Dream Porch

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Our dream back porch has become a reality this year! For the past sixteen years since building our home, we have dreamed of adding a unique and functional outdoor living area to our home.

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The original porch was only eight feet deep and received afternoon sun making it virtually unusable in the summer months. It only covered the area outside of our living room and not the back door entry that we use as the primary entry from our detached garage. Initially, it was also about three feet off the ground making it a safety hazard for little ones getting too close to the edge.

We began addressing the issues in 2007 by building a retaining wall and ramp (replacing steps) to hold backfill to build the ground up making better use of the yard. We used the retaining wall to also build in a grill to address another problem we face, constant wind. (Our previous grills had been recovered in pieces from down the road.)

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For years, we cut magazine clippings and toured the local Parade of Homes collecting ideas for our Dream Porch. With the advent of Pinterest, my board went into overdrive.

https://www.pinterest.com/jhightower97/dream-porch/

We knew we wanted the new porch to come across to cover the back door area and extend out to the end of our retaining wall. It was built with a massive footer to one day support a roof. We also began to assemble a wish list of building materials, white bead board, stone, stained wood, etc.

After consulting with several builders, we chose Chad Howe and his company Legacy Homes & Remodeling to take on the job of removing the old porch and tying this new structure into our existing home and elevation.

Chad could really see our vision though we had a hard time explaining how it would look at the end. Many of the decisions had to be made one at a time as we worked through the project. He was diligent in seeking advice from vendors and experienced subcontractors when deciding the best way to go about each facet of a project that was so different from the normal room add-on or new construction.

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The new porch is all we ever dreamed of, plus some! It addresses all of our needs and wish list items as well. We chose a 10/12 pitch to be consistent with our detached garage that faces the same direction. With the ground level already being built up to meet our main level, the porch has a massive presence.

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It was built using 4 x 6 and 4 x 4 posts for support to allow for screen panels to surround the space. We chose LP siding for the exterior and a metal standing seam roof for the exterior. The treated posts will be painted to match the siding once they have had a chance to cure.

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I love how the porch uses our existing brick and ties in with all of the materials we had chosen on our Pinterest board. The painted pine tongue-in-groove bead board covers the interior gable ends and knee walls.

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The ceiling is covered with the flip side of the same tongue-in-groove pine. We stained it using Porter Paints Canyon Brown Deck Sealer which colors and seals all in one coat before it was installed. The material for the box beams was stained a darker color for a little contrast.

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The existing retaining wall made a nice setup for the grilling area. It was also a great place to bring in some of the stone material we wanted to include in the project.

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We used a commercial-type range hood vented out through the wall for ventilation over the grill. It works well to keep the enclosed area from getting smoky. It also gives nice task lighting when grilling at night.

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My handy husband made the concrete countertops using a product called Z-Forms to create the bullnose edge and stained it using a small paint sprayer with a stain product.

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We tied in the stone again on the fireplace and repurposed a beam from an old barn the Lawrence family had torn down for the mantle piece.

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The nice fall breeze was working against me here with burlap banner. I’m loving decorating the porch for the seasons!

We used Eze-Breeze Windows on the porch. They are a vinyl porch window that comes on a screw-in frame with the screens installed.  The window panes can all be raised, lowered or removed to suit the weather.

They can protect against a driving rain in a summer thunderstorm or be kept out of the way to allow the breezes through. Although they do not give an R-Value for insulation, we find that they keep things warmer in the winter just by providing a windblock and some radiant heat from the sun.

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We used Yosemite Sand through-colored stamped concrete with a Charcoal release for the floor. It is sealed with a penetrating sealer instead of a top-sealer to make it less of a slippery surface when wet. We had it sawed on a 4′ diagonal  and the overall surface resembles large tile.

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While we were getting bids on the porch and making our final plans, my husband gave me the go ahead to look into installing a pool. We met with pool contractors as well during this busy time and I paid the deposit before he could change his mind! We could not be more pleased with our decision. It has given us countless hours of fun for our teenagers and all of the children in our lives.

Working with Jeff Bishop and Pleasure Pools truly was a pleasure. I couldn’t recommend them highly enough.

http://pleasurepoolstn.com/

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Everyone’s favorite feature we added was a glass garage door from Overhead Door for the end. It opens the porch up to the pool area when we need it and can be closed on summer evenings to help keep out unwanted mosquitos. It gives nice radiant heat from the sun in the winter months.

I must admit I was reluctant to use it because of the required track. We did not use an opener, opting instead to hand raise and lower the door.  The industrial look of the track doesn’t bother me in the least now that it is installed.

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A huge thanks to Chad Howe for turning our dreams into reality! We have thoroughly enjoyed our first summer and fall on the porch. We look forward to spending many hours in the years to come visiting with family and friends on our Dream Porch.

Sharing on Metamorphosis Monday at http://betweennapsontheporch.net!

 

New Life for Our Kitchen

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Several months ago, we finally got to a project we had wanted to do for years.  Changing out our laminate kitchen countertops for new natural stone.  We chose Diano Reale honed marble.  It is more of a natural creamy color and complements the honey-toned maple cabinetry well.  Don’t judge my photography.  I can’t seem to get the lighting right.

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First of all we cut down the raised bar that divided the room.  Notice my husband over there? In addition to the sage green laminate, you can see our white cast-iron enameled Kohler drop-in sink.  I loved it so much I wanted to keep it but was advised to use an undermount with the natural stone. You will also notice my old pendant lights here with the more foo-foo chain assemblies.

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I love how this simple change opened up the room!  You can see the veining in the marble and also the new Kohler Smart-Divide undermount sink.  It’s beauty is equal to the old sink and I love the low divide to accomodate large platters and baking sheets.  The only thing I didn’t consider was how low the bottom of it is because it is a couple of inches lower than the old sink.  It does make your back tired if you have a lot of dishes to hand wash.  I’m not sure I’d recommend it for a really tall person.

Sugar Grove Marble installed our countertops.  Chris and Megan were great to work with.  Megan helped me work through the look we were going for and decide on the Diano Reale.  It is traditionally used in a polished finish in bathrooms.  I loved the natural colored granites but wanted something with a little less pattern.  I loved the Carrera but the white and gray works better with white cabinets.

Marble will show rings and etching from acidic foods so we chose a honed finish which is duller to distract from that. Over time, it will develop a natural sheen and patina.  I’m excited about a product that gets better with age.

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You will also notice from the Before photo that we changed out our over-the-range microwave for a wall-vented range hood.  The vent fan on the microwave was so loud it nearly drove me crazy!  I love the sleeker look of the new hood as well as it’s functionality.

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Here is a close-up of the white subway-tile backsplash that my husband installed.  He even figured out the herringbone inset behind the stove with the picture-frame trim pieces.  I’m so grateful to have such a handy dandy around.

Wonder what happened to the microwave? We added an electrical outlet in our pantry and put a small microwave there as well as the toaster oven that used to clutter the countertops.

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I’m so glad our daughter talked me into changing light fixtures at the same time!  After much searching for a lower-priced option, I finally splurged on this Orb Chandelier from Ballard Designs and haven’t regretted it for a second. My photo isn’t clear so this is one I lifted from Houzz.

Orb Chandelier

For the pendants over the peninsula, we chose these seeded glass ones with a sleeker mount from Amazon.

Pendant

This is the finished product.  We have so enjoyed the fresh new look as well as the improvements in function this project has gained for us.  If you are planning some updates, I hope this helps!

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Source List:

Diano Reale Honed Marble – Sugar Grove Marble

Kohler Under-Mount Sink – Smart-Divide Enamel Sink

Lighting –
Ballard Designs Orb Chandelier

Feiss Pendant Lights

This post will be shared in Metamorphosis Monday at Between Naps on the Porch.

 

 

Grilled Shrimp and Summer Vegetables

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Summer is here! The weather is a tad unseasonably cool in Kentucky on these first few days of June, but school is out.  I couldn’t wait for the local produce to grill up this delicious meal Sunday night.

Grilled Shrimp and Summer Vegetables

1 lb. shrimp, unpeeled
2 yellow squash, sliced lengthwise in thick slices
2 zucchini, sliced lengthwise in thick slices
1/2 bunch fresh asparagus
5 baby bella mushrooms, halved
cajun seasoning
1/4 c. olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
salt and pepper

Place vegetables in gallon Ziploc bag and marinate with garlic, fresh ground salt and pepper, and olive oil. Place zucchini and squash on hot grill and grill for 5 – 7 minutes per side. Remove to a platter.

Sprinkle shrimp liberally with cajun seasoning and place on grill using a grilling basket.  Add asparagus and mushrooms to the basket.  Grill these tender items with the lid open turning constantly with grilling tongs and removing each shrimp as it becomes opaque to avoid overcooking and remaining vegetables as they achieve desired tenderness.

Serve over a bed of buttered angel hair pasta with parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

White Chicken Chili

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1 lb. cooked chicken
4-6 c. chicken broth
1 medium onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 T. butter or olive oil
2 cans white beans
1 c. frozen whole kernel corn or 1 can shoepeg corn
2 t. ground cumin
1 t. oregano
¼ – ½ t. cayenne pepper
1 t. salt
1 c. sour cream

Saute chopped onions, carrots, and celery in butter or oil until tender. Add cooked chicken (I used leftover frozen turkey) and broth and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add beans, corn, and spices and simmer for about 15 more minutes. Stir in sour cream when ready to serve. Serve with crackers or cornbread.

Top 10 Back-to-School Breakfasts, Lunches & Snacks

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Back-to-School time is here and our schedules have just kicked into gear here in Kentucky. Nutritious food choices are more important than ever as our kids return to the classroom and as we adults try to keep it all together as well. While we all have the best of intentions, having a plan and some time-saving strategies is the only way to follow through consistently.

I’ll share my list with you if you share yours with me. Our girls never developed a cereal habit at breakfast. I failed them (or myself) miserably with that one! While I have never allowed alternatives to the dinner I serve, breakfast has always seemed to involve indecision and choice. Over the years, I have tried to clean up my choices keeping the “granola bar on the way out the door” breakfast to a minimum.

Quick Nutritious Breakfast Choices

1.  Greek Yogurt with Blueberries and Granola
2.  French Toast
3.  Oatmeal with Apples and Walnuts
4.  Cinnamon Toast, Peanut Butter Toast or Cheese Toast
5.  High-Fiber Cereal with Almond Milk
6.  Muffins or Sweet Breads (Banana, Amish Friendship)
7.  Bagel with Cream Cheese
8.  Eggs & Toast
9.  Banana with Vanilla Greek Yogurt topped with         Mini-Chocolate Chips and Walnuts
10.  Bacon, Egg & Cheese Sandwich on Whole Wheat Toast

Lunchbox Choices

Do you find yourself constantly resolving to stop eating out for lunch? The boredom of the “sandwich every day” lunch is a killer of our best intentions if you ask me. That said, the sandwich is the obvious first choice. We just have to have some easy options to mix it up a bit.

1.  Ham or Turkey Sandwich
2.  Turkey Wrap
3.  Tuna or Chicken Salad
4.  Grilled Chicken Salad – Plan ahead by grilling extra chicken for dinner to have “planned overs” for lunches.
5.  Soup in Thermos (Canned or Homemade Soups)
6.  Pasta in Thermos – Think bite-sized pasta with marinara or other sauces you have on hand.
7.  Quesadilla – Chicken, Cheese, or Pizza Quesadillas keep well when wrapped in foil in the lunchbox with the dippers in an insulated container (sour cream, salsa, or even marinara sauce)
8.  PB&J – Okay, we all have those days!
9.  Peanut Butter Dippers – Ritz Crackers, Celery, Apple Slices
10. Cottage Cheese and Fresh Pineapple

Snacktime Choices

1.  Fruit Smoothie – Peel and freeze bananas and other fruits in freezer bags to have ingredients at the ready.
2.  Cheesy Ranch Chex Mix
3.  Cheez-Its or other favorite snack crackers
4.  Piemento Cheese and Crackers
5.  Grapes, Apples, Bananas, Peaches, Strawberries, Melon
6.  Carrots & Ranch
7.  Granola Bars
8.  Popcorn
9.  Peanut Butter or Cheese and Crackers
10.Hummus & Pretzel Crisps

Your turn to share!  Help me out, we need some new choices in our lives.

Just Peachy Grilled Chicken Salad

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With summer produce at its peak, I love to combine it with what I have on hand and see how dinner unfolds. It’s a different approach from the planned-in-advance dinners that are so necessary for my sanity on school nights. This is a little number I came up with last night as a dinner for two for the hubs and me with the girls away at camp. You never know how these experiments will go, but this one was a WINNER!

First, I cut a sweet onion in half and then into strips and added it to an iron skillet on medium-low heat with a couple tablespoons of olive oil to caramelize. Caramelized onions can’t be rushed, but the flavor of savory and sweet together is well worth the wait. Trust me on this! I wish I had taken a photo of the glorious things while they were still in the skillet but I will have to add that in the next go-around.

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Next, start assembling the salads with some nice salad greens, washed and chopped. I used green leaf lettuce.

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Then, add some sliced grilled chicken breasts. I usually grill extra to have on hand for salads or quesadillas. Just a quick sizzle in the onion skillet will warm them up for the salad.

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Keep that skillet at the ready, to sear the cut edge of some beautiful fresh peaches or just add them to the grill when your chicken comes off, your call. My friend Allison introduced me to grilled peaches a few summers ago, and my life has never been the same!

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Now for the toppings. Sprinkle on some crumbled feta cheese but don’t go sparingly on the onions. Did I mention how much I love them? Then drizzle with a tangy vinaigrette. I use Red Wine Vinaigrette but a nice Balsamic Vinaigrette would be delicious also. Be ready for a flavor explosion between the smoky grilled chicken, the sweet peach, the salty feta, the savory onion, and the sweet and sour vinaigrette.

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I served the salads with spicy pepper jack cheese bread to take the meal over the top.  I hope you’ll try it and come back to share your thoughts. Happy summer!

Breaded Baked Cod with Homemade Tarter Sauce

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  • 1 – 2 lbs. cod filets, cut into serving sized pieces (any firm white fish will do)
  • 2 t. Old Bay seasoning
  • ½ t. paprika
  • ¼ t. cayenne pepper
  • 1 c. flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard
  • 2 ½ c. plain breadcrumbs (Make your own by toasting heals of bread and running in a food processor.  These freeze well for up to one month.)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Canola oil

To bread the fish:

Season flour with paprika, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper in one shallow dish. 

Mix beaten eggs and Dijon mustard in another shallow dish.

In a third shallow dish, toss breadcrumbs with Old Bay seasoning. 

Spray baking sheet well with canola oil.  Stoneware works best for a crispy texture.  Dredge fish filets through the flour mixture.  Then, dip both sides with the egg wash and coat with breadcrumbs.  Place on prepared baking sheet and spray the top sides of fish filets with a liberal amount of canola oil.  Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. 

Tarter Sauce:

1 c. mayonnaise
3 T. dill pickle relish
Juice of one lemon
1 t. dried parsley or 1 T. fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Fish recipe adapted from http://www.hispanickitchen.com/profiles/blogs/panko-crusted-tilapia-with-chipotl-kissed-tarter-sauce

Menu Plan Monday – June 2 – 8

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Welcome to Menu Plan Monday!  I’m sharing my family’s plan here with you.  I hope you will take a few of these suggestions and incorporate them into your plan.  Don’t get bogged down in the details but do jot down a plan for the week to make more time to focus on what is most important at the table, your family. 

Monday – Pasta Primavera I made this tonight for the first time, and the only problem was that none of us could stop eating!  Delicious and meat-free for a change of pace.

Tuesday – Loaded Beef Nachos

Wednesday – Oh, the sadness!  The church dinners are over for the summer.  Looks like I need to add another recipe to the weekly repertoire.   I plan to keep it simple with Breakfast for Dinner this week.  I’m thinking Omelets with Breakfast Potatoes, Fruit Smoothies, and Whole Wheat Toast.

ThursdayBreaded Baked Cod with Homemade Tarter Sauce, Baked Potatoes, Mandarin Orange Salad

Friday – Pizza

Saturday – BBQ, Mexican Cornbread, Potato Salad, Baked Beans

Sunday – Roasted Chicken must be on the menu since I just used my last jar of chicken broth in the freezer.   This will be a welcome lunch after church on Sunday, and the leftovers will go quickly in chicken salad for lunches next Monday!  Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans and a nice Tossed Salad will round out the meal. 

Looking Ahead

It’s grilling season!  Let’s look at our calendars and schedule a cookout with friends this month.

Until next week, enjoy!

Sharing at:  OrgJunkie

On Turning Forty

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Today is my 40th Birthday.  We all approach these milestones in our own way.  For some strange reason, I’m excited!  I remember when my sweet sister-in-law Missy turned 30.  She approached it with the attitude of happiness at the place she was in life, having achieved her goals of college graduation, teaching, marriage and children.  Her contentment still comes to mind as I celebrate another milestone.

As I look ahead to the next ten years, I’m excited about parts of my life that have yet to unfold.  It is possible that I could see our daughters graduate high school, begin college, pursue their dreams, and maybe even meet the men who will one day be our sons-in-law in the next ten years.  I vow that I will spend great times doing life with some wonderful friends.  I feel hopeful that I will see a book published.  I’m excited to see what adventures my husband pursues. 

I’m reminded as I look to the future of what God has done in my past.  When I turned 30, we had just come through our first military deployment as a family when Brett served in Bosnia.  Meredith was three and Emma was one, and I was a working mother.  Brett was a sergeant at the BGPD and still serving in the Kentucky National Guard.  We were living in the home we built for forever.

Since then, most of those circumstances have changed.  I have been free to “retire” to become the homemaker I always wanted to be.  We experienced our second military deployment to Afghanistan where Brett was critically injured.  Brett has retired from the BGPD and the military.  We have relocated to Louisville for him to work in a fulfilling job in law enforcement.  We have made new friends.  We have lost people who were precious to us and seen lives joined in marriage and new lives born.  And to beat it all, our children will celebrate new chapters this year as they begin high school and middle school.

As I look back on all the good, all the scary, all the excitement, and all the sadness, it reminds me of what God has done in my life.  Today, I got to the part in Kelly Minter’s study of Nehemiah where the people of Jerusalem brought back their custom of the Festival of Shelters.  They were supposed to build tents in their yards or on their rooftops and live in them for a week while they celebrated their ancestors’ deliverance from Egypt.  It was a tangible reminder of the fact that the Israelites had lived in those tents for 40 years as they fled Egypt and made their way to the Promised Land.  

During this time, God delivered their ancestors literally out of Egypt, from their Egyptian pursuers at the Red Sea, from hunger in the wilderness with the provision of manna, and in countless other ways, but they were quick to forget just like me.  Continually, they picked back up their worries and their what-ifs and their desperation. 

As I reflect back over the course of my first 40 years, I see the evidence of great blessings that I had very little to do with.  I realize that many of these were the result of other people’s prayers for me.  I know that this husband who respects my opinions, these healthy children, this life of plenty, this fellowship of believers, this country of opportunity, are all the answers to the prayers of my mother, my grandmothers, my aunts, and all who came before. 

It should come as no surprise that this festival brought great joy to the people when they were caused to remember what God had done for generations past.  Looking back at the last ten years reminds me that God has my life all figured out.  His ways are better than mine.  I can’t begin to imagine what is in store for my future but I’m excited to live the chapter He writes next!

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!”  Ephesians 3:20-21

April 2014 Monthly Menu Plan

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April 2014

S

unday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

30

31

1

2

3

4

5

 

 

Grilled Hot Dogs

Chicken Alfredo

Sub Sandwiches

Asian Salmon & Noodles

Smoked Sausage

 

 

Baked Beans

Italian Salad

Sweet Potato Fries

Crunchy Slaw

Roasted Veggies

 

 

Chips & Dip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

Roasted Chicken

Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

Ham Cheese Omelets

Church

Beans & Cornbread

Spaghetti

Homemade Chicken

Long Grain Rice

Roasted Potatoes

Pancakes

 

Deviled Eggs

Zucchini Fries

Noodle Soup

Asparagus

Carrots & Ranch

 

 

Apple Salad

 

Cornbread

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

Meatloaf

Blackened Cod

Southwest Chicken Salad

Church

Teriyaki Chicken

French Bread Pizzas

Chicken & Waffles

Mashed Potatoes

Baked Potatoes

 

 

Stirfry Veggies

 

 

Peas

Mandarin Orange Salad

 

 

Brown Rice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

Ham

Skinny Chicken

Bacon & Eggs

Church

Grilled Chicken

Manwich

Chicken Casserole

Potato Salad

Broccoli Alfredo

Skillet Potatoes

 

Macaroni & Cheese

Baked Potatoes

Mashed Potatoes

Mandarin Orange Salad

 

Fruit Salad

 

Baked Beans

Garden Salad

Green Beans/Salad

Green Beans

 

Toast or Biscuits

 

 

 

Bran Muffins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

27

28

29

30

1

2

3

Pioneer Woman

Chicken Vegetable Soup

Goulash

Kingfish

 

 

 

Pot Roast

Cornbread

Brussels Sprouts

Fish Boxes

 

 

 

Mashed Potatoes

 

Strawberry Feta Salad

 

 

 

 

Green Beans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shared on Menu Plan Monday at Orgjunkie.com