Thursday, July 23, 2015

Porch conversion idea

As I make my way through what feels like my neverending list of projects I have been obsessing about fencing the yard, remodeling the bathroom/ laundry room and I have added a new obsession--
an enclosed front porch!

I dislike how my main entry opens to the dining room and always believed I needed some type of vestibule. The it dawned on me--for a smart person, sometimes I am a little slow on the uptake--that my current porch really is useless as a porch due to it diminutive dimensions but would make a wonderful enclosure. We truly seldom use the front porch, so why not try to reclaim it as usable living space?

Now I have absolutely no idea as to the feasibility of this project--zoning, permits and cost--but it hasn't stopped me from such things. Hello Google and Pinterest, ha.

This is my porch from 2012 and not much has changed except the plants have gotten bigger.

My idea would be to shorten the porch so as not to cover the living room window. 
 I found this posted on Old House Web forum. It gives a good visual as to how my addition could look with  the entry offset and  a small scale enclosure. 
Old House Web Forum
My porch dimensions currently are 5 feet depth by 24 feet length and  if I were to have my enclosure the dimensions would be 5 feet by 18 feet (shorten the length so as to not cover the window. That seems like a lot of good space!

There would be a larger space on the left (5x 9)--I envision low bookcases under the windows with plants lining the outside wall with possibly a club chair and ottoman and to the the right (5 x 5) would be a coat/ boot bench--sort of the "mud room" area of the vestibule.

Project wish list 
Remove all the current siding within the vestibule.
Insulate and drywall
Add a few outlets
Move the exterior light fixture from wall to ceiling
Slate tile for the flooring but would settle for a faux painted and stained concrete.
Full pane horizontal sliders, so as not to block the view--even if it is of my neighbors house.(The dimensions would allow for 4-5 nice sized  windows)
Bamboo blinds for privacy.
Main entry door would be 2/3 glass but etched/ frosted for privacy.
A transom with our house numbers!
Expand the entry into the dining room  from a 36 inch opening to 42-46  inches if possible. I would like to frame it in nice thick molding and casing and no interior door. Wide open space. How lovely. 

Can you picture it?

Forgive my poor artistic skills but these are my mock ups and they aren't to scale...

Of course this is a "down the road aways" project and would need to take place around the siding and roofing phase. But a girl can dream...

Monday, July 20, 2015

Sweet Heat Georgia Peach Jam

Y'all, remember when I said I found a good deal on peaches? Well my original plan was to make some boozy peaches. Except I kept eating the peaches! And they were oh-so delicious. Since I reduced the amount of peaches considerably -don't judge me- I decided to make a small batch of jam.

It ended up being late in the evening by the time I started my batch, because it took 2 hours for me to locate and clean all my stuff. This was the 1st time I canned since putting the kitchen back together. Then I had a not so quick jaunt to Rural King and Target--with the idea,  I was only get canning lids. Hahahahaha...Um, yeah. Not so much. I ended up with 2 new pots, some additional mason jars, some new tongs, a new pizza cutter, um a few other things, oh and canning lids. Moving on...

And unlike most of my perceived brilliant notions from my fatigue addled brain--this one WAS brilliant. Or delicious. Or brilliantly delicious!

Aren't they lovely?
3 1/2 lbs of just barely ripe peaches
2 cups sugar
1-2 TBS lemon juice
3 TBS bourbon
1 TBS pure vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne

Setting up my supplies and work stations

After washing in hot soapy water and triple rinsing, I placed my inverted 4 oz jelly jars on clean heavy duty baking sheet. I placed in the oven at 275°F for 30 minutes. I then lowered the temperature to 225°F and held the jar at this temperature until I was ready to hot pack.

I rinsed and scored an X on the bottom of each of 3 1/2 pounds of peaches in preparation of blanching. I placed several peaches (don't crowd the pan) in boiling water  for 2 minutes. Remove and immediately place in an ice water bath. Repeat until all peaches are blanched and ice quenched.

While the peaches were cooling in the ice bath, I heated the water in the canner and an extra pan (in case I needed it). I peeled, pitted and sorta broke the peaches up a little as I dropped them in my blender. I also a added a little squirt of lemon juice in each blender batch to keep the peaches from browning.  My blender has a grate function. So I pulsed that for a few seconds. The resulting mixture was chunky, I transferred it to the stock pot, added 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 2 cups of white granulated sugar.* You may need less or more depending on the sweetness of your peaches. Rule of thumb is  1 tablespoon of acid (vinegar or lemon juice) and 2 cups of sugar per 3 pounds of fruit. Please refer to the USDA Home Preservation guidelines for additional information.  I do NOT add water like some other recipes. The peaches released plenty of liquid. You will need to cook the jam down anyway so why add the water? Adding water only increases the opportunities for microbial growth.

 Once all the peaches were added to the stock pot, I turned it to low-medium. Constantly stirring and scraping, so the sugar didn't burn or caramelize. When the sugar was dissolved I turned the heat to medium  for a rolling boil. Again, constantly stirring. Once the foam began to form (after about 10 minutes) I reduced the heat slightly. Bubbles were still breaking the surface--a gentle boil. I let this cook for until the volume was reduced by slightly more than half (make sure to remove the foam and kinda smoosh the bigger chunks of peaches)

I then pulled the pot from the heat added in a "nip" bottle (50 ml) of white label Jim Beam (this is equal to 3 tablespoons, 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper. I put this back on the heat and stirred allowing the added flavors to incorporate. After 15 minutes I checked for gel.

  Some people use a thermometer; other use the gel test to determine set. I use the gel test. I had a finger bowl which I had cooled in the freezer, to which I added a small amount of jam to see how quickly it set. I also taste tested by jam and decided it needed a bit more heat. I added an additional 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/8 cayenne. The jam cooked for an additional 10-15 minutes. 

Once ready, I removed the jam from the heat and pulled the jars from the oven. The lids and rings were placed several at a time in the low boil water. I hot packed the jars, run the wand through the jam to remove air bubbles, leave 1/2 in headspace, and wipe the rim with a paper towel moistened with boiling water. The lids were pulled from the hot water bath, tapped dry on a paper towel, affixed to the jar a ring added and screwed onto finger tight.

I used the 4 oz jelly jars  and processed in a  boiling water bath for 8 minutes. Technically I could have done 5 minutes but I prefer to err on the side of caution. The jars were removed from the bath and placed on a double folded towel, in a draft free location. The jars pinged within 1 minute of being pulled from the bath. I LOVE that little melodic metallic ping! I let the jars set overnight undisturbed before removing the rings and checking for lid flex. They all sealed! 

Look at the little strands of peaches and flecks of spices, mmmm!
I ended up with 9 of the 4 oz jelly jars and 1 8oz (1/2 pint) for the fridge. I always keep a "taste jar" hehe. I must say thought this jam is sooo good. I could not stop eating it. I wanted to climb inside the pan and lick it clean, haha. 

Let me tell you how this tastes... You know the last day of summer? It is really hot, clear blue skies, fluffy clouds, all the vivid colors of nature and the leaves are just beginning to to turn. The evening is dropped temperatures, just enough of a brisk chill you need a sweater and maybe think about having a fire. You step out on the patio in barefeet and can still feel the heat from the day's sun . The air is cool, crisp and carries the perfume of  the grass, trees and flowers. That my friend is how this jam tastes. Sweet, sunshine, warm and spicy.

I plan to make this again, and maybe, just maybe, up the oommpf factor. Maybe reduce the sugar and add some honey. Maybe a little pinch of mace. Maybe a little grated apple to added extra pectin and firm it up just a wee bit. And maybe a few cherries added to the stockpot to  hold the color, because it did darken just a tad. Overall I consider this a WIN my first time making it.  

I think this jam is versatile... on toast, honey butter biscuits, and a glaze for pork or chicken. Don't take my word for it..go on and make y'all some!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Oh deer, a project diss and boozy peaches

Hello all my bloggies! A quick post today.

1) The marauding band of deer returned and finished the remains of my garden. The strawberries are merely green sticks, all the tomato plants stripped bare--every last tomato is gone-- the only thing I am left with are a few fat jalapenos and a couple of habaneros....Sigh... We are expecting temps in the 90's this weekend, which would have been great for my tomatoes--if there were any left! I am considering buying a couple of plants for the patio. Damn deer! What are some of your tips for keeping the wildlife from turning your garden into an all you can eat buffet?

The deer could have at least eaten the weeds in addition to the strawberries. How rude!

2) I am almost finished with my No Dig Zone project. The hubbs kinda dissed my project. Stay tuned for part 3 which shows the completed project, you can read about his unfortunate diss and decide who was right about this project...ummm me!

3) I scored a really good deal on some peaches, so there is some small batch canning going on at the MCLF homestead. Boozy peaches anyone? oh yeah!

 As a side note, I am wondering if my blog is working properly?

Hello...Is this thing on?
I am experiencing a lot of traffic on my site and seeing shares with Google Plus but not one comment in 10 days. I know some other bloggers were experiencing some issues with comments. So if you would take a moment, to leave a comment. If you find there is an issue and you are unable to comment on my post, would someone be so kind as to go to my Facebook page, leave a comment there or private message me?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

No dig zone and thinking outside the box (part 2)

When we last left our heroine she  was facing a crisis of epic proportions...oh wait, wrong story...

Well, maybe it wasn't a crisis of epic proportions but it was definitely an issue--for me. In case y'all don't remember I am talking about that ugly corner of my house with the gas pipes. When I had posted about this previously, I had taken the project to the point of spraying the gas pipes, the meter and phone/cable boxes. It needed a 2nd coat of paint, then it rained, and rained and rained...The more it rained, the more irritated I became. What soothes my irritation (besides chocolate, booze and pasta?) Pinterest and shopping. Never, EVER a good combination!  

I...ummm...may have over spent on this project. But after carefully weighing the instant gratification factor against the "I will be sweating my ass off , being chased by buzzing/ stinging insects, and I really didn't want to paint a kazillion things factors"... I went for instant gratification. I know, I know. I broke my own mantra of a budget. And repurposing things. But it was hot as hell. And I'm tired ...

Please pass me the cheese plate to go with my whine...
Gatehouse Vinyl Privacy Lattice 31 x37
Pea Gravel 0.5 cf
Retaining blocks, 16 inch
Here are some of the in-progress shots because the typhoons rains came...again. This is not how I leaving it but you get the idea of what I am trying to do by concealing this corner. Since I can't stick the spikes in the ground due to a concrete slab  and gas/ water lines, the blocks filled with gravel holds the spikes n place. Let me tell you those blocks are heavy as hell.  It is definitely quite the workout! This is even more of an improvement over painting the pipes but I am not loving the gap in between because you can see the hardware. Nor am I loving the gap under the panels.

View from my porch...ehhh not so much...but I have a fix for this too

What I do like is the utility workers have easy access to the meter. They can view it over the panel or have access to step behind the panels. Worse case scenario this all can be moved with relative ease.

Just a tweak on the hardware which came with the panels. The top hardware is used when attached sided by side (except you use 1 bracket). I connected them using a small bolt and nut. The bottom hardware is used when connecting the panels at a 90° angle. Agian I overlap the hardware using a small nut and bolt. I bent the hardware to conform to the angle I had arranged the panels, drilled through the sides and attached using small bolts with nuts. The hardest part of this was finding bolts that fit the hole of the hardware and nuts to fit the bolts when digging through the hubbs hardware bins.

Well that's where I am for now. If the rains ever stop, I can finish what was supposed to be a weekend project which has now spanned over 2 weeks....

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Pinspirations-Kicked up Coffee Cake

I was awoken early this morning (about 430 am) as massive thunder & lightning storms rolled through the area. Since I was wide awake, thanks to the strobe light effect from the lightning,  I tossed in a load of laundry, made myself a cuppa tea and starting perusing Pinterest. You know it is trouble when I utter the word...Pinterest, ha! I was hungry so I started browsing recipes because I am glutton (ha) for punishment. I found a recipe for Polish Cream Cheese Coffee Cake, which actually linked back to All Recipes. As a wave sleepiness overcame me, I snuggled back under the blankets as visions of cream cheese filled coffee cake filled my dreams...

Most of the reviews were positive, so I decided to move forward and make this coffee cake.Please click on the hyperlink to see the ingredients and quantities.  

I used a glass pan and reduced my temperature to 325°F. Make the dough by creaming together sugar, butter and 1 egg. One combined and smooth, add sour cream and vanilla. Add to this the flour, baking soda, baking powder and I added some cinnamon for extra flavor and a pinch of salt. Mix well.  The dough will be thick and sticky.

Heavily grease a 9x13 baking pan. Add half the dough into pan and press to bottom and sides. I tried to use my spatula and the dough was to sticky. So I washed my hands really well (again), sprayed then with a little cooking spray and pressed the dough into the pan. Setting the dough aside, I combined the 2 blocks of cream cheese, 1 egg, sugar, and I added 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice with 1/4 teaspoon real lemon extract. Once blended to a creamy consistency, pour over the dough in the pan and spread smooth. 

Here is where I decided to Kick It Up! I had a jar of jam--one of my favorites! It isn't one that I made. It is from The Jam and Jelly Lady, which she is from whom I took my canning boot camp. The jam is so good. It is a soft style strawberry jam (no added pectin) with honey bourbon, cinnamon and hint of cayenne. Mmmmmm!  I spooned about 6 teaspoons of jam over the cream cheese filling then used a knife to gently swirl it in. I then added the remaining dough over this filling as little chunks. I mixed up the flour, butter, pecan and brown sugar streusel, adding an extra 2 tablespoons of flour, 2 tablespoons of oats and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to get the consistency I needed because I only had  1/4 cup of pecans. 

I baked this at 325°F for 55 minutes. I did a lower temperature because using a glass pan (you typically set the temperature 25° lower since glass is an very good conductor of heat) it took some extra time for the cheesecake center to set.

Hot from the oven!

 It took forever to cool so I could try it! Look at that beautiful layer of cheesecake goodness!

Oh wow! It is very tender and moist. A hint of the jam flavors complements the cheesecake flavor. 

I found the process to be somewhat labor intensive.
When I make this again, I would NOT layer the dough, it think I would "poke holes" in the dough with a wooden spoon do a layer of jam, the cheese filling (or vice versa) and then the streusel. I would also like to try different flavors--like cinnamon & brandied peaches?  Definitely worth the effort!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

No dig zone and thinking outside the box (part 1)

I have an ugly corner by my  porch. Unfortunately, I can't get rid of it because I am no pioneer gal. I am kinda partial to my electric and cable. I  am not partial to all the ugly! All I want to do is hide all of the cables, gas pipes and meter. This one of the first things you see when driving towards my house. Yuck!   I can't dig down  to place post of any kind because it is concrete and there are gas lines. I also need leave access to the utility workers if needed.

Ugh...this is all kinds of ugly!

In a somewhat related topic, I decided to think outside the box in terms of some decorations for this little corner while I figure out how to hide the eyesore.

This is part of my inspiration. Any guesses as to what this is?

If you guessed Starry Night, you would be...incorrect.



Yep-- a bowling ball. I think this undrilled bowling ball has been moved to every closet, nook and cranny in this house over the last...12 years. I finally had enough and decided it would make a great gazing ball.

See what I mean about the distracting ugliness of  the meter, cables and gas pipe?! I have no idea how long the bowling ball can stay outside before discoloring and fading. However, it is a free decoration for now and in the future I can always paint, glue stuff on or embellish in some manner.

OK back to the project on  hand...

I decided the quickest, easiest and cheapest fix is to paint the pipes and box white  to blend with the house as much as possible.

The first thing I did (after putting on gloves getting rid of cobwebs) was use a wire brush and knock off all the flaking paint and rust. I hosed it down and let it dry overnight.

I used Rust-Oleum Flat White spray paint. Definitely an improvement!  Ummm do you think I could talk the cable and phone companies into coming out and changing all the cabling to white cables? Hahaha. OK I am MAYBE just a little OCD about stuff....Seriously, do you think they would do so?  Or maybe--I can get white tubing to go over the cables (like used for computer cables)?

This is only the 1st coat. Ignore the over-spray and spiderwebs. (gross) The rocks will be raked and the webs will get removed...again before  a 2nd coat for everything. I didn't paint over the plastic cover or the serial number plate. I figured they might not be to happy with that. I don't know if I was even allowed to paint the pipes,  so I guess I will find out if I get a fine or summons.  Pay attention, I may be appearing on the most wanted posters in the post office. HA!

I thought about installing a  series of large sized colorful pots with a trellis or obelisk and potted with some vining plants--perhaps cardinal climber or black eyed susan vine--would help conceal this eyesore  this a little more.  The plants must be able to withstand direct suns all day as this is a due west exposure. Several pots would be easier to move than one large installation .

Not bad for a few bucks and 30 minutes of time, eh?

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Have you ever had one of those weeks?

You know the kind where you are having a bad luck streak a mile long?

Because y'all...I feel like my life is a country song...all twangy and kinda sad.

My garden has been chosen as the all you can eat buffet by a marauding band of deer. The zucchini and yellow squash were eaten right off the plants. The tomatoes were given a buzz cut. My cucumbers were climbing up my trellis until the deer ate them.

The  daughter strawberry plants I had transplanted were sheared off.

 See the hoof prints! gggrrr

My patio umbrella broke. It was a pretty nice one too. A wooden market umbrella that I had scored on a really good sale. It looks like a torsion break at the level where the pole goes into the base. So there is no repair to save it. Bummer. I did go to Lowe's and bought a metal replacement. It is nice, just kind of bland (beige). Oh well, it does the job, that is what matters, right?

And my 3 yr. old freezer failed. I lost ALL of my food in this freezer. 3 garbage bags worth of food.

 I am positively heart sick over this. Just the sheer waste if it all. It took me about 2 months (and I can't even think about the money aspect right now) to accumulate our food. I have enough food in the house refrigerator/ freezer for 1 week. We won't starve.  I had noticed some water last week and asked the hubbs who assured me it was from the leak on the back wall of the garage. I didn't question his logic. I wish I had. Yesterday  went to pull food from the freezer to make dinner. I noticed water, then went I opened the chest freezer the interior light was blinking off/ on and everything was soggy with standing water in the bottom. Awesome...I checked it the morning and the "running water" sound is gone, the light isn't blinking and everything is frozen. I have no idea what happened. Unfortunately this didn't have a temperature alarm. Right now we are keeping it closed with the bagged food until garbage day. At which point we will unplug clean it and inspect everything. I am deciding whether I even want to keep this freezer. I may get rid of it for a smaller model which can fit inside my laundry room. Where I can keep an eye on it... IF I decide to keep this freezer, I am going to invest in a temperature alarm. They range in price from $15 up. I  am going to buy an alarm even if I don't keep this freezer and  buy a smaller freezer instead. ugh...


At least the patio garden I made for my daughter is doing well (which she still needs to pick up before we harvest it, ha)
And the the deer and birds managed to leave me a few blackberries.

I hope y'all are having a better time at life this week than me...