Friday, May 5, 2017

House Plans Arrived!

Yayyy!!! House plans arrived and now we can really take a closer look. We ordered five sets and hopefully we'll get to keep one of them)))

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Having the plans in hand, really make it seem like it's really going to happen))) Course it's still rainy season it seems and the final clearing of the property hasn't been done yet.

But we're still making progress! Course I want to jump ahead and start picking out floor, cabinets.....but all that will come soon enough I guess.

More to come)))

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Choosing a House Plan

Choosing a house plan can be one of the most difficult steps in building a house! If you've ever built a house before, you always say to yourself.....next time I build, I'm going to get everything I want!

It doesn't usually happen that way, or not for most of us anyway. If your budget is unlimited, that is one thing, but for the most of us, yes, Virginia, we do have to work within our budget.

Square footage is probably the first thing to look at. No need in looking at house plans with 4,000 sq ft if it's not in your budget. It's like looking at beauty magazines.....you just wish more.

The builder advised us to find the floor plan we liked first.....then look at the outside. That the outside could be changed as needed. But this is right bass-ackwards to what comes normal. I still looked at the outside first.....and I looked at a lot.

An internet search really will turn up a lot of results and we got familiar with a lot of sites. Once we browsed through several (hundreds I'm sure), we tended to like the French Country, Acadian or European styles. This made searching much easier.

We viewed plans from several different clearing house type businesses. They would have plans from designers from all over. Sometimes you could tell the plans belonged to certain designers, like Don Gardner for instance. We could only tell this because we would see a house plan we liked on the Don Gardner site....then see it again or several other websites...all selling plans.

No house plan is perfect, unless you're working directly with an architect and they're able to work in your every wish. But we did narrow things down to about 3-4 plans and focused on those. Personally, I wanted more square footage, but the hubby kept saying that's too big....and I knew I might as well look at something smaller or I was never going to hear the end of it.

The neighborhood has a building covenant, so that takes care of the minimum square ft which was 2,200. The plans we looked at ranged from 2,200 to 2,400 or so. Here's what we finally settled on.

We purchased the plan from Architectural Designs knowing full well that Architectural Designs did not design this plan, they are just a site that sell plans. They were very nice about answering questions though and were quick to respond via email.  

I had hoped to be able to find the actual designer's website so I could at least price check. Plans are expensive! We ordered 5 sets. The company will send you a pdf file that you can print, but that sounded like it might not work for us since we live in a small town and I had no idea who might be able to print oversized blue prints. 

Well, sure enough, just as quick as the order and payment went through, I got an email and on it was Madden. That's who the designer was and when I visited that site.....could have saved $100 bucks on the plans. Another live and learn opportunity. So, if you find your plans on a site like we did, keep looking for the actual designer. Plans might be the same price, but might not.

The plan we chose will need tweaking just a bit. We wanted a side entry into the kitchen/living area so guest would not have to go through the garage or through the laundry room. I don't know how it is where you live, but around here......no one uses the front door. We also wanted a third garage for storing the lawn mower and/or tractor. My hubby has a John Deere tractor that is his pride and joy. I don't know if I'm going to get him to let go of it or not..... 

Seems like ordering the plans really makes it for real now! Even more so than just purchasing the lot. Yes, I'm already checking on the tracking number...lol









Monday, May 1, 2017

Clearing the Lot

Clearing our lot wasn't a very new experience for us and I would have to say that we did learn from our previous experience. We have lived in our current home for about 25 years. It's a farm style white house with porches all around, sitting on 10 acres of land.

When we first started clearing the 10 acres, I wouldn't let them push down anything that over six inches in diameter I think! My daddy at time had said...."now Jeannie Dale, you need to let them clear out these trees....clear them all off where you want to build you house."

Smart as we were, we thought he was wrong. Not! We cleared enough trees for a long winding driveway and a spot for the house. We left several big oaks especially and some were pretty close to the house.

Isn't there a song with ....regrets...I have a few..? Well, I do have a few regrets. And we should have listed to my dad!

Over the years, we paid again and again for a bulldozer to come back and "get a few more trees." Then there was an ice storm and that took care of some.....bulldozer again. Then there was Katrina and even being eight hours away from the coast, Katrina took care of about 17 trees for us......bulldozer again.

And you think, well a downed tree can be cut up for firewood and it can. If you burn wood. We started out with a wood burning fireplace in our home and that lasted about a year or so before we decided gas logs was much easier to fool with. And even if you do cut up trees for firewood.....do you have any idea how big those stumps are! After Katrina, the bulldozer dug a hole in our yard that you could have backed a tractor-trailer rig into. That's what it took to get rid of the stumps.

So, when we started clearing this lot, I had much less sentimental value over the trees. Yes, we wanted to keep some, but it was much easier to say....take it down! Daddy would be so proud of me))) He hasn't seen the lot yet, but I'm to drive him over soon. His 95th birthday comes up in May so he's seen a lot of tree clearing in his days)))


It's really difficult to tell exactly what you're getting in a lot until you start clearing. Measurements just don't mean anything much to me, I have to see a stake with a ribbon on it! This clearing was just on the first day, and that brush pile has really grown and grown.


We had all the pines pushed down. Pines are beautiful trees, but having learned from experience, their roots are shallow and they will blow over.



 You can see the slope of the lot much easier after the clearing started. This is important when choosing a house plan. For instance which side of the house would it be more feasible to put the driveway on? For ours, according to the builder, the driveway would work better on the left, then build up on the right. Otherwise we would be getting out of the car and having steps up to the house level. 

Choosing your builder is the next step after finding your lot. For our lot, it was in a development that the builder owned, so it was easy for him to give advice to us about the lot. He knows every inch of the property. But we shared a printed off view of a few houses we were interested in. Whatever you do, don't purchase house plans without the builder looking at your lot first. Our lot is wider in the front, more narrow to the back, so we needed a house that had a wide front, or that's what we wanted anyway.



 Some of the trees on this lot are really nice size, but they don't show up well in the images.

Then the rains set in. Yes, that's part of building a house. You get so excited and worked up that the actual process has started, then everything comes to a screeching halt. Once it's dry enough the brush pile will be disposed of, burned likely, and then the final bulldozing and clearing up done. Already we can see a few more trees will need to come down. Gosh, never believed I would hear myself saying that!










Sunday, April 30, 2017

Oh My Goodness......We're Building a New House!

Well....it may be a little late in life to start this undertaking, but we've decided to downsize or "down yard" and move to a smaller place, closer to town, less yard work etc.

This has not been an easy decision to make but we made it and now we'll see it through))) Thought it might be helpful to others to share our progress along the way as we navigate the pitfalls, highlights and questions.....I have so many questions!

First thing on the list was selection of the lot. We found what we thought was an ideal place, just outside the city limits. It was about two acres, wooded and in a very nice neighborhood. Did I mention that it was right close to Carrie, Dave and the kids? No, I didn't think so)))

We gave it a lot of thought because we didn't want to be so close them to hinder them in anyway or anything like that. We talked it over with them and after all was said and done, it was deemed agreeable by all parties)))

We made an offer on the lot and it was turned down, more than once. We had just about given up on this "perfect" place. So we let it slide for awhile and looked at some other lots. After a few months, low and behold, the seller was more motivated and accepted our offer! Yay!!! Or so we thought. We had fun looking at the lot, looking for the stakes, tramping all over the place, picking out trees we would keep, trees that would go. Then the day before the sale was to be finalized, there was a problem. The property had liens against it. So much for that piece of property.

We hoped the situation would be resolved, but it appeared that it wasn't going to happen. So we gave up on it. Then much to our surprise a few months ago, it looked like it might be available again....it was going into foreclosure and would be auctioned off at the courthouse.

Another opportunity for learning. We had never participated in any sort of auction. We did some ground work as advised by a realtor friend, and had a title search done before the auction. Our attorney did that and we were good to go. We also went to the bank and got a letter of recommendation of sort that we had the money to purchase the lot (the buyer had to be prepared to pay for the property immediately).

With our letter in hand we showed up at the courthouse hoping we would be the only people interested in the lot, well we were not.  Needless to say, we didn't get that lot. We were sort of disappointed, but not really. We had envisioned buying a lot as a quick and clean sale and this one had not been But we learned some things that we had not experienced before!

We settled on another lot in the same neighborhood. Did I mention that it was even closer to Carrie and Dave? No, I didn't think so. But we all decided that this lot would work, that we would still be "out of sight" from their place so we proceeded on.

I'll post more about this process as we go and maybe it will be beneficial to others that are embarking on the same journey. Would love to hear your comments too!



Saturday, April 29, 2017

Back on the Trail

I'm sorry to say that I have been slow about getting back on my bicycle this year. No excuses, just laziness on my part. But I have started riding a little)))

One trip we went south on the trail towards the Algoma community. Here's a few pics from that trip.

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 Blackberry vines in full bloom. 

If you want to see my blog post about picking blackberries in my childhood, check this out: Picking Blackberries

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Yellow Honeysuckle growing up trees. 
Honeysuckle blooms are also red, but it seems I haven't been seeing as much of the red lately.

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Don't know what this is.....it was just pretty)))

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 Thought these were Lazy Susans, but they usually have black centers. But it still looks like some sort of daisy.

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Seafood Junction! 
Looks sort of empty right now, but on Thursday, Friday, & Saturday night they have folks directing the parking it's so busy! 

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 This is what it looks like on a typical serving night.
Great place for family dining))) 
Check out Seafood Junction on Facebook


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 Algoma Whistlestop
The "resting" place. Bathroom and water fountain and a nice place to rest your tush for a bit.

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 Algoma Police Station
Quiet day in Algoma today, but nice to know someone is watching))

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Algoma Post Office

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Algoma Store
Here's the hub of activity for Algoma! May not look like it in this pic, I happened up on the store in between the busy times. Early mornings the store will be full of folks having breakfast, drinking coffee or just visiting a "spell."

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 Lunch times are pretty busy at Algoma. Great food to choose from and you can bet, locals know exactly what's on the menu from day to day. Sometimes we plan our rides on Friday because that barbecue day)))

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Greg and Tabby Vaughn are owners of the Algoma store and they would love for you to stop and visit. They serve breakfast and lunch six days a week! Bookmark it as a stopping place when your riding the Tanglefoot Trail. Drop in on their Facebook page to learn more.

Usually when we ride toward Algoma we see goats....turkeys....you just never know!










Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Chocolate Covered Strawberries


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 Chocolate Covered Strawberries.....this is how I spent my morning on Valentine's Day. My three grandchildren have gotten accustomed to getting chocolate covered strawberries on certain holidays so today I got an early start!

I picked up (or my husband did) four quarts of strawberries and went to work. First thing of course is the wash the berries and let them drain. You want to make sure the berries are dry, so pat them gently with a paper towel.

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 While the berries are drying, you can prepare your chocolate. I used one bag of chocolate chips and 4 T of Crisco. I use the kind that come in a bar and you can just slice off 4 T.

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Place the chocolate chips and Crisco in a double boiler if you have one. I have one, but it wasn't handy so I used a small sauce pan and placed it in water.

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You want your sauce pan to be deep enough that the boiling water doesn't splash up into your chocolate. And if the pan is small, you'll have deeper chocolate to dip into. Bring the water to a boil, then turn it down to just where it's gently boiling.

Let the chocolate chips and Crisco melt. Stirring occasionally. You can also melt them in your microwave too. While your chocolate is melting, set up a place to put your strawberries once they are dipped. Ideally, you can use toothpicks to dip your strawberries with, and then stick the strawberries upside down on a piece of Styrofoam and they can cool without having a flat smudge on them. No Styrofoam here, so I fixed an area on the counter top with waxed paper.

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Once everything has melted, you're ready to dip.

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To get the berry ready to dip, pull the leaves back out of the way a little.

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Hold the berry by the leaves and dip into the chocolate. Again, you can use a toothpick, but to me, this helps keep the leaves from getting chocolate on them.

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Place the berry on the waxed paper for cooling. Continue dipping starting with your largest berries first.

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As your chocolate dwindles down, you may have to use a spoon to dip the chocolate and drizzle over the berries. These won't be quite as neat as the first ones, but they are easily camouflaged with candy sprinkles. What kid doesn't like candy sprinkles!

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The one bag of chips covered almost 48 berries this time, more than enough to divide out for three kids)))

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Do not be tempted, let the strawberries dry! As you lift them off the wax paper, you will have a flat area where they touched the wax paper and it may be a little bare. If you are a perfectionist, you can reheat the pan if you still have any chocolate left, and dip that little bare spot to cover. I didn't and I promise you, it did not get noticed by any one of the three grandchildren)))

Save your plastic containers, wash them out and place some parchment paper in the bottom and place your berries carefully back in the container.

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Tie with a pretty bow and you're done!

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So each child got their own box of chocolate covered strawberries....plus the hubby and I had a box for ourselves, and we still have a few strawberries left over. Four quarts of strawberries were $6.00 and the chips about $1.50. Not bad for a three Valentine gifts! They're not Sherry's Berries of course....but they tasted pretty doggone good!





















Sunday, February 12, 2017

Old Fashioned Tea Cakes

Old Fashioned Teacakes

Repost from years ago:

Today in the quietness of a holiday afternoon….alone in the house…..everyone else at the shop working….well, technically I really was working….just doing it from home today and uploading a video tutorial to YouTube, I decided to make some Old Fashioned Teacakes from a recipe that I’ve had over 40 years or more.

teacakes-finished

We all have memories of being in the kitchen with a Mom or Grandmother……My Mother could made the best Teacakes you ever tasted. Don’t think she used a written recipe…don’t remember seeing one. But the cookies were crisp and chewy, buttery tasting and so good. We would risk burning our fingers to get them off the pan before they had cooled enough to handle. Always in danger of getting whacked by a big spoon!

My Grandmother, on the other hand, bless her heart…..she just could not bake good teacakes! I never could understand why one thing like a teacake could come out so good from one kitchen and so…..not so good from another!

My Grandmother’s teacakes always puffed up high in the middle and were too brown around the edges…..trying not to say burnt really….. They would be soft….more like a dense small piece of cake.

If my Grandmother ever said…..”let’s make some teacakes” we would rush in and say…..oh, well…how about some of those chocolate oatmeal cookies….and try to get her off track. My granddaddy loved the chocolate oatmeal drop cookies. There were called Warhurst Cookies in her cookbook. You win some….you lose some……you ate what you were given. Puffed up and burnt…..they were always made with love and we ate em!

Here’s my Old Fashioned Tea Cake Recipe (not really "my" recipe but the one I use, it was given to me by Helen Sanders who was a nurse aide at the hospital where I worked)

3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups Crisco (solid shortening, not oil)
3 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
3 1/2 cups self-rising flour

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Once I started the cookie making today, I realized we had no self-rising flour. So plain flour was used instead but baking soda and salt were added. (Add 1.5 tsp of baking soda and 0.5 tsp of salt to 1 cup of plain flour).

Cream the Crisco and sugar together. The recipe calls for Crisco (solid shortening, not oil). I have used butter before, but honestly like the cookies with Crisco better.

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Cream the eggs and sugar together

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Add the Crisco (solid shortening, not oil). Cut the Crisco up in pieces. I use the kind that comes in sticks like butter.

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Cream the shortening in until nice and smooth. Add the vanilla flavoring. Start adding the three 1/2 cups of flour a little at a time.

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The mixture will be stiff, much like biscuit dough.

Prepare a surface to turn the cookie dough out on. You can use a special mat made just for rolling or cutting. I usually use wax paper laid down on the counter top. If you will moisten the counter top just a little before placing the waxed paper, or parchment paper, it will stop it from sliding around when you get ready to roll out the cookies.

The best surface, is just to use your counter top. Sprinkle flour liberally and place the cookie dough in the center. This works best, but just makes for more cleanup.


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Once the cookie dough is on the waxed paper, knead in another 1 to 1 1/2 cups of flour. The dough will be fairly stiff. Stiffer than biscuit dough.

You will need to sprinkle a little bit of flour any time it gets sticky and sticks to your fingers.

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Sorry…..was home alone and it’s difficult to take a pic and knead at the same time))

Fold dough over, push away with the heel of your hand. Do this fold and push several times until the dough is smooth.

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The dough is now ready to roll out. Divide it up into about three portions and move two of them out of the way. Smooth your hands over the rolling pin with flour. Do this anytime the dough start sticking to your rolling pin.

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Start rolling the dough using short strokes, easing the dough out to the edges of the paper, keeping the thickness consistent.

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Prepare your pan before cutting out your cookies. This pan was just lined with parchment paper, no extra greasing or anything. But if you don’t use parchment paper, lightly grease your pan with Crisco or cooking spray. Preheat the oven to about 375 degrees.

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Cut out your cookies with a cutter, dust it with flour to keep the cookies from sticking to it. Usually I make mine using a biscuit cutter, but I thought I’d make this just a little bit smaller.

If you don’t have a cookie or biscuit cutter, you can use a glass. My mother and grandmother always just used a jelly glass…..or a snuff glass……they were the perfect size))) Just dip the glass in flour from time to time to keep the cuts clean.

teacakes-ready-to-bake

Place the cookies touching, but not overlapping. The thickness of the cookie comes with practice. Too thin…..they brown too quickly…..too thick, the cookies can be hard. These are cut somewhere around about 1/8″ inch.

You will have areas that no matter how smoothly your rolled out your dough, some will be thicker than others. That’s okay, just keep an eye on them in the oven. You might have to remove the thinner ones before the thicker ones.

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Place the cookies in the center of the oven and set the timer for about 8 mins. Start checking by six minutes until you see how your cookies do in your own oven.

Then re-roll the scraps. The more you re-roll the scraps, the stiffer the dough will get. So just take another lump of your dough and work these scraps into it. Start the process all over….dusting with a little flour as you need.

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Remove the cookies when they are lightly browned. Remove from pan gently using a cake spatula.

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I believe this is called a cake spatula. It’s one my husband’s grandmother gave me to at least 40 years ago. It’s really the only thing I use it for, and it’s perfect for removing cookies from a hot pan. Yes, these were placed on newspaper to cool. The Daily News isn’t all bad!

teacakes-cool

Cool and sample of course)) Once they have thoroughly cooled, you can store in a cookie jar, or zip lock bags….most anything.

teacakes-closeup

Once the word got out that I was making Tea Cakes, the request came in for chocolate tops! So, I melted a bag of dark chocolate chips with about a tablespoon of Crisco and spooned a little bit on top of some of the cookies.

Sometimes I put chocolate between two cookies……of course this means….anytime you reach for a cookie….you’re taking two. Making the cookies a tad bit smaller this time was my subconscious way of saying….you don’t need these….you don’t these…..but they are smaller….sooooo.

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Bake cookies with your kids….or grands…..so sweet. Here’s some photos from way back)))

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maggie-cutting-cookies
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Yes, I would say……worth all the mess to clean up)))

And as I said, this is a re-post of a blog many years ago....the sweetie in the pic just made the high school cheer leading squad for next year. Go Maggie!!!