Hello everyone, with the holidays approaching, the Murray US Tour planning is in full swing! This year brings added complexities outside of the norm since we have to: (1) travel to see all of our friends and family - which means we will be doing a multi-stop tour in North Carolina and Pennsylvania; and (2) operate the business still during one of the busiest times of the year!
Anyone that knows John and I knows we are MEGA CHRISTMAS FANS!
In the US, we have always looked for an excuse to decorate as early as possible - this has included several Thanksgiving week trips to Disney where obviously it only makes sense to decorate for Christmas BEFORE you go so your house is ready for Christmas the moment you get back! Don't get me wrong, I LOVE cooking Thanksgiving dinner, my turkeys are FIRE and , of course, delicious. Just look at these brined bad boys!
If you too want to produce a brined and amazing turkey like this, my instructions are aqui click here or keep scrolling!
Okay, now back to our favorite time of year - CHRISTMAS TIME!
The amount of Christmas decorations we own is insane. Before moving, I downsized A LOT - we got rid of a 12 foot giant artificial tree we had for our foyer, a 10 foot arch of ornaments I made myself among other things. The things I did keep are in storage in the US for at least 6 more months so I have ZERO Christmas decor here in Costa Rica. UNTIL THIS WEEK!
John and I have found that Tienda Universal tends to have most of what we are looking for for both school supplies and basic housewares. Unfortunately/Fortunately, it is about 25 minutes away so I don't usually get there unless there is something specific we need. I happened upon their Christmas section last week when I stopped in for some school supplies and picked up a pack of Christmas towels. Fortunately, that was all it took for John to be on board with getting some decorations!
We wanted to keep to a budget of around $90. We were able to get an artificial tree on sale for around $40 and lights, ribbon and ornaments for about $65 more, but it was not easy and I definitely had to forego quite a few things I would've purchased in years past. John and I figure we probably spent about $600 on average per year on new lights and decorations. The convenience of Target and home good stores like At Home in Charlotte, along with the terrible quality of string lights that had us repurchasing pretty much every year, made spending that amount so easy. I do miss strolling through Target looking at all the festive decor they have available, seasonal Starbucks in hand, but I am glad that I was able to make a beautiful tree for our kids during this transition year. Next year, LOOK OUT!
Check out the Timelapse of me decorating the tree. See if you can spot how many times I drop an ornament (thank goodness for shatter proof ornaments!) and Rocco's snack break lol!
Onto a quick house update!
So as John mentioned last week, we bought a house! The ceiling of this place is amazing and the rest just needed a little work to make it a perfect "for now" house for us. We are going to be replacing the interior spiral stairs with more dog/kid/grandparent friendly steps and remodeling the kitchen and bathrooms along with a fresh coat of paint and a few other odds and ends.
Here are some before pictures of the house:
And here is the progress as of this weekend:
We are going with a simple black/white/natural wood theme to really highlight the beautiful ceilings and architecture of the house. Here are some basic mockups of the kitchen layout:
As you can see from the mockups and the progress pictures, we are removing part of a wall to expand the kitchen and open the space more.
This was my first time picking out all the tiles and fixtures and man, what an exhausting process - especially in Costa Rica where the selection is limited and prices can be higher than expected due to import taxes. I did end up sourcing some of the kitchen and bathroom fixtures from the US and am using DUAL shipping to import here. DUAL is an international shipping/import service (located right here in Playas del Coco) that we have had success with. I tested them out a few weeks ago with an order of contact lenses and had them within a week. It only cost me about $17 USD which is well worth the potential hassles you might experience with other import carriers. So far they have been great on this much larger order - they open each package in their Doral, FL location to inspect before importing to CR which helped spot a broken fixture that I could request a replacement for and not waste time and money importing something that we couldn't use. Fingers crossed it continues to be a smooth process - we will update you in our next house progress post!
NOTE: not all import companies are created equal in CR! We initially used another company for our business inventory and it was and IS an ongoing disaster. So having a company that is competent and that you can trust is so important!
Here are the tile selections we (I) made for the master bath (first 2 images) and the guest bathrooms (second two images). We are going with an open shower concept and will have matte black fixtures throughout. All of the walls will be receiving a fresh coat of white paint (SW Snowbound).
We are on a tight timeline since we only have our current condo until December 6, but we really only need one functional bathroom and a semi-functional kitchen by that point since I'll be flying back to the US with the kids December 10. Our contractor, Jeffry, has been amazing to work with so far - he is very responsive to our questions, has worked to get us good deals on things we can't source from the States and makes sure he keeps his crew on task. We are so excited to see the finish product in a few short weeks!
That's it for now! Happy Holidays to all and thank you for following along on our journey! Hasta Luego, Amigos!
Perfect Turkey Brining Process
Step One: Buy one of these containers:
You want this container. It will make your life so much easier and you can reuse it year after year. The bag method is the worst, especially if you are cooking a 20 lb+ turkey like I usually am!
Step Two: Get your ingredients.
Here is the list of what you'll need for the brine and what you'll need for the aromatics once you're ready to cook. Note - this recipe assumes a 14-16 lb turkey. If you are doing larger than 16 lbs, just double up.
For the Brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
1 gallon heavily iced water
For the Aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Step Three: Make sure your turkey is thawed. I usually start this process the Friday night/Saturday morning before Thanksgiving Day.
Step Four: The Monday morning before Thanksgiving Day, I combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.
Step Five: The Monday Evening before Thanksgiving Day, I combine the brine, water and ice in the Hefty container. I put the thawed turkey (with innards removed) in the brine. Refrigerate until Thanksgiving morning. Make sure you turn the bird about halfway through the brining period.
Step Six: Thanksgiving Morning - Your Day to Shine! Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from the brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Pat dry. Discard the brine.
Step Seven: Place the turkey on a roasting rack in a half roaster pan.
Step Eight: Aromatics Time! Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.
Step Nine: Cooking Time. Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.
Step Ten: Enjoy your delicious turkey and all the praise!