Enjoying The Outdoors In A Screened Environment

A screen enclosure offers a way to enjoy the outdoors without all of the insects and other issues that you experience while sitting on your deck or patio. Companies that install screen enclosures in Jacksonville can offer suggestions about the best way to place the screens to provide the most coverage and to enhance the image of the outside of the home. You’ll have more usable space for your home instead of entertaining or spending time with family or friends in rooms of the house. An enclosure also increases the value of the home if you think about selling in the future. You can leave sliding doors open to allow a fresh breeze to flow through the screened-in area. Install a porch so that you can enjoy the deck or patio when it’s raining because of the screens that are in place.

If you have pets inside the house, then you know that they usually want to go outside at some point. A screened enclosure allows you to let your pets go outside for fresh air without going off the porch. You can also let your kids play in the screened-in room if they don’t want to play inside all the time. The screens give you an area of the home to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine and cool breezes that flow through without worrying about being bitten by insects. It also keeps pests off of your porch that might get into your trash cans or that might damage the items that you have outside the house.

A screened enclosure offers shade on a sunny day while keeping the area cool so that you don’t have to spend your summer season indoors. You can sit outside while your kids or pets play in the yard, watching them from the protection of the screened environment while still being near them in case they need anything. If you install screens that are a dark color, then the enclosure can offer privacy from your neighbors while you’re sitting outside. You’ll be able to see outside, but other people will have a hard time seeing what you’re doing on the porch.

Steps to Take When You Get Lost in the Wilderness

Hiking through the woods, exploring a few caves and spending time in the wilderness can make you feel like a real adventure seeker. Experts often recommend that take at least one person with you, but if you decide to go it alone, you should always let someone know when you will be back. Exploring in smaller and larger groups lets you turn to others for advice and help when you get lost, but you can also learn what steps to take when you become lost in the wilderness on your own.

Plan for Your Trip

Never even think about heading out and into the wilderness by yourself unless you plan for that trip in advance. Even if you think that you’ll be home in a few hours, you should still have a plan in mind. Write a note that you leave in your home with details about where you are going and what time you will be home. You can send emails to loved ones with your trip plans too. Pack a bag that includes a few bottles of water, extra clothing, snacks and a compass too.

Stay Calm

One reason why some people get lost and never found is because they panic. When you panic in the wilderness, it’s easy to lose track of your surroundings and forget where you are. Panic can also cause you to bolt, which can lead to you going any further off the trail than you were. Try to stay as close to one spot as possible. While search and rescue teams will go deep into the wilderness to look for you, they have a better chance of finding you if you stay in the same spot. If they need to do a rescue from heights, your constant moving around may make it harder for them to get to you.

Signal for Help

Even if you don’t have a lot in your pack, you can still signal for help. Any type of reflective surface will catch the light and create a signal that others will see, including an old mirror or a piece of metal. Many hikers carry signal flares that let them shoot a signal high in the sky, which is helpful when you’re deep in the woods. While getting lost in the woods is scary, you can keep a calm head and get rescued.

Safe Boating Tips for Summer


Summer provides the perfect time to practically live at the lake if you so desire. Perhaps that’s why more than 20 million Americans, or 7.3% of all residents over the age of 16, own a boat of some form. Bass boats are the most common type of water vessel since they’re simple and affordable enough for just about anyone to use. But any type of boat, from a canoe to a schooner can lead to unexpected disaster. Fortunately, some of the easiest and most sensible boat safety tips can help ensure everyone continues to have fun in the sun.

Always Check the Weather

Around 74 million Americans participate in recreational boating on an annual basis. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 4,158 occurred in 2015 alone, which resulted in 2,613 injuries, 626 fatalities, and $42 million in property damage. A competent Michigan boat accident attorney can easily help you get coverage for the property damage and even the injuries. But those fatalities are almost always completely avoidable. When tragedy strikes, it’s usually due to one of three reasons: Someone falls overboard, the boat overturns (capsizes) in the water, or it hits or collides with another object.

Hypothermia is a serious condition caused by having a suddenly low body temperature. This happens incredibly fast in the water since the body reacts 25 times quicker to cold water than it does to cold air. Once dexterity and coordination problems set in, drowning can be inevitable. Hypothermia can set in as quickly as 15 minutes in water temperatures of 32.5° to 40° Fahrenheit.

Prioritize Safety Equipment and Lifejacket Usage

Always know your craft and check it for water safety prior to an outing. Use a pre-approved list if you’re unsure where to start. Horns, lights, distress signals, tools, and fuel are essential to safe boating. Never overload your vessel and always include plenty of lifejackets. Approximately 78% of all boating fatalities are due to drowning, and 84% of those victims were discovered without a lifejacket. While older passengers and strong swimmers may not feel they need one, passengers without excessive swimming training definitely should. Make sure every child in the group is wearing a lifejacket for the entire experience. Yes, they’re bulky and not always the most attractive accessory, but as their name implies they save lives.

Use Common Sense

Boat safety can only be achieved when operators and passengers use plenty of common sense. Learn how to swim prior to boarding a boat. A life jacket will help keep you buoyant until help arrives if you’ve fallen over, but you may still have to swim a bit to get out of harm’s way. Take a boating class. Even seasoned boat operators need an occasional refresher course. Avoid alcohol while boating. Too many people believe booze and boats go hand-in-hand. But the chances of having a boating accident are doubled when alcohol is involved. The elements also exacerbate the effects of the alcohol, so you could get drunk and distracted a lot quicker on the water. And be sure to keep the number of your boat accident attorney on hand at all times. As careful and responsible as you may be, you simply can’t control the actions of others.

Best Mobile Apps you Shouldn’t Leave Home Without

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We have now officially entered fall. The summer craze, the tourist season, the vacation – these are all over. But app developers never ceise to amaze us with their latest gleams of technical creativity. Here are a series of apps that are not only new, but they are amazing either in their spirit, or in their looks and feel.

1. Listerine Smile Detector

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Sounds like a cheezy advertising stunt from the maker of the world famous mouthwash. But it’s not – it is much more helpful than it sounds. The Smile Detector is meant for people losing (or having lost) their sight know when somebody is smiling on them. It taps into facial recognition technology to detect when the person the camera is pointed on smiles – and letting the user know that he or she just got smiled at.

What sets the Smile Detector apart is that, although it is associated with a brand that is active in delivering brilliant white and healthy smiles, its purpose is not only to promote it – it is a really helpful technology. It is an example more brands should take.

2. The Dark Knight Rises for Android Wear

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Microgaming, the software developer that provides casinos like the Red Flush Casino with marvelous games and a back-end that works like a clockwork, is always exploring new platforms and technologies. As a result, Red Flush Casino has launched the first Android Wear slot machine in existence, one based on the blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises. The game is currently only available for Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 owners, but I expect it to become available for other Android Wear devices in the near future. Curious about the game? You can try it free at Red Flush – you can either download the free Red Flush Casino software for Windows, or play the game either in your browser window or on your smartphone or tablet. The game looks amazing, even on such a small screen like the Gear 2 has. It re-defines entertainment on the go – it is an elaborate game you can download to your smartwatch and play anywhere you please.

3. Visor

Visor is a new app that gives you feedback about places around you. But it’s much more than that – it is driven by a community of users that share useful information about the places they are at. Imagine planning to go out to a club tonight. Not knowing what to expect, you can ask a question about the venue through Visor – like “how long is the line” or “how busy it is”. Soon you will receive a response – a photo and / or a comment – from another Visor user present at the venue, letting you know what you are curious about. It might not sound like much – but it’s an invaluable companion, I can assure you.

ALERT! Pie Crust Update!

Pie Crust Update!

Ah, pie! Who doesn’t love pie? Custard pie, pumpkin pie, berry pie, meringue pie, ‘mater pie… and any good – or merely beloved – pie chef has his or her favorite crust ‘secrets’ that draw the oohs and ash from their intended pie-audience.

Now, there are different sorts of pie crusts for different sorts of pies. There’s the kind of solidly “bready” pie crusts one wants to use for pot pies and quiches and such. There are “sweet” pie crusts of graham cracker crumbs and butter, with a little brown sugar mixed in, that are scrumptious with pumpkin and other smooth spice-heavy pies. There are much more substantial bready (with additions like oatmeal), sweetened crust-like stuff you dollop on top of those hard-won blackberries and raspberries in mid-summer for cobblers.

Then there are the super-flaky, very light and subtle crusts that can be used for any type of pie, but are best for specialty items like tomato pie and some berry/fruit pies. I admit my luck with butter crusts has not been very good. They often turn out hard and chewy rather than light and flaky. Don’t know if that’s because I work it too much, or something else. But I don’t even bother trying anymore, just go with the crust recipes that work reliably rather than on a hit-or-miss basis.

To that end I have a very good crust recipe from Debrah Madison’s 1997 tome, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone that I use for ‘mater pie and light quiches. It doesn’t sound like it would be the flakiest crust ever, but it invariably turns out that way. It’s difficult to work with, being made with vegetable oil (for lightness I use safflower) instead of butter or margarine. This gives the dough an oily texture that doesn’t lend itself to easy working. But if you roll it out between sheets of waxed paper, it gets nice and thin and is easily peeled out into a pie tin or onto a pie filling. Not something you’d want to use for stuffed anythings, as those do far better with real bread crusts like for pizza.

Pie Crust Made with Oil

• 1.5 cups flour
• 1/4 cup wheat bran
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 1/2 cup safflower oil
• 2 tbsp. milk, soy milk or water

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix oil and milk/water together in a separate bowl, add to the dry ingredients. Mix until the dough sticks together. Shape into a flat disk and roll between sheets of waxed paper to 1/4 inch thickness. Pull off one sheet of waxed paper, and invert over pie tin. carefully pull back the waxed paper to leave the crust in place. Work into the tin carefully, press-patching rips as you go. Trim. This is one 9″ deep pie’s worth of crust, double recipe for a two-crust pie.

Doesn’t take long, and this crust is surprisingly praise-worthy. Given, of course, my notorious failures in All Things Baked notwithstanding. This recipe is one that fails much less often than others I’ve tried, and the family likes it better than any purchased frozen pie crusts other than graham.

But there’s a recent Big Update that I’m anxious to try – Food Hacks reports that using vodka instead of water (or, in the above case milk) makes those extra crispy/flaky pie crusts even better! Which dedicated foodies will nod along with just as I did, while of course figuring the Thanksgiving pie quotient and wondering if Tuaca would work as well, but with more oomph…

According to Food Hackers

Swapping ice cold vodka for water in pie crust recipes ensures a flakier crust. The liquid makes the dough more pliable to work with, and then evaporates while baking, giving you a lighter result than water.

That makes sense. Tuaca has vanilla and citrus and other spices in it, so when its alcohol content evaporates during baking, it should leave a flaky crust with a lot of flavor. Perfect for pumpkin or sweet potato pies!

I’m with the Food Hacker – cooking or baking with alcoholic content is definitely a good recipe for awesome. The family and guests won’t get high off the goodies, but the cook sure might! Given the amount of hard work that goes into a major feast for mass numbers of people, that can only be a good thing…

At any rate, come this holiday season as I’m busy producing as many pies of all varieties as anybody could ever want to eat, I’ll report back on how well the use of vodka and/or some other alcoholic specialty turns out – in order of best to worst. If I can get past my hangover in time, that is… ;o)

Almost Summer

Garden-Greens Vichyssoise
Garden-Greens Vichyssoise

June is upon us, which usually means the spring crops are about done and the summer crops haven’t started producing in abundance yet. So… you’ve taken your morning garden stroll. The corn is a foot high, the tomatoes growing fast but still not blooming, the beans, squash and cukes are up and starting to climb. The potatoes have all shown up and at least now you can remember where the heck you planted them.

You’ve got a big handful of mature kale – the rest will have to be harvested soon before the bugs get it, dried and crumbled to flakes for winter soups. In the basket there are about a dozen pea pods, 4 asparagus spears and some almost bolted red leaf lettuces. What to do, what to do…

Aha! How about a cold end-of-spring soup?

Garden-Greens Vichyssoise

• 2 cups fresh greens – kale, spinach, collards, lettuce
• 3 peeled and cubed potatoes
• 1 cup chopped asparagus and/or shelled peas
• 1/2 cup chopped onion
• 1/4 cup chopped celery tops w/leaves
• 1/ 2 cup chopped mint
• bay leaves
• 2 tbsp. lemon juice
• 2 tbsp. butter
• 6 cups water or broth
• 1 cup whole milk or cream
• Salt and pepper

Melt butter in a heavy soup pot. Add vegetables, mint and bay leaves, cook for about 3 minutes, stirring, until soft. Add water/broth and simmer for 20 minutes until soft. Add milk and then puree until smooth, then add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate and serve cold, garnish with mint sprigs and a drizzle of olive oil.

On the side I plan to serve up a basket of fried day lily buds, since they are now abundant and and the squash is nowhere near blooming yet…

fried lilies

Fried Day Lily Blossoms

• 1 cup flour
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1 egg, beaten
• 1/2 cup beer
• 1/2 cup ice water
• 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
• 3 cloves garlic, chopped

10-12 Fresh picked barely-open day lily blossom buds.

Thoroughly mix the batter, with sage and garlic. Dip flowers into batter and fry in hot vegetable oil until golden brown. Drain well and serve.

This beer batter is also excellent for squash or pumpkin flowers, onion and pepper rings, mushrooms – any type of fresh vegetable coming in from the garden. You can omit the sage and garlic for a more delicate taste.

Looks like dinner to me!

Incoming Fruit!

Pear-Grape Jam & Pear Butter

fruitDespite the April freeze, which managed to hit after a March so warm that all the fruit had already blossomed, a goodly amount of concord and muscadine grapes managed to overcome the stress, and the cinnamon pears are falling at easily twice their usual size. And while harvest is a few weeks early this year due to the extraordinarily warm spring, the fruit is super-luscious from a summer of more than ample rainfall.

After the hail got my corn crop and the super-weeds got my tomatoes, it’s nice that something’s coming in with enough abundance that I’ll be able to trade pear butter and jam for all the crops that failed in the lower terraces. Will need another two or three dozen half-pint jars before it’s over, but August is its usual perfect weather (August and September in these mountains are absolutely the most perfect-weather months of the year, though not the most colorful). It’s cool enough to start the indoor processing, so that’s just what I’m doing.

Processing is a several-part ordeal, but will then give me plenty of pear mash and grape mush to construct the goodies. Today I have enough pears to fill my heavy stock pot half full after chopping, about 18 individual pears. Wash and remove the stems. Quarter and then half the quarters. Even bruised areas are good, just be sure to excise any actually rotten spots. Add enough water to keep the pears from sticking (about half a cup), and bring to a boil covered over medium heat for about 12-15 minutes. Stir it a few times to make sure all the pieces get good and soft, remove the lid and simmer for another 5 minutes to reduce the originally added water. Push the resulting ‘stuff’ through a sieve to get the seeds and skins out, stir in a tablespoon of ascorbic acid (available in the canning section) or two tablespoons of lemon juice, and set the pulp aside.

Then it’s the grapes’ turn. Add a quart of stemmed grapes to a half pint of water and again bring to a boil covered, over medium heat. When it’s been going for about 10 minutes mash with a potato masher to separate the innards from the skins. Continue to boil lightly uncovered until the innards liquify (about 10 minutes). Sieve the results as with the pears to remove seeds and skins. Reserve juice.

Now you’re ready to make Pear-Grape Jam…

Easy, Low-Sugar Pear-Grape Jam

• 3 1/2 cups pear pulp
• 3 1/2 cups grape pulp
• 4-inch sprig fresh rosemary
• 1/2 cup raw local honey

In a heavy stock pot combine the pulps, honey, and rosemary. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes or until liquid is reduced by about a cup.

Remove from heat and let steep for 5-10 minutes. Remove and discard the rosemary sprig (be careful to not lose any of the needles). Pour or ladle the jam into hot, sterilized half-pint condiment jars, leaving 1/8″ head space. Wipe the rims clean and attach sterilized lids, screw on the caps finger-tight.

Process 10 minutes in water bath canner, cool on a wire rack. Before storing make sure the lids have popped to indicate vacuum. Should fill 6 half-pint jars.

Ball makes very pretty half-pint jars, which are just the right size for gifts or trade. These can be further “fancied” for the purpose of gifting by cutting out circles of bright fabric to place over the lids but under the screw caps. Great hostess gifts for the upcoming holiday parties, and as part of Christmas edible gifts of fudge, cookies, dried veggie crackers and jam.

If you, like me, have way more pears than grapes, you can always just make pear butter to gift or trade (or delight your own family with at breakfast time)…

Easy Pear Butter

Process pears as above, then sieve to remove seeds and skin. Return to pot and add [per 3 cups of pulp):

• 1 tbsp. ascorbic acid
• 1/4 cup raw local honey
• 1 1/2 tbsp. cinnamon
• 2 tsp. ground ginger
• 1 tsp. ground allspice
• 1/4 cup orange juice

Slowly bring mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Ladle into sterile half-pint jars. Wipe lips clean and attach lids, screw caps finger-tight. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes, remove and cool.

A Merry Christmas Re-Post


This was originally posted to this blog on Christmas Day of 2007. It still applies, even though it’s not a white Christmas here at the ‘stead this year. Best of holiday wishes to one and all…

During this 2007 holiday season, it seems the children are all nestled asleep in their beds, with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads… oh, wait. You say the “children” are all teenagers now, terminally bored with Christmas and expecting a 10-gig iPod loaded with every album too objectionable to be played in public, plus keys to your a car and $400 worth of “Prison Chic” pants that hang somewhere around the thighs and show off their underwear?

Did the fudge never set, so you had to run to the store to buy enough ice cream to disguise the un-set fudge as super chocolate syrup? Were those tollhouse cookies hard as a rock, breaking grandpa’s dentures with the first bite? Did cousin Jim finish off the entire bottle of rum you’d brought for eggnog before passing out under the tree? Did the dog eat that perfect glazed ham before you could get it into the oven to heat? Did it snow during the night and hide all the firewood you’d stacked somewhere in the yard for the Christmas Eve fire? Are the in-laws insisting on watching Enemy of the State as a “Christmas Movie” instead of It’s a Wonderful Life for the 16th time?

Be of good cheer, enjoy yourself anyway, and…

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!