Category: Home & Garden (page 1 of 2)

A Beginner’s Guide to Canning: Preserve Your Food in Jars

This post contains affiliate links.  If you make a purchase, I will receive a small percentage of the seller’s profit at no additional cost to you.  Please see my Privacy Policy and Terms of Use for additional information.

Canning is a great way to preserve fruits and vegetables for later use.  When I was growing up my mom made delicious plum jam, but she did not can or pickle any vegetables.  No canning mentor for me.  Thank goodness for the internet!

Several years back, my husband and I decided to rent a community garden space to grow vegetables (check out one of my early posts on our farm plot).  We paid ‘rent’ for a 30’X30′ plot and got to work.  We started planting in late April-early May and by the time late July rolled around we had a bumper crop of vegetables and the bounty continued through early October.  We shared much of the harvest with friends and family, but we still had tons of veggies left-over.

In an effort to save our harvest for later use (think dark, cold winter days; I knew we would want to mentally escape), I scoured the internet and book stores for good canning references, magazines, and guidelines.  I had heard about the dangers of canning (exploding jars and food poisoning) and was honestly quite intimidated.  After reading the basics, it seemed manageable and I decided to give it a try.  I loved the process and the reward.  I hope you will follow the steps I have outlined below to get started on your own canning journey.

Step 1:  Collect recipes and tips

I recommend purchasing a good canning/preserving reference book.  Food safety is extremely important when canning and good quality resources outline critical procedures for produce preparation, processing, and storage.  Books, magazines, and Pinterest are great places for inspiration.  If you are interested in a particular fuit/vegetable, search the internet for recipes.  I highly recommend that you read the reviews.  Many recipes do not follow proper, safe canning procedures (for example, my beloved Blue Ribbon Pickle recipe) and usually this comes up in the comment thread.  If you are not sure, follow recipes in a canning reference book.  The book I got started with is the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  I do not recommend modifying or tweaking recipes.  They are designed to ensure appropriate conditions for canning and the quality and safety of your final product.

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Planning a Furniture Flip – Dresser to Bar Cabinet

This post contains affiliate links.  If you make a purchase, I will receive a small percentage of the seller’s profit at no additional cost to you.  Please see my Privacy Policy and Terms of Use for additional information.

I recently ‘inherited’ a dresser from a friend.  When I opened the front doors on the cabinet, I knew it would make a perfect bar.  A wonderful storage spot for bottles of liquor, drawers for all the bar gadgets and linens, and a perfect spot towards the bottom for hanging wine glass storage.  Can you picture it?

I have been scouring Pinterest for ideas.  Here are a few examples I am using for inspiration.

Links to sources of inspriation: top lefttop right; bottom left; bottom right.

I’m going for a more elegant feel that I think black paint will provide.  To take it up another notch, I will paint the interior gold or I will try to find really unique wall paper with a gold tint and unexpected pattern.  I’m hoping the drawer hardware will work, but I will have to replace the cabinet lock.  I’ll just have to see how all the hardware matches up.  I have used chalk paint for other projects, but I am planning to use latex paint for this project.  I am going for elegant on this project vs. shabby chic.  A coat of polyurethane will also be essential to ensure the bar can stand up to endless parties and cocktails.

I’ll toast with a classic for my first round….The Manhattan

2 ounces rye whiskey
1 ounce sweet vermouth
3 dashes bitters (so many to choose from; a fun opportunity to experiment and develop your own signature Manhattan cocktail)

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and stir in whiskey, vermouth, and bitters.  Strain into cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.

The examples definitely look more fun with accessories, so I plan to stock up on bar essentials before I share the after pictures.   I have other projects scheduled for July, so stay tuned for an update in August. ‘The devil is in the details ‘ and ‘A project without planning is just a wish’.  I look forward to your feedback.


Restoration of a northwoods boathouse – when not to DIY

Renovation of a northwoods boathouse located in Oneida County, WI

When we purchased our vacation home we knew the first project we had to tackle was stabilizing the boathouse.   The cabin was build in the mid-1950’s and the boathouse was constructed not long after that.  The boathouse was definitely a major bonus on our list of desired cabin features and certainly something we weren’t expecting.  The state of Wisconsin no longer allows the construction of over-the-water boathouses.  Even renovation of the existing structure was tricky.  Super clubs and boat houses….you know you are in Wisconsin.

Sometimes you can DIY, but sometimes professional help and skill is required.  Our boathouse renovation definitely required expert help to manage the permitting with the city, county, and Department of Natural Resources.  It is nearly impossible to tackle or coordinate these efforts when you work full-time and live in a different state.  Money well spent, as our contractor did a fantastic job negotiating to get the permits required for the project to commence.  We had no idea of how to tackle this structural project and clearly special skills and tools were going to be required to prevent this delicate structure from ending up at the bottom of the lake.

Freeze-thaw cycles had really done a number on the poor old boathouse.  It was so off-level and looked so unstable, we were afraid to let anyone walk on the roof deck.  The contractor had to basically detach the back wall, which was anchored on-shore while everything else was in the lake bed.  Once this was completed, the sand around the pilings was jetted to sink the boathouse until everything was level.  During the process, the boathouse was tied off to trees for support.  After leveling, braces were installed to minimize movement and shifting of the structure.

The scary before. This was a great time to be in another state. I would have held my breath for hours on end.


Strengthened back wall and braces and side wall.,

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3 critical points to consider when purchasing a second home

Shortly after Pat and I married, we purchased our first home.  Once we settled in, we began to travel and developed our dream of owning a vacation home.  We knew we wanted a waterfront home and since we live nowhere close to an ocean, we focused our search on lakefront property and implemented a serious savings plan .  In the process, we enjoyed many mini-vacations and viewed countless cabins in Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin.  With each viewing we learned more about what we liked and wanted.  We made several offers.  Some were not accepted based on price;  one could not be formalized due to zoning restrictions that prevented the lot from being subdivided; and another we had to walk away from due to severe mold issues uncovered during the inspection and sellers who were not willing to negotiate.

In the process of our search, we developed a very specific wishlist.  The overall goal was a cabin that we could enjoy now, when we started a family, and in the future when we retired.  Our desire was a lakefront cabin with a price tag that would not require us to rent it out to help cover expenses.   Another requirement was a home located on a lake large enough for a boat to enjoy cocktail cruises and tubing or water-skiing.  A home that required serious elbow grease, renovation, and imagination was no problem.  The cabin had to be large enough to enjoy time with family and friends, but small enough to minimize cleaning time.  It is vacation after all!

When we moved to Southern California, we had to take a break from our vacation home dreams.  However, we couldn’t escape our longing for open space, forest, and a lakefront paradise.  When the opportunity to move back to the mid-west arose, we jumped on it and rekindled our search effort to finally make our cabin dream a reality. Because of our efforts in identifying the type of vacation home situation that would work for us, we have had absolutely no regrets and love every minute we spend in our peaceful oasis.  If  you are considering the purchase of a second home, here are some critical points you must consider before taking the plunge .  We have watched others rush at the opportunity to purchase vacation homes, only to create unnecessary stress and financial uncertainty into their lives.  I hope this information helps you fulfill your vacation dreams.  Owning a second home is not for everyone.  It can limit the opportunity to visit new destinations.

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Patio Life – Building an outdoor fireplace into the side of our garage (Part 1)

Outdoor fireplace built into the side of a garage.


Outdoor patio paradise!  Isn’t it magical?!?!  There was a lot going on with this project, so I will tell the story in a series of posts.  The project started last July and the fireplace and exterior garage renovation were completed the day of our first snow in early December.  I sat in front of the fire on this snowy eve with a gloved hand, glass of wine, and umbrella to prevent snow from accumulating on my glasses and in my wine.

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I LOVE Dansk Kobenstyle Cookware

My Kobenstyle Casserole filled with Gumbo.

Brilliant! The casserole lid doubles as a trivet.

I have ‘known’ Kobenstyle Enamel casserole cookware my entire life.  My mom received a set as a shower gift when she married 50-years ago.

Growing up, this cookware meant special events and celebration food.  My mom stored her most beloved Christmas cookies in her Kobenstyle.  This isn’t her Linzer recipe, but close enough and good reviews!

My mom used her Kobenstyle to entertain company and I remember many appearances in the dining room, which was reserved for special occasions with family and friends.   Some of my favorite Kobenstyle memories are Gumbo and Mushroom Soup.

Growing up, I didn’t understand how much I associated the Kobenstyle casserole cookware with great food and good times.  Unfortunately, my parents divorced and the Kobenstyle cookware was lost!!!!  I went off to college, married, and started cooking for a family of my own.  I had some great enamelware from Crate and Barrel, which I also received as shower gifts.  I loved the light weight and versatility, but cleaning caked on food left the bottoms scratched and eventually I had to retire these dutch ovens.  About 2-years years ago, I opened a catalog I received in the mail and was delighted to find Kobenstyle cookware.  What a flood of great memories!  I had to have it!  The fabulous stock pot is available in 6-Quart4-Quart; and 2-Quart sizes.

Italian Wedding Meatball Soup.

One pot mac-and-cheese Easy, creamy, andso delicious!

My mom had the teal version.  Very mid-century modern color, I think.  It seams teal items are still available, but the black works better for me.  I love cooking with my Kobenstyle casseroles.  Le Creuset dutch ovens are also nice, but they are so heavy.   They are difficult to manage manage with food, they are difficult to clean, and they are EXPENSIVE.  Kobenstyle is a good fit for my lifestyle….affordable, super easy to clean, lightweight so you can easily manage the transfer from oven to table, and how cool is it that the lid doubles as a trivet.  So practical and stylish.






This post contains affiliate links.  If you purchase your Kobenstyle cookware using the links I have provided, I will receive a portion of the seller’s profits.  Thank you for your support.

Bird Feeder Pulley System

It’s been awhile since I last posted, but I have been busy with many projects.  Now I have lots of blogging to catch up on.

We are fortunate to have a little cabin up in the north woods.  We enjoy relaxing at our little place in the woods and watching all of the wildlife.  Patrick decided to hang bird feeders not long after we purchased the cabin.  We started with basic bird seed and were delighted with visits from squirrels (gray, red, black, small and large), chipmunks, raccoons,  a variety of birds (chickadees, nuthatches, blue jays,  and a variety of woodpeckers).  So fun to watch all the action.


A few years ago during a Thanksgiving weekend visit, Patrick splurged on bird food with dried fruit and nuts.  I thought it was overkill as it looked like trail mix I would eat myself and the price was pretty steep.  Later that evening we couldn’t figure out what was eating the nut-fruit mix  at the feeder.  Definitely something we had not seen before.  It looked like squirrels, but they were moving too fast.  Could it be some kind of bird?  It looked like they were flying to the feeder from another tree.  After some seriously patient watching, we finally figured out it was a bit of both…..flying squirrels.  I never knew these were native to the north woods.  So fun to watch!  So cute!  They are nocturnal, so they have very large eyes relative to rest of their body.  Needless to say, we always buy the fruit-nut mix now for our furry, flying friends.

This fall, we decided to add another feeder.  We had to get it higher into the tree, but still needed access for filling.  We developed a pretty simple pulley system.  The supply list is pretty simple and can be seen below.  I used a planter hook, rope, a pulley, two carabiners, an eye hook, a pulley, a screwdriver and drill.  My feeder is heavy when filled, so I might need to replace the planter hook with a stronger hook that has a cross bar for added support.  It is already starting to bend with the weight.


We drilled holes into the tree and screwed the hardware in for the planter hook.  These screws came with the planter hook.  I hung the pulley from the hook and passed the rope through.  I tied a carabiner to the end of the rope for easy connection and release to the rope on the feeder.  I made sure the rope was long enough to lower the feeder to ground and tied the other carabiner to this end of the rope.   Getting the rope right is definitely the trickiest part of this project.  The carabiner at the end of the rope reaches to the pulley when the feeder is lowered.  It doesn’t lower all the way to the ground, so the quick release on the feeder is helpful to detach the feeder for filling.   I screwed an eye hook into the tree and use this to secure the carabiner on the rope so the feeder is secure in its elevated position.  A quick weekend project and our feathered and furry friends enjoy their new feeding station.


Hope you are having a great fall.  I look forward to your comments.  Please find the link at the top of this post.



Bathroom Remodel…….Almost there!

Bathroom looks amazing and this project is very close to completion.

I love the fixtures I found on Signature Hardware.    They have some pretty cool stuff for every style.  Check out the granite and marble sink basins!  Too cool!  Great selection, packaging, and customer service.  Prices are fair for the quality.  Definitely better than what you find at the big box stores.  I’m reminded of this everyday when I use my kitchen sink.  Needed something quick for an emergency replacement.  I’m thinking a kitchen remodel is in my not too distant future.  Already scheming and dreaming!!!!

The oil rubbed bronze finish on the new fixtures blends nicely with the antique brass shower curtain surround.  The hand shower will be very handy for dog showers.  I am so happy we chose the marble.  It looks perfect in our Victorian home.  I love the marble ‘slab’ on top of the cabinet.  I like the smooth surface vs the square tiles that were there prior to the renovation.  Very elegant.  The light shining through the leaded glass window creates a beautiful light show during the evening hours.


img_3921     img_3922img_3923

What’s left?  I removed the drawers in favor of open shelving.  I will paint the interior and buy some baskets, but I hope this doesn’t end up looking too cluttered.  I do need to touch up some of the wainscoting and trim paint.  Wall paint needs to be touched up as well.  Thinking I might repaint in a different color.  I’m feeling like the blue is too casual for the new tile and overall style of the bathroom.  Stay tuned!  I am certainly open to recommendations.  After that, it’s just new towels and maybe new switch plates and outlet covers.  I came across brass aging solution on-line.  I do like to experiment, so I might give that a try before outright replacement.  This approach could come in handy for some of the other non-antique brass fixtures in my home.

I’ll post the final before and after pictures as soon as I wrap this project up.  I do have a couple of distractions: a dresser I need to paint this weekend and I probably need to get another batch of canning in before everything starts to die off at the farm.  Hoping for another big batch of tomatoes.  The last batch of Bloody Mary mix turned out amazing.  More on my Bloody Mary mix experiments soon.

take care!


Please leave comments using the ‘comment’ link at the top of this post, just below the title.  Thank you.

Bathroom Remodel……Project Scope Creep

This post contains affiliate links.  If you make a purchase, I will receive a small percentage of the seller’s profit at no additional cost to you.  Please see my Privacy Policy and Terms of Use for additional information.

Wow!  The bathroom floor looks fabulous.  Unfortunately, the shower tile and fixture are not worthy.  The square tiles look too 60’s-70’s; the brass fixtures have water marks and the finish is actually peeling; and while I love the wainscoting in the rest of the bath, it just feels like too many textures/materials in the shower.  Total style clash with the new floor and my vision for this first floor guest bath (shhhhh…dog bath).  I am going to do this once, so I will do it right.  Again, I looked to the Locke-Marchialetti project house for inspiration.  Carrera marble looks fantastic in Victorian era homes.  It has such a classic, timeless look.  I am going to have to develop a plan for the tile on the drawer cabinet.  It also has the square tiles on the side and top surface.


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Bathroom Remodel

This post contains affiliate links.  If you make a purchase, I will receive a small percentage of the seller’s profit at no additional cost to you.  Please see my Privacy Policy and Terms of Use for additional information.

I took a little break, but have been busy with remodel projects and vacation.

When we renovated the Locke-Marchialette home next door and created a master bath from the second floor kitchen, I had the opportunity to ‘experiment’ with marble tile that I had long admired.  I love the classic look of the Carrara marble.  We installed a beautiful herringbone pattern on the shower floor.  A great neutral template.  What do you think?


We sold the ‘project house’ back in May and I have been missing that wonderful tile.  My 3″ white porcelain hexagon tiles weren’t cutting it.  The grout was cracked in places and the final straw was a leaking toilet seal.  The perfect excuse for a bathroom remodel.  Pat was on board…..let the demo begin.  Shhhhh…..I’ll get to scope crepe later.

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