Category Archives: setting up home

Super Simple Tomato Salsa for Canning

Simple Tomato Salsa for Canning

Every year that we’ve planted a garden at the house (for those of you not keeping score, the number is 4), I’ve announced that I’m going to have a salsa garden. Each spring I’ve started out by planting all the ingredients for salsa. I excitedly bury my pepper and tomato seedlings in the garden and declare that this will be the year that we’re swimming in salsa! But something always ends up going wrong. The garlic doesn’t come up or the tomatoes under-deliver in their bounty.

Well, mark it in your calendars, folks, that 2017 is the summer of the salsa garden at the Delbert Meier house. The tomatoes have come in strong, garlic is abundant and the peppers have performed. And what I’ve lacked in ingredients from our own garden, I’ve managed to pick up at farmers markets.

Salsa is one of those simple recipes that makes you question ever buying it from a grocery store. In addition to the veggies, it’s really just some vinegar, salt and herbs all mixed up to make a yummy dipping sauce. I improvised my recipe for salsa so my measurements aren’t exact. I did check the label on the side of a jar of salsa to confirm that I was on the right patch with ingredients. But from there, it’s all a matter of taste.

SIMPLE SALSA RECIPE

Ingredients:
10-12 ripe tomatoes
1-2 green peppers
1 large onion (I threw in some green onion as well)
1 head of garlic
Jalapeno pepper
1/2 cup(ish) of vinegar
1/2 cup(ish) of tequila
Pinch of salt
Fresh parsley
Fresh cilantro

Roughly chop all ingredients and place all but cilantro in a large stockpot. Cook on low to medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about an hour. (For a thicker salsa, simmer on low heat for up to eight hours.) Use an immersion blender to puree the cooked mixture.
(Or, blend the hot mixture in batches in a blender or food processor. But be careful!) Add chopped cilantro to the blended mixture and return to stockpot.

See, I told you that the salsa recipe was easy, didn’t I? Well then trust me when I say that canning salsa is easy too. You’ll need the supplies: a basic canning kit (which consists of a large water bath pot and rack) along with jars, lids and rings. Once you have the supplies, the canning process is actually quite simple. I’m including some basic instructions here but the Ball/Kerr website provides a thorough resource for beginning canners.

First, fill you water bath canner with water (enough to cover the tops of the jars when they’re submerged) and heat on high until boiling. Then reduce heat to keep the water simmering but not boiling.

Next, thoroughly wash the empty jars and lids and then cover them in boiling water. What you’re doing here is making sure that you’re putting your salsa into a clean, sanitized jar. I usually hand wash my jars and then place them in the water bath pot for a few minutes. And then I place the lids in a small bowl and pour boiling water over them.

Then, place the hot salsa in the sterilized jars. Wipe any salsa from the rim of each jar and place the sanitized lids on top. Lightly screw the rings on top of the jars. Now, place the jars of salsa in the rack of the water canner and slowly lower them into the pot. Leave the jars submerged in the water for 10 to 15 minutes.

When the time’s up, carefully remove the jars from the water canner and place on top of a towel on the countertop. You’ll likely hear the lids pop, which is your sign that the jars have created a vacuum seal. I usually wipe the excess water from the jars and lids after they’ve cooled a bit and then add labels before placing them in the pantry.

Time consuming? Yes. But also easy, right? And on that cold winter night when we’re binge watching Netflix, this salsa is going to be so very delicious!

American Standard “Clean” Toilet: The Throne to Own

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You know you’ve reached middle age when you get excited about a toilet. Although, really, can you name another fixture in your home that you have such an intimate relationship with?

In the past six months we’ve purchased two toilets: one for the bathroom in the city apartment and one for the bathroom here at the house. The toilet for the city apartment was a total duress purchase. The toilet that had been installed during the building’s gut rehab in 2006 had been causing trouble for a few years. We really shouldn’t have been surprised when we learned that the cause of a leak into our downstairs neighbor’s bathroom was coming from the toilet. And I guess we weren’t really surprised … but we weren’t really prepared to buy a new toilet either.

I wasn’t completely uneducated about toilets, mind you. Over the years I’ve written about toilets here and there. In doing research for those posts I identified three things that I wanted in our new toilet: concealed trap way, easy flushing and comfort height.

The thing about a duress purchase is that you have to make your purchase quickly, which means you’re at the mercy of what’s in stock at hardware stores. That basically eliminated the toilets on my Which Throne Will We Own  list. But then in a moment of porcelain serendipity, Lowe’s came through with a toilet that fits all of my criteria – and also happened to be under $300.

American Standard Clean Toilet at Lowes

The American Standard “Clean” High Efficiency Elongated Toilet has styling that rivals the more expensive Toto toilets but at a fraction of the cost. As you can see in the photo above that I sent to The Mister when I bought the toilet, the Clean toilet came in well under $300. The concealed trapway and small tank look great in our small apartment bathroom. But perhaps even more importantly, this high efficiency toilet (1.28 gpf) packs a powerful flush! My experience with other high efficiency toilets has been that they require multiple flushes – thereby negating any water savings. The American Standard Clean toilet has a strong flushing system that rarely requires a second flush.New American Standard Clean Toilet

In fact, we’re so pleased with the toilet that we purchased for the apartment under duress that we bought the same toilet for the house.

DISCLOSURE: This is an honest review of our experience with the American Standard Clean Toilet. This American House was not compensation for this post. We may receive ad revenue from embedded Amazon clicks. 


The House that Feels Like a Home

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I’ve never been attached to a home.While I’ve always been a homebody, I was more likely to make the best out of any living situation rather than feel like I was planting roots. My family moved frequently when I was growing up and then I carried that gypsy spirit into my adulthood. By the time I hit my 30’s I had managed to live in a different apartment each year of my adulthood. Moving was fun and I always appreciated the opportunity to make an annual purge and redesign of my space.

Then, a few years into my thirties, we bought a small condo in the city. The housing market was booming and were practically promised a strong return on our investment. Well, if you were around for the 2007 housing crisis, you know how that story turns out. The bottom fell out of the housing market and everyone who bought during the boom found themselves with properties that were worth much less than they had paid.

Almost overnight, our home became a yoke around our necks. While we thought that we were ready for long haul home ownership, we had only envisioned being in the tiny condo for a few years before selling up to something bigger. Suddenly, our home became a yoke around our necks.

But we stuck with it. While many of our neighbors let their condos slip into foreclosure, we kept making our payments, confident that it would be the best decision in the long run.

While we still can’t sell our condo, we haven’t ruined our credit by walking away. We’ve diligently made all our payments and even though we’re still upside down, the amount we owe and the low monthly payment after refinancing our mortgage is very manageable. So manageable, in fact, that we have a little extra money to buy another home. It’s not a lot of money – which means we’re already priced out of buying another home in the city. And that’s what took us 4+ hours out of the city in search of a second home.

When The Mister first started telling me about this house, I immediately shot it down. There are so many reasons that owning this house is ridiculous for us. Besides the distance from our main home, the house is almost 100 years old, it’s much bigger that we originally had in mind and it’s located in a small town. Still, The Mister was drawn to the house’s history and, after talking and talking and talking about it, he finally convinced me that we should at least take a walk through it.

And that was it. From the minute we opened the front door and stepped into the house I knew that it was home. Because it felt like home. I can’t explain it really. This house has just always felt like home. Even before we started furnishing it with our own belongings it felt like home. There’s just a comfort here. And a familiarity that belies the fact that we’ve owned it for less than two years.

We don’t get to spend as much time here as we’d like. But whenever we do, we feel at peace. And that, in my mind, is what makes a house a home.

American Table: Dinnerware Made in the USA

Dinnerware Made in the USA

The Mister and I have been eating off yellow Fiestaware for well over a decade now. When we bought it all those years ago, it was out of a love of kitschy fun colors and Fiesta’s simple design. Now, as we’re outfitting our home with American-made and vintage wares, I’m realizing that our beloved Fiesta is the perfect dinnerware. Home Laughlin, Fiesta’s maker, is based right here in the United States.

Fiestaware isn’t for everyone, of course. Fortunately, they have company in the American-made dinnerware category. Check out the full list and add any I may have missed in the comments.

  • Home Laughlin China Company has been making Fiestaware in West Virginia since 1936. In addition to offering tours, folks makes the pilgrimage to their Newell, West Virginia factory of their big tent sale and outlet store.
  • Anchor Hocking products are manufactured in Lancaster, Ohio and Monaca, Pennsylvania. You may associate them most with bake and prep pieces, but they also make a line of dinnerware.
  • Pickard China has been manufactured in Antioch, Illinois since the 1930s. Known for making the official White House china service, Pickard is American’s oldest fine china manufacturer.
  • HF Coors’ dinnerware is produced in Tuscon, Arizona. From the simple American White and American Bistro lines to the Frank Lloyd Wright dinnerware, HF Coors has a nice selection of tabletop goods.
  • Lenox also has a wide selection of American made dinnerware, with designs from Kate Spade, holiday patterns and many other options.
  • Bennington Potters produces beautiful stoneware in Vermont. Started in 1948 by David Gil, Bennington makes stoneware pottery intended for everyday use. In addition to dinnerware, they also produce bakeware and serving pieces.
  • Emerson Creek manufactures ceramic dinnerware, as well as a full range of pottery, in  the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
  • Simon Pearce glassware and dinnerware are handmade in the United States. Their operations in Vermont are hydro-powered and include a mill and restaurant overlooking the falls.




12 Mattress Brands That Are Made in America

Mattresses Made in the United States of American

In our attempt to furnish the house with only secondhand or American made products, I found myself researching mattresses that are manufactured in the United States. As it turns out, there are quite a few mattresses companies with manufacturing facilities in the US. From traditional inner spring to the newer latex and memory foam mattresses, from budget to luxury brands, check out this list of American made beds.

  • Casper is the new kid on the mattress block. Covers and panels are sewn in Illinois and South Carolina and the foam for the mattresses is poured in Pennsylvania and Georgia.
  • Tuft and Needle mattresses are designed, sourced and manufactured in the States. The foam is poured and cut in the states, the fabric is sourced from a mill in the Carolinas and the mattresses are finished at a factory in California.
  • Kingsdown mattresses has been based in North Carolina for more than 100 years. They still produce some mattresses there, but they also have factories in California, Oklahoma, Virginia, as well as global manufacturing facilities.
  • The Original Mattress Factory has factory store locations in nine states, as well as available nationwide online. They offer both foam and pillow top mattresses.
  • Sealy mattresses are manufactured in three factories in the United States. The brand makes traditional innerspring mattresses, as well as hybrid, gel memory foam and latex foam mattresses.
  • Saatva Mattresses are produced in factories in twelve US states and are distributed through 35 fulfillment centers. The inner spring mattresses feature organic cotton covers and bio-based foam.
  • Englander has seven factories throughout the United States. They do not sell direct to the public so check mattress stores for the label.
  • Cozy Pure’s organic latex mattresses are manufactured in Norfolk, Virginia. The company also produces bedding and mattress pads.
  • Stearns and Foster mattresses are made in the USA, although I couldn’t find out exactly where.
  • Sealy operates 25 bedding plants in the U.S., producing both innerspring and foam mattresses.
  • EasyRest adjustable beds and mattresses are made in factories in Louisville and Georgetown, Kentucky and Nashville, Tennessee.
  • Thomasville Bedding Company has been manufacturing their mattress in Thomasville, Georgia since 1969. They make both innerspring and latex mattresses, as well as custom mattress and box springs.

Image: This American House