paper then let it sit for about 20 minutes. You should have all your briquets grayed then they are ready. Dump them out into the grill and spread them into a single layer. One thing that seems to help also is to oil the grill with cooking oil, probably easier to do before lighting the charcoal briquets. Next before you are ready to put the meat down you want to create two separate cooking areas. One for direct heat (searing the meat, or making those nice grill lines) this will also lock in the moisture and the flavor. Another area for indirect cooking where you can cook the meat slower and insure that the inside of the meat is cooked properly. To do this simply keep all the charcoal briquets to one side of the grill.
Now take your steaks or burgers and sear them on the hot side. 1-2 minutes on each side then transfer them over to the cooler side and cook them for about 5-7 minutes depending on thickness and how cooked you want them. Now here I will also note that I've learned a couple tips about keeping moisture in.
  1. Don't stab the meat. Use tongs or a spatula.
  2. Don't press the meat. Yes it makes an impressive flare up of fire but it also drys out the meat.
  3. Keep a spray bottle of water handy for any flame ups.

Now take the potato salad out of the fridge and you should all be ready to eat. Don't worry if more show up the coals should stay hot enough for at least an hour. Good Luck and let me know how it goes.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Gas or charcoal grills

That is the question this time of year isn't it? A gas or charcoal grill? Well if your already a pro griller probably not, but for the ones just getting started it can be, there are a lot of reasons to consider. So if you're just beginning to look into a barbecue or grill then read on.
Just about every pro seems to hands down prefer charcoal vs gas, why: that's what we'll discuss here. The number one reason is taste, most claim you can taste the gas in the meat from the propane, whereas the charcoal leaves a nice smoky flavor and of course you can always add wood chips for extra flavor. Grilling chicken, grilling fish, even grilling hot dogs seems to taste better.
Second of course is plain old Nostalgia. Nothing brings ya back to childhood like smelling the charcoal briquettes firing up.
Third is they claim to be able to adjust the heat easier than a gas grill, personally they must be awesome pros to do that.
Of course a charcoal grill can be a lot less expensive than a gas barbecue. But as I said the pros seem to prefer them. So what's the downside? Why don't the beginners speak out about using charcoal grills? Well there can a lot of snags on your way to that first successful barbecue:
1. Don't plan on going right out and firing up the grill with 10 minutes before dinner. Getting charcoal ready can take up to 45minutes, maybe longer if you're a beginner. They never seem to heat up fast enough when everyone is waiting.
2. With the use of lighter fluid it can be dangerous, especially if you have already lit the briquettes once. Relighting can be a pain because either the fluid either burns right up in a huge flare up(known to take many eyebrows), or the fluid evaporates in the heat before it can soak in properly.
3. Charcoal grills are either too cold if not started right or not enough coals (try at least enough to cover the area of food with a layer of coals plus a little more). Or they can burn hotter than a gas grill and need a lot more attention. No set and forget it.
4. Of course once your done... I've never been able to turn off the coals, you have to wait for them to cool, usually a few hours or overnight. And there's no reusing them, you use half a bag of charcoal for 2 burgers, you've used half a bag of charcoal. Then there's where to store the briquettes and lighter fluid safely.
Overall using a charcoal grill can require a lot more practice, time, and attention then using a gas grill. But overtime, the more experience you get the more you'll probably think like the pros. So if you want to have a barbecue in the next couple hours go with gas, if you have time to make a few mistakes, and eat a few cold dinners, start with a charcoal grill.
Later I will talk about ways to ensure a better first time with a charcoal grill, and why the pros are also probably cringing at my several mentions of using lighter fluid.
p.s. Is it barbeCue if it' single and barbeQues if it's plural?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Barbecue, it's what's for dinner

There seems to be no question as to if we'll barbecue... but what to barbecue. If you're like me the same old burgers and hotdogs doesn't quite seem to fit the season, not yet anyway. It's still a little too cold for that. I came across a display of beef brisquette at the supermarket though, they don't have to be just for St Patty's anymore. So I decided to try it. Now we all know how to barbecue, ya crank up the flames and charbroil everything in sight. But that doesn't seem to work for thicker meats, ya end up with charcoal on the outside and raw on the inside. So what is the trick?

Well first you leave yourself at least 2-3 hours cooking time. Then, you keep the burners on low, very low. If your barbecue is like mine you might have to only turn one burner on to keep it low enough. Then just set the meat to the side where the burner is off, or on a the higher grill if equipped. After that its just a matter of turning the meat on occasion and making sure the gas doesn't run out. Oh and don't forget to add the barbecue sauce 15-20 minutes before it's finished.