How to Make a Kitchen Look Bigger

KITCHEN LOOK BIGGER Featured image

Having a spacious kitchen is truly a luxury; not needing to worry about where things go, how to have items organized, and overall having the kitchen feeling like a clean space, can “make or break” the area. Unfortunately, not every kitchen is designed to have enough space for all your needs to be met.

However small your kitchen may be, there are a number cheap and simple tricks you can utilize to help make a kitchen look bigger and give you plenty of room to work without having to expand the square footage of your home or make expensive renovations! It’s all about the art of illusion and minimalism. By removing visual clutter and allowing light to flow freely through your space, you’ll be creating an optical illusion of sorts.

Let’s start with the basics

Before going out and spending money on having your kitchen space completely remodeled, there’s a couple of things you can do right now to make a kitchen look bigger.

Natural Lighting

Allowing natural light into a kitchen and almost any other room, can have the room feeling more spacious and inviting. By having natural light come into the space, it can give the illusion of being connected with the outdoors and virtually become a limitless space.

Consider using opaque-color or sheer curtains on your windows, to help provide privacy, while still allowing light to flow into the kitchen naturally. If privacy isn’t of concern you can just remove any curtains outright.

Now, I understand, not every kitchen has a desirable view when looking out the window, adding some plants and flowers can easily make the area much more appealing.

Natural Lighting in kitchen

De-clutter

Let’s face it, one of the main reasons for any area feeling cramped and confined is having too much stuff. The kitchen is for cooking and dining!

Countertops and other surfaces tend to be attractive areas to put your stuff, whether it be stacks of papers, books, or loads of other things that simply do not belong in the kitchen. Take a few moments and toss the junk away or store it in another location. A simple question to ask is “would this item be in the kitchen of a restaurant?” If not, move it out of the kitchen.

Even having a sink full of dishes, can have your kitchen feeling like a mess and utter chaos. Having an empty sink is almost a mandatory if you care to have your kitchen looking neat and spacious. Make a habit of taking a couple of minutes to wash and put away the dishes… this will help tremendously and give you the peace of mind you deserve. No one likes a messy kitchen.

This is what we don’t want:

De-clutter-kitchen

Open, Airy Shelving

Open Airy Shelving
Adding a form of open shelving can give you additional space to store dishes and give the kitchen more of an open feeling. Now, before going out and start replacing your cabinets with open shelves, a cool, simple trick to emulate open shelving is to remove your cabinet doors. That’s right, consider removing select cabinet doors… having closed cabinet doors can make a space feel even more closed off than it already appears.

Whatever route you choose to take for creating open shelving, just be sure the items you have on display are neatly organized. Remember we’re going for neat, organized and not cluttered!

Bright and Uniformed Color Themes


One of the easiest ways to give more depth and vibrancy to a room is selecting a paint scheme that is easy on the eyes.

Dark color schemes are known to make a room look smaller, gloomy, and almost “cave-like.” By utilizing whites or bright colors, light is able to travel freely and reflect naturally in the room… giving it an airy and clean appearance. You’ll want to keep the colors uniformed and avoid transitioning from dark to light colors.

In general, the lighter and brighter colors used, the brighter and more inviting a room appears.

Creating Illusions with Mirrors


Well-placed mirrors in a room can create an illusion and make a room appear larger.

Since mirrors naturally reflect light, both natural and artificial, a room will be brighter and more vibrant at any point of the day. Ideally, placing a mirror near the window, will optimize the amount of light coming in naturally. You can also maximize the light in the room by placing the mirror in an area of the room that doesn’t receive much natural light. Additionally, angling a mirror towards a focal point or creates an illusion of depth within the room.

Furnishings

Now that we’ve covered the basics tricks, that are basically free to implement, here are some fairly inexpensive options to help make a kitchen look bigger and more suited for your comfort.

Lighting & Lamps

Lighting & Lamps in kitchen
Lighting is one of the main elements in making a room appear bigger. Much like allowing natural light to come into a room, using a lamp will also brighten the room, making it appear a bit larger. Ideally, you’ll want to use yellow or white colored lights, creating the sense of warmth, peace, and inviting ambience to the kitchen.

Another easy and cheap implementation is the use of cabinetry lighting. By placing light under or above your cabinets and cupboards, you’ll get rid of any dark shadows that can make the room feel small. It doesn’t take much to install LED strips, and many come with additional features allowing you to choose the brightness of the light.

If the kitchen space allows for it, a unique and interesting light fixture hanging from the ceiling can work wonders. By directing attention upwards, a sort-of height illusion is created, further adding to the illusion of a larger kitchen.

Slim, Clear, and Space Efficient Furniture

One that should be fairly obvious, using space efficient furniture will minimize the amount of space being used. There are a plethora of furniture options ranging from kitchen stools and chairs to breakfast tables, that are slim, compact and extremely space efficient. Simply avoid using thick, clunky furniture and that alone will help expand the space you have available.

The goal here is to get rid of “visual clutter,” much like removing cabinet doors… another option is to get clear furniture. Clear furniture, like shelves, tables, and chairs, will get rid of visual clutter with ease, almost as if the object isn’t even there!

When we’re talking about space efficiency furniture, having multi-functional pieces can make a huge difference in giving you more room to work. Furniture as simple as stacking or folding chairs can help you maximize your space when they are not being used. There are a number other unique pieces like rolling kitchen islands or kitchen carts that serve as not only another surface but, can also provide extra storage space!

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Decor Appealing to the Eyes

Lighting & Lamps in kitchen
Adding a sense of comfort to your kitchen will make it seem much more inviting and larger all at the same time. Feel free to add decor to your kitchen, once it starts looking comfortable, you’ll soon forget that the room is actually pretty small. You don’t want to go overboard with the decorations, keep it in moderation.

Simple additions like plants, flowers and pictures can make the space feel like a place you’d care to stay in for awhile. Again, we’re talking about optimizing your space usage. When it comes to pictures or hanging art for example, it may be wise to use a large picture to cover a portion of a single wall than multiple pictures all over the room.

Kitchen Appliances

Kitchen Appliances
Appliances that are left out in the open like microwaves and toasters, can also serve in adding to the illusion of space we’re creating. Much like the mirror effect, stainless steel and kitchen appliances that have a “shine,” allow light to reflect freely… remember the more light we have in the room, the better.

Farmhouse Sinks

Farmhouse Sinks
Many modern homes are built with a double basin sink. If you’re really looking to have as much countertop space as possible and budget allows for it, you may want to consider replacing your double basin sink with a “farmhouse sink.” These single basin farmhouse sinks can give back to you, a hefty amount of countertop space that would have otherwise been used as an additional sink.

Although this option takes a tiny bit of kitchen renovation and redesign, it may be worth while and give your kitchen the ideal space for which you’ve been looking to obtain.

Compact Dishwasher & Slimline Refrigerator

Compact Dishwasher & Slimline Refrigerator
Many modern refrigerators and dishwashers are perhaps the largest items in your kitchen and can take up a large amount of space. Luckily, there are space-efficient dishwashers and refrigerators that can be purchased to help maximize the amount of space you have in the kitchen.

Creating a comfortable and spacious kitchen can be done without needing to knockdown walls and engage in heavy renovations for extra square footage. The goal is to make a kitchen look bigger, by removing visual clutter and taking a minimalist approach to interior design you can have your kitchen as a space to love working in.

DIY Food – From Kitchen to Table

DIY Food - From Kitchen to Table Featured image

“Food, Glorious Food”, unlike the singing waifs in the musical ‘Oliver!’ we do not have to imagine food other than gruel. Gruel; which came first, it sounding nasty or gruel actually being nasty? Setting that aside, we’re going to take a look at upping your game to create some glorious food.

Modern Food Making

American family enjoying food

Eating may arguably the true American pastime. Cooking used to be a skill that everyone had because without it you didn’t eat. Our cultural evolution introduced massive food options, so that you can hand over your money and you will get stuff to eat. As we all know, this ‘stuff’ will range from the mundane to the amazing, from eth healthy to the life threatening…bound to happen when restaurants literally have names like the Heart Attack Grill!

Cooking at home has begun a renaissance, and as DIY fans we couldn’t be happier. This brings up another interesting issue. Not everyone learned to cook at the feet of their parents as in days past. Now it becomes necessary to self-teach, use the wonder that the internet (occasionally) is to find the tools that will help you up your game.

Setting The Bar For Your Table

core items for cooking at home

We all know the friend neighbor or family member that makes Martha Stewart look like a piker when it comes to cooking…or at least those folks talk a good game. The key is finding a starting point. We have a couple of looks at core items for your kitchen right here starting with knife basics and smart cooking devices to consider.

Consider two things as you chart a path to improving your kitchen game. What do you like to eat? Seems basic, but kind of important, why learn what you won’t enjoy on the table? Then look at the techniques involved. Building Boeuf Bourgogne from scratch might be better to pursue when your skills have been developed. It is worth the wait, but like any skill you want to get a good basic foundation.

A Restaurant Interlude

cooking in restaurant

Yes, the place to find food that someone else put the efforts in to making is a restaurant. You have to like a place that you ask and they bring you things. They also know how to cook. Perhaps not at the drive through. But most restaurants still have someone in the back cooking things up like they are going out of style.

It only seems appropriate that we learn about how they do that, how they bring full meals out in a matter of minutes. This article gives you an excellent look at some of the most popular restaurant dishes and a walk through a variety of techniques, and ideas, that commercial kitchens use.

Breakfast

Breakfast food items

Breakfast is a great staring point because it will expose you to a whole gamut of basic cooking techniques to master. Cooking bacon in a pan, learning how the heat affects it, how to avoid scorching. Pancakes and French toast for working with a flat grill and learning spatula skills to flip them. Basic sauté techniques when making great, fluffy scrambled eggs by keeping the food in motion in the skillet. Baking biscuits, even from a mix, builds basic oven knowledge.

Pancakes for example, start with a good mix, and get proficient with techniques to end up with a good cake. Then take the next step, build them from scratch. You’ll learn about working through with dry ingredients, how to bring fluids into the mix properly. They’re forgiving, so you’ll get a decent cake even if you miss a step, but still get all the necessary ingredients together.

Hot Meals

baked chicken

The first dinner dish to consider learning is baked chicken, especially a batch of all the same cut, like thighs. Evenly spaced on a foil lined baking sheet skin side up, sprinkled with your favorite seasoning, baked at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. That’s what’s for dinner! Add taters, cut in half, face down in another flat baking dish with a little melted butter, sprinkled with salt pepper and garlic, same cook temp and time, and the meal is ready.

Point being, cooking does not need to be complex. There are so many meals that you can easily put together and bring to the table for you, your family or your friends. Absolutely feel free to experiment. The chicken just mentioned. Try a Cajun spice blend to get some zip, or a smoky barbecue seasoning blend that will open a bunch of flavors. Start with the kiss rule, finding simple recipes that have great flavors, and incrementally advance as you master new skills.

Never Ending Story

The most amazing thing about cooking, is that even for those of us who got an early start and have long hours in the kitchen, there is still more to learn! Whether it is a dish or technique from another country, or the latest and greatest cooking trend, the vistas offered on the food panorama are endless. Wherever your starting point, have a great time advancing your skills, eating the tasty results, and trying new things.

How To Use Kettle Grill To Smoke Food

HOW TO USE KETTLE GRILL TO SMOKE FOOD Featured image

Grilling in the backyard with a kettle grill will always have a special flavor that you just can’t get using an electric or gas grill. Typically, you’ll have plenty of smoky flavors just by adding a bit of hickory or applewood sticks to your charcoal. When it comes to smoking meat using traditional and untraditional methods, you can still get that smoked flavor using a few nifty tricks you might not have heard about.

What Makes A Kettle Grill Work As A Smoker?

Man preparing kettle grill work as a smoker

Everybody knows that a kettle grill is perfectly shaped to circulate heat which is perfect for cooking burgers and various foods on the grill. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get a smoke flavor since charcoal burns a lot cleaner than wood does. Charcoal also burns at such a high temperature that it makes sense to open the airflow vents to control cooking temperatures if you intend to do any smoking within your grill.

Create a Direct and Indirect Cooking Zone

This is why you’ll need to add wood chips that are sometimes soaked beforehand so the wood itself lasts longer and gives off low levels of smoke as it burns on top of hot coals. To make a kettle grill work as a smoker, you also need to separate the grilling space into two sections. One section is going to be the direct heat and the opposite side is reserved as the indirect cooking side.

This makes it possible to slow cook food that isn’t sitting right over a heat source and will allow you to smoke food for longer periods while food is being cooked. On the opposite side of your grill, you also need to add a shallow container that will act as a container for catching food drips but also holds a small amount of water so your kettle grill isn’t too dry. As the water gets warm from the heat, it slowly evaporates water, keeping humidity balanced. You could pick up a device called a Slow ‘N Sear which is a pan you can place in your kettle grill which will partition your grill perfectly and it makes a great gift idea for anyone who loves to grill.

What If You Don’t Have A Kettle Grill?

Smoke tube On Grill

It’s not always a big problem if you don’t have a kettle grill or a standard backyard grill for that matter. If you don’t BBQ that much, you’re likely one of a growing number of people who don’t own one of these items. With the growing trend toward ordering food from online restaurants, it’s often a choice of what seems more convenient. That doesn’t mean some actually like cooking and getting that home-cooked BBQ flavor!

Generating Smoke

If you do own a kettle grill or covered grill, you can use a method that is getting pretty popular among BBQ enthusiasts. It’s so simple and also a practical way for most folks to get a smoky flavor while they cook on their grill. This item is called a smoke tube and usually looks like a weird-looking cheese grater. It’s a metal tube with small holes all over the surface so smoke can come out as wood pellets slowly burn.

These smoke tubes also come in a variety of shapes so they fit right on top of your grill surface. Even if you’ve cooked something in your kitchen oven, you can use a smoke tube inside an outdoor grill and cold smoke meals in less than 10-15 minutes but can allow for periods to last up to 6 hours or more. This is especially handy when you want to smoke cheese you’ve bought or sausages that you’ve made recently.

The best part is that a smoke tube will even work in a standard gas grill so those smoke flavors are part of your BBQ experience. If you’ve ordered food online that doesn’t have the right amount of smoky taste you enjoy so much, it can also be smoked just as easily with a smoker tube for a few minutes -or longer… If you don’t have a kettle grill you can modify an outdoor pizza oven or bread oven so it works as a smoker.

As long as you can place your food inside an area where it can be smoked for a short time, this won’t be an issue. The best place to do any smoking is always going to be on your BBQ grill as long as there’s some kind of lid that can cover the top so you don’t lose all that flavorful smoke.

5 Smart Cooking Devices You Should Own

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Cooking in the kitchen these days is a matter of simply looking at your smartphone. And as we can see why Wi-Fi connections through the various devices in our kitchen tell you so. Are you ready to get cooking with some smart devices so you can attend to more pressing matters?

Here are 5 incredible cooking devices you need to add to your modern kitchen list in 2021.

Drop Scale

Drop Scale product image

Unlike the old days where you needed to get out that dusty old recipe book, there’s a modern alternative. Taking a look at the Drop Scale might look like an ordinary digital scale, but this is so much more. It connects to your smartphone to a registered app and works through this scale too. One look at your touchscreen and you can search for the exact recipe you want to make. When it comes time to add the ingredients to your mixing bowl, everything is accounted for. Even if you missed an ingredient, it lets you know to add salt or alternative items that’ll go in instead.

Through the app, you can immediately scroll-through meal ideas with an interactive touch. The scale itself is connected directly through Bluetooth and helps you to gather and correctly measure all your food ingredients. It also gives you a great step-by-step visual guide to preparing your food instead of reading recipe text. It works on nearly all iPhone, iOS devices, and of course Android phones too. Even if you’re missing certain ingredients, the program will adjust what you do have to make it right. If you’ve got a tablet, this kitchen fairy program will make cooking a breeze!

Slaouwu Smart Vacuum Sealer

Slaouwu Smart Vacuum Sealer product image

Gone are those days when you needed to store food in a baggie. Now you can seal nearly anything with an airtight vacuum seal instead. This compact device is portable enough to store inside your kitchen cabinet. It also does an excellent job of removing air from special vacuum bags and sealing them. Not until you’re ready to cook and eat your food, the contents stay fresher until you use them. It has a special setting that tells your sealer what is being sealed. Even seal bags that have prepared meats with marinades. Your meat will have never tastes better.

There’s also a manual hose attachment for sealing wine and other bottle drinks to preserve flavors longer. Your favorite chips and snacks can also be saved so they’ll never lose that familiar crunch. Seal fruits, vegetables, and even nuts to keep them from spoiling early. If you’re a fan of Sous Vide cooking, you’ll want to have this handy vacuum sealer on-hand. Anything going into this vacuum will see the air sucked-out in under a minute. For left-over foods, you can also use vacuum seal containers that help preserve salads and sliced fruits. With this kitchen sealer, you’ll work smarter in the kitchen instead of shopping for more food that went to waste.

Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker

Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker product image

This is the new model and improved over their previous Anova discontinued model. This version features 1000 watts of power and is meant for serious Sous Vide cooking. But you don’t have to be a pro to use this smart model since it comes with a special app. Now you can start cooking via the app and monitor the cooking time. It lets you know through the app when your food is cooked to perfection. What is even more exciting is that you don’t need special tubs for your water, this Anova cooker attaches securely to any plastic tub or pot.

All the parts can be machine washable as well, making clean up less of a chore. Once your food is cooked, you simply remove it from the vacuum bag and finish it with a flaming sear. Steaks and meats need just a quick grill in the pan to get the familiar sealed crust you like to enjoy. Thanks to the new and updated app, you now have access to thousands of recipes using Sous Vide. Many of which are from celebrated chefs, who also love cooking with their Sous Vide cooker too! Never look at cooking the same way again with this smart device.

WiFi Smart Wireless Thermometer

WiFi Smart Wireless Thermometer product image

One of the very first, ‘true wireless’ meat thermometers that you’ll find on the market today. It’s connected to a smartphone app while being run through a Bluetooth connection. You can program the type of meat and monitor the inner temperature that reaches its’ optimal core cooking level. It lets you know when your meat is done so you don’t overcook the internal meat. You also get the ambient outside temperature. This kit is extra convenient since it contains two thermometers for larger roasts and meat cuts.

The app further allows the settings to include notifications and alerts. If your kitchen oven is connected to Alexa, you can control the oven temperature, so nothing is left to chance. This way, you can monitor your meats while you make a quick run to the store. It works great for long-range on many iOS devices and Android phones. Now you can take your BBQ skills to the next level of geek chic’ with these high tech smart devices. What even better is that the taste of perfection is never compromised by guesswork anymore! You’ll love what these smart and portable thermometers can do for you.

Instant Pot Smart Pressure Cooker

Instant Pot Smart Pressure Cooker product image

We know how you like getting your hard jobs done easier with Alexa, making cooking more manageable. So why not make your pressure pot make fool-proof meals you won’t need to slave over. This incredible 8-in-1 pressure cooker does more than stews. Thanks to the interactive app that comes with this pot, you can find thousands of recipe ideas to make. This is a 6-quart chamber pot that can feed a whole family or up to 6 people at a time. It can work as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, make rice and porridge, yogurt, an ideal sauté; and searing pan, a cake maker, and even a general food warmer!

It’s a simple as setting it and forgetting it, only this time you can get all the updates and notifications. Find out how your meal is doing via the mobile app. Set-it up on your Android or iPhone and still have time to check out the latest dishes. You can plan for your next meal while this pressure pot does the cooking for you. You can even use to sterilize household items like pacifiers, baby bottles, and canning jars. Even the stainless steel inner pot is machine washable. Say goodbye to hot stoves and hello to smart app pressure cooking.

How Roofing Companies Scam You

HOW ROOFING COMPANIES SCAM YOU FEATURED IMAGE

After my initial experience with getting scammed, I happened to have some across-the-fence chat with our next-door neighbor Susan. She had noticed that I had two roofers doing repairs on our roof and made an off-hand comment I didn’t expect to hear at all. She just blurted out “Oh- did those Storm Chasers’ hoodwink ya?”

Well- honestly at that point I was kind of confused and told her what happened and she didn’t seem at all surprised with what happened and started to tell me even more. Since we’re new to this neighborhood we’ve only had our home for 3 years now. Our next-door neighbor has been living in her home for more than 30 years.

She told me all sorts of things that I’ve decided to add to my personal roofing experience blog. The first issue she brought up was her Storm Chaser story. It was during the rainy season (which is the worst in July out here in Arizona), and that’s when she started getting hit with pamphlets in her mailbox every day.

She just looked at these and didn’t think much about it. But every day there was another new offer from several roofing companies offering emergency service. She said that this is how they get in your head. Getting all those flyers is kinda like brainwashing since they know you’re going to be thinking about the rain and what would happen- if…

Sneak Boy Scout tricks

man repairing roof

Then- that’s when it happened. She was out front doing some trimming on her hedges and a very nice guy driving by slowed down to get her attention. He was just driving by and happened to notice there was something that looked a bit off about her roof. And to her surprise, he had seen these signs before, since he was also a professional roofer.

He said that with all the rain they’re getting, he was sure that she probably wouldn’t see any signs inside her home or water stains on the ceiling. But he was sure it would get worse if it wasn’t fixed right away. Then he started to say that he had just finished a job up the road, and had some leftover supplies. Susan then said- I should have trusted my gut until I glanced over to look at the spot on the roof this guy was talking about.

Used-car salesmen pressure

man sitting on car with loud speaker

It was just a dark spot up on the second-floor dormer along the top edge. She wasn’t sure if it was really damage or just a soggy leaf bunched up against the asphalt shingles. But this guy was persistent in telling her that it might get worse by the next storm, but for a couple hundred, he could fix it right away since the previous job had already paid for the supplies. He said it was just a patch-up repair that she was paying for -so she didn’t need a receipt.

She could see that he didn’t have any company name on his car but there was a ladder and tools in the back of the truck he drove, and it did look like he had leftover supplies. Susan asked him why he didn’t have and company name on his truck and he said- oh, I was finished with the job and the sign is magnetic, so I put it in the backseat. Then he said he always does this and showed her the sign which was in the back seat.

It had all the company info and license number, so this seemed legit. Then he said that this is his own vehicle and not a company truck, so he takes the sign off when he finishes for the day. At that point, everything seemed fine and he was even grabbing his ladder. Oh what the heck she said, and let him make the repair. It didn’t take long at all and she paid him cash on the spot.

Mystery damages

contractor replacing damaged shingle

He then showed her a portion of shingle that did look pretty damaged, but she wasn’t sure. He assured her it would only have gotten worse and she’s lucky he got it in time. After that, he had to leave since he said he needed to get home to the wife and kids and drove off. She looked at the part where he said her roof needed repair and it looked fine, but then- the next day it rained pretty hard and that’s when she immediately saw there was water leaking.

No big surprise that it was in the bedroom where the dormer window was and made a big mess all down the wall. Who knows how much damage there was now? Then she called the roof repair company since she remembered the sign he showed her. She was furious when she talked to them and told them how one of their guys made a repair that got even worse.

She told them what happened, mentioning how one of their repair guys finished a job right up on her street and came just in time to fix her roof using leftover materials. That’s when she was even more shocked to find out they didn’t have any employees working in her area on that day. But then she mentioned the company’s magnetic sign and they then told her something that made her turn white.

The Storm Chasers

professional guy doing roofing work

They said that one of their company trucks did report having a sign missing and just thought it was some kid’s prank. But it sounds like she got scammed by someone posing as one of their contractors. Then she found out that their employees never offer services using leftover materials or take cash without giving a receipt. The roofing company genuinely sounded concerned that she was cheated and offered to fix her roof with a discount price.

Well, Susan was very happy to hear this and the discounted price did sound very attractive. So they arranged for a contractor to come and take a look to get a better idea of the damage she described. This time a very official truck arrived and the repairman wore a nametag on their company shirt complete with the company name. And they looked at the damage inside and out but this time the repair guy had bad news.

He said whatever the previous scammer did was more damaging because of where the dormer window leak was located and they could do their best to patch the area but it wouldn’t match with the rest of the shingles since they were older. Then they told her they could replace the entire roof with new shingles. They gave an estimate which was obviously too much for her to afford which then the contractor told her that it wasn’t a problem.

Tempting starting bids

toy home and house insurance documents on table

Then he went on to tell her that because they’re able to do the work and they can do this through her homeowner’s insurance. But this was long before the insurance policies had changed so the replacement did fall under storm repair and wouldn’t cost her anything. So that sounded great to Susan, so she got an immediate quote on that day. All Susan needed to do is contact her insurance company to request a storm damage claim using her Replacement Cost Value (RCV) portion of her insurance.

They sent out an adjuster right away which took one look at her roof damage and gave the go-ahead since it looked like storm damage, and it was the height of the rainy season. They cut Susan a check based on the estimate the roofing contractor supplied. Later, she deposited this check and the roofing company changed her roof in record time.

They gave her the final invoice which was much cheaper than she expected which was a plus for Susan since she thought this was a good thing and signed a check for the roofing company. This only made things worse when she went to the insurance office to drop off the roofing invoice.

Her insurance company immediately spotted the difference between what the roofing company charged and what was given to her as a payout. It wasn’t more than a week since the roof work was finished and the amount she kept was only a few hundred. But the fact that it appeared she was pocketing the amount was a serious offense and she could have been charged with fraud.

Susan showed her account and the money was still listed in her checking account. She didn’t want to be convicted and was in tears while she talked to her insurance company office manager. She was very lucky they saw she was being honest and didn’t charge her with fraud. And she returned the left-over money the same day by writing a check right away. After that she said, she’s always been careful with her insurance ever since.

Another clue in the mailbox

mailbox in front of house

It wasn’t until she finished her story that I realized that I was getting roofing ads in my mailbox too. I also noticed on that same day, a pick-up truck driving around putting these ads in each box down our street. It wasn’t from any roofing company that had any signs on the side either and it got me thinking that something was off about this. They just looked like some guy n regular clothes.

What if this was part of a larger scam that purposely made roof damage on homes where the roof didn’t even need repair at all? I told Susan this and she said they do this every year in certain neighborhoods. These sneaky tricks usually target older folks trying to get you to replace your roof.  They rarely get caught, but after my run-in with roof repair guys, I’ve learned my lesson. Now we’ll look to do simple repairs ourselves and when things seem more serious, we’ll be on the lookout for said Storm Chasers.

When I shared this with Susan, she agreed that it sounded pretty fishy and wouldn’t doubt that this is part of their scam. They even changed the way homeowner insurance pays out storm damage claims so there’s less risk to the owners being charged with fraud! But I sure hope this story will help other people out there learn about what happened to my neighbor. You never know what kinds of tricks you might expect these days.

Best and Worst Kitchen Gadgets

BEST AND WORST KITCHEN GADGETS featured image

Your kitchen might have appliances that are very helpful in preparing meals at any time of the day. You might also have some literally useless and very unsuspecting items. If there could ever be a best of the best and worst of the worst mash-up of kitchen accessories and gadgets guide, this is it. We’ll also give you a bit of info and bonus tips on what makes these items useful or not so great.

5 best kitchen accessories

Food steamer

best Food steamer

Food steamers have been gaining traction now for the last couple of years. They’re considered the new slow cooker and are great for making entire meals. What’s interesting is that it uses steam to cook your food to perfection. This 2-tier design allows you to separate your favorite foods on two separate shelves. It’s also set-up so you can steam items on a timer. It also gives you quick tips on how long specific items right next to the timer switch.

It also features a water level so you know how much water is left in your reservoir. The advantage is adding herbs to your water to infuse vegetables and food with more flavors.

Microwave

best Microwave

This convenient microwave features all the best functions that you want in a microwave. It’s a 360-degree rotation cooker and has 700 watts that can be varied for cooking settings. It also has a great LED display that tells you which function gets activated. There’s also a nice big button that serves as the start button. It defrosts based on weight and set to specific times, so you can’t go wrong. There are also 0.7 cubic feet so it’s perfect for self-serve meals.

What makes this microwave ideal is that it has a child-proof lock that locks the keypad. This means it won’t work by accident if they play with the buttons.

Slow cooker

best Slow cooker

No matter what you want to call them, slow cookers are the modern-day crockpot. The advantage is that it’s a pressure cooker that will cook your food faster. This is great for soups, chili, meat stew, and even steaming rice. It also allows up to 3 quarts inside the main vessel but you can also buy a 6 quart and 8-quart model additionally. The control setting already features recipe functions for what you’re cooking.

Three pressure settings will also speed-up or slow down the types of food you want to prepare. One advantage is being able to sterilize baby bottles and other selected items.

Induction stove

best Induction stove

Induction cooktops are handy since they heat up quickly and are handy for certain types of meals you cook. It replaces the old-style heating pad that’s a fan favorite to college dorms. This induction stove also has two separate heating elements that are well vented for being an induction cooktop. The advantage with these kinds of kitchen accessories is that you can cook up to 1800 watts and uses touch sensors to control heat settings.

The nice this about this model is that it’s completely child safe and has touch sensor locks so it can’t be turned on by accident. It has automatic settings that determine the boiling point, steaming, frying, and warming settings.

Oven top tandoor

best Oven top tandoor

This tandoor cooking pot is quite an achievement that combines a few key features that help cook your food. You can place this on any gas stove which cooks that unmistakable Tandoori chicken. It’s excellent for pizzas too. The only limitations are what you put into this unique pot. It won’t break like other oven top tandoors since the heat generated can shatter glass tops. This well-constructed stainless steel hold-up quite well as a result.

The diameter allows 13 inches of cooking space with a convenient grill lid. It also comes with a free pair of tongs to move your chicken and food items around.

5 worst kitchen accessories

Electric martini shaker

worst Electric martini shaker

We’re not sure how this odd machine can make a martini better, since some menial tasks are now getting sidelined. But some items do find their way into the kitchen for meaningful reasons. The disadvantage of this machine is that it’s from the UK, so it does need an electrical adapter plug. The vessel contains a 20-ounce mixing cup so it could be used for making milkshakes ideally.

Egg counter storage tray

worst Egg counter storage tray

Here’s a quirky egg tray that comes with an interactive app. You can see which egg is the oldest and how many you have remaining using sensors in this tray. It also alerts you with notifications when you start to run low. You just can’t make this kind of stuff up unless you see it for yourself. Somehow it can also indicate if your eggs are going bad so you never risk cracking open a rotten egg.

iKettle

worst iKettle

Now that everyone is using the smartphone to do everything, here’s a kettle that works via the iKettle app. Now you can set and start your water boiling using an app. The temperature can also be set to keep the water at a select temperature too. It can even work with smart home devices such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home. If you need a kettle that boils water using your phone, this kettle is perfect for you.

Taste enhancing fork

worst Taste enhancing fork

As if smell-o-vision could ever be a thing this fork is following closely in those footsteps. This set provides you with 4 forks that can contain flavor-enhancing scents while you eat. The scents can be combined to create a unique eating experience that may change the way you think about food. There are a total of 21 aromas that you can apply a drop onto a white pad that’s inserted into the smell center of each fork.

Electric wine opener

worst Electric wine opener

It used to be that a wine bottle opener was a tough job getting the cork out of the bottle. Now you can have a machine that automatically takes out the cork for you. What makes this kind of kitchen accessories device even more special, is that it comes with its own recharging base so it’s always ready to open any wine bottle. This model even comes with a free foil cutter so the foil cap can be removed with a nice clean cut line.

Farmhouse Up your Kitchen – DIY Ideas without remodeling

Ways to Farmhouse up your Kitchen

5 Ways to Farmhouse up your Kitchen

Are you looking to give your kitchen a makeover that doesn’t take a total to remodel to make a farmhouse feel? Here are some neat ideas that can be used to turn your kitchen into a cozy corner in just 5 steps. The best part is that a lot of these ideas don’t cost much at all. Even if you don’t use real antiques, there are plenty of ways to make a farmhouse kitchen look on a budget.

Colors

best Colors for farmhouse kitchen

One thing that stands out immediately in a country kitchen is how lived-in the walls tend to look. You don’t want to stick with all white or solid colors but subtle tones. Nice earthy colors that tend to age well over time. Creamy colors like beige and warm butter yellow. You have to remember that years of cooking will make any white wall appear yellow, but you don’t want dingy colors.

If you want to add an effect to these walls, it will look pretty authentic if you use two different colors to add an aged look. Use a lighter color first and a darker shade such as a light beige or peach over a creamy yellow. Have a soft rag dipped into the darker paint and then wring it out. This can be scrunched-up to make a soft but wrinkly texture. Put mottled patterns on the walls as you like. Do this for inner edges and spots where it livens-up solid colors.

The same can be added to age-down cabinet doors using a darker shade too. Rub the paint into cracks and anything that has texture. Use a clean sponge to clean off the excess and see how well it looks.

Cabinets

farmhouse kitchens cabinets ideas

The secret to any country kitchen is cabinet doors that have heavy detail. The kinds of decorative edges that resemble picture frames or decorative panels look best. If these are wooden panels you can make these look older using a stiff wire brush used for cleaning grill grates. Brush away the wood along the grain until you can see natural grain coming through. You can then use paint to age them down to give a more rustic farmhouse effect.

Older cabinet doors found at flea markets or swap meets are perfect if you’re only replacing the doors. If they’re the same size, then only the doors need changing, and also keeps your costs down. With French farmhouse kitchens, upper cabinet doors usually have glass framing. This can be done by removing the cabinet center until there’s only a frame. Have glass cut to the size of the hole and seal the glass in place.

Make a decorative frame by using thin flat wood strips from a hardware store. Use the kind that’s used for decorative edge trim. A universal sealer can attach it to the glass to make it look like glass framing.

Windows

ideas for farmhouse kitchen Windows

Regular kitchen windows are meant to look open however there weren’t windows like this more than one hundred years ago. Use the same kind of decorative trim from the hardware store and cut strips to make sections that can be glued to your window. Be sure to make a pattern that you like and cut the strips to fit that pattern. You can then use a universal silicone to attach them to the glass surface. Use paint to age them down after that.

It doesn’t have to be on the outside of the glass since you’re only creating the illusion of a framed window. But if you want to be more authentic you can repeat the same steps to put these strips on the outside. Be sure to use a weatherproof silicone so they don’t come off. Keep the strips firmly attached temporarily with masking tape where it might not sit flatter against the glass.

Decorations

ideas for farmhouse kitchen Decoration

If you’ve been to TGI Fridays or other themed Americana restaurants, the authentic-looking decorations they have on the walls aren’t actually antiques. These are cleverly painted reproductions that can be bought at several online outlets. Look for cheap reproductions at outlet stores, through eBay, or even Amazon. You’ll also be interested to know that Chinese store outlets make fine reproduced copies of nearly anything antique looking.

You can also check yard sales, garage sales, and flea markets for items that are cheap. Useful decoration such as flower vases, wire baskets, wooden bowls, antique planters, and anything that fits into your farmhouse kitchen theme. If it’s made from plastic, it can be painted with regular spray paint and aged-down using dry-brushing or sponging techniques. You can find many Youtube tutorials that show you how to make an expert looking antique look for free.

Countertops

ideas for farmhouse kitchen Countertops

A country kitchen will often have wooden or marble countertops. It might be harder to find an authentic version but your hardware superstore might help. Premade countertops that have very realistic marble and wood patterns can be purchased on a budget. The old ones can be removed easily and the new countertop can screw right over the old cabinet surface. Cabinet tops are the last that are attached to a kitchen, so some screws just keep them screwed on.

If you keep a keen eye, there might be an old countertop sold at antique stores. Just find a store that’s in the countryside so you don’t pay the inner-city prices.

Cooking Meatloaf in an Electric Skillet

MEATLOAF IN AN ELECTRIC SKILLET featured image

Mmm…meatloaf! Hopefully this dish brings back those memories we can only associate with comfort food as well-known as this. Imagine a college kid, with this great deal. Do all the cooking for a group of 4 and they do all the cleaning. Yes, it created a messy cook, that’s another issue. . So, if you have only been following your mother’s or grandmother’s recipe and didn’t see all the new takes on this dish that has existed since Ancient Rome, you might have missed all the amazing new ways to cook it, like an electric skillet.

A cook’s night off one of the roomies grabbed an electric skillet and cooked meatloaf!? But…but…that’s an oven baked food dish. Well no. In this case it was set right on the metal and carrots and potatoes thrown in on the sides to roast with it. Yes, the bottom got a little crustier than many folks may like, but the idea of using that device for this food has great merit.

Why an electric skillet?

when to use electric skillet

What a modern oven offers is accurate temperature control. Until recently, getting accurate temperature control using a surface heating source, electric or gas, was very hard to accomplish. Unless you have an electric fry pan. That is exactly what it offers, a thermostatically controlled heated surface.

Before microwaves, these may have been the most common device in any kitchen. They still have a place, accurately cooking everything from pan fried chicken to pancakes and French toast…even hamburgers. Which, if you think about it, a meatloaf is nothing more than one huge hamburger with seasonings and other goodies built right in.

Of course you cannot flip a meatloaf very effectively, or without a mess likely. To make up for that, you have the snug fitting lid that comes with the electric skillet. This brings the added benefit of retaining moisture that can be lost if oven baking, and keeping in the heat to cook the upper surfaces.

Avoiding the scorch

If you crank the skillet up to 350 degrees and drop your meatloaf on there you will get a nice crispy crust on the bottom. If you have a rack that will fit into your skillet then you can use that to elevate the meat. If your meatloaf recipe is softer to start with, line that rack with aluminum foil to keep from making deep indents while it cooks.

The other advantage of a rack is that this allows the fats bleed away from the meat. Again, a trade off. Some folks swear by using an actual loaf pan, keeping the meatloaf in contact with all the fats until you remove it before serving. This will make for a moister meatloaf. Some would say a greasy meatloaf. Perspective and personal taste.

Another work around is to fold a layer of aluminum foil and set parchment paper on top for the meatloaf to rest on, This will allow for much of the fat to drain away. It will also reduce the scorching. Drop your temp to 300 or 325, add a couple minutes of cook time and you will get great results. In short, you can avoid the scorching and rendered oil issues with just a small amount of planning.completed meatloaf on table

Breaking with tradition

Since we’re already out of the oven and venturing into new territory, what can you do different? First thing that comes to mind is onion. That’s right, skip the rack and line the bottom of the pan with one-half inch thick slices of onion, peeled and cut across the rings.  Set your meatloaf right on top of the onions, use 300 degrees and in about 90 minutes you have seriously caramelized onions to serve with your meal. Or rack it on some thick cabbage rounds, cook, drain the oil and use them as an incredible base flavor for your next soup or stew.

serving meatloaf with vegetable

Moving on with the vegetable world, if you use leaner meats, 90% lean beef, lean ground turkey, chicken or buffalo, you can expand your horizons. Now it takes on pot roast like versatility. Fill the sides with carrots, taters, celery, sweet potatoes, rutabaga…any of the usual suspects you enjoy cooked that way.  This approach will yield juices that can be made into a gravy or sauce, although some skimming of oil may still be needed.

More temp and time tweaks

You can emulate most recipes from a crockpot, or even in the direction of a sous vide. A note of caution on the latter. A sous vide works with complete immersion of the meat in a water bath. This contact, and lack of air contact, allows for lower temperatures than you may want to use in the electric skillet. For example, you could easily cook a meatloaf in sous vide for 4 hours at 140 degrees and your meat is safely pasteurized, fully cooked and good to serve. In the skillet the ambient temperature of the air, with the skillet set at 140, is going to be decidedly less, possibly dipping into the danger zone by health standards.

But low and slow at say 200 degrees will give you a more tender, and juicier meatloaf with a texture leaning toward that of a cooked cased sausage. If your preferences run toward rarer meats you can certainly monitor the interior temperature, watching for standard ranges; 130-med rare, 140-medium, 150-med well, 160 and up-well.

Which sums this up with the thought that an electric skillet is a fine way to cook a meatloaf, with some variables and controls you can use to make a better meal for your family and friends.

Building Bunk Beds

diy bunk bed design plans

Tips for Building a Bunk Bed

If you grew up with a brother or sister, it’s guaranteed that at some point in time, a fight for who gets the upper bunk was inevitable. Keeping aside the ensuing battle, bunk beds have been the cornerstone for bedrooms for centuries. Bunk beds have drastically evolved over the years and have now become staple bedroom furniture if efficient space utilization is needed.

Nothing is cozier than having a sturdy bunk bed with some comfy blankets. With that being said, different types of bunk beds can be built. Here are 4 popular bunk bed designs and what makes them interesting and space-efficient.

PS:- These can be built on your own. Building a bunk bed is a fun family/friend activity, so we have provided links to instructions on how to build each of the mentioned designs to make the process easier. We have also built and designed the plans for the bed featured here.

Standard Bunk Beds

Standard-Bunk-Beds

This is probably the most common of all the different designs. Normal is good and this is the definition of how normal can sometimes be great. The standard bunk bed consists of an upper bunk and a lower bunk (some bunks beds have three levels). These are commonly made with either timber or wood. Furniture shops also sell these bunk beds that have metal frames instead of wood. Metal bunk beds tend to allow more airflow since it is thinner. This works well if there are two kids in the house since it saves the space for a second bed. The bed is comparatively easy to make and can be a DIY with the right materials and tools.

Link to the instructions to build this: https://www.instructables.com/id/Easy-and-Strong-2×4-2×6-Bunk-Bed/

Loft Bunk Beds

This takes bunk beds to the next level by making them more space-efficient. Loft bunk beds usually have the upper bunk as the bed while the lower bunk is replaced with either storage compartments, study units or a play area. the lower area is made with enough clearance to prevent any head-knocking while utilizing the space. These tend to look much more modern than the traditional bunk beds and come with added functionality. Such setups are common in households that have a single child and are looking to save on space without compromising on functionality. Some households even have two units of these giving children the luxury of upper bunks for everyone whilst having loads of space underneath.

Link to the instructions to build this: http://www.ana-white.com/woodworking-projects/how-build-loft-bed

Futon Bunk Beds

If you are looking to cut down space usage to the maximum, a futon bunk bed would fit well in the room. These are very similar to the loft bunk beds and fall in a category in between the standard and the loft designs, In such designs, the upper bunk remains the sleeping space but the lower bunk is usually a convertible. Futon beds tend to have a lower bunk bed that doubles as a sofa. This versatility of combining two of the bed units along with a sofa unit into one single unit saves a lot of space. This makes the futon bunk beds a very popular design in modern set-ups.

Link to the instructions to build this: https://www.doityourself.com/stry/building-a-futon-bunk-bed

L-Shaped Bunk Beds

This design has found popularity in recent years and for good reason. L-shaped bunk beds have the bottom bunk and the upper bunk at right angles to each other. This gives extra space on the bottom for shelves or cabinets and other storage spaces. Such a design won’t fit in every room and may not be as common as standard bunk beds but does make for an amazing addition to the bedroom. The irregular design catches any visitor’s eye and the space efficiency value is still existent. Though the design might look complicated, it is very easy to build, provided you have the right tools.

Link to the instructions to build this: https://www.stylisheve.com/stylish-eve-diy-project-l-shaped-loft-bed-two-inspired-ana-white/

There other designs other than the above mentioned. Themed Bunk Beds, Triple Bunk Beds, Novelty Bunk Beds, Loft Bunk Beds, and Study Bunk beds are a few of the other available designs you could choose from, should your heart design. These 4 are the most popular and easiest to make.

With the right instructions and proper research on durable materials, building a bunk bed becomes a simple DIY task.

Best Kitchen Knives for Slicing Meat

Choosing the Right Kind of Knife For Different Cuts of Meat

There’s a lot of different knives out there. There’s also a lot of different meats, cuts and tasks that those knives can be used for. This is why kitchen knife sets are so popular. Some knives are multi-purpose, while others are single task only.  How do you when to use which knife? Keep reading and we’ll show you a few pointers to get you out on the right track. 

What Are You Cutting? Different Tasks, Different Tools

The exact meat (or other food) you’re using is the #1 consideration when you’re choosing which knife to use, and the knife you use for cutting those tomatoes won’t hack it on a nice big brisket or pork shoulder. 

If you’re cutting a large piece of meat that has lots of bones – say a turkey or a whole or quarter pig – you’ll need something that can separate meat from bone with both ease and precision. Like a boning knife – also sometimes called a paring knife. 

Wustof Boning Knife

Boning Knifes

Boning knives have long, thin and flexible blades with tapered tips. This allows you to easily work around bones, cutting fat and other connective tissue when necessary. The width and stiffness of the blade itself often varies considerably with boning knifes, and they come in a few different styles. But in general, the more curved the blade, the more precise your cuts will be. Use a narrower boning knife when cutting ribs and chops and opt for a wider knife with pork and ribs. 

Boning Knives Come in All Shapes and Sizes

Chef’s Knife

Wusthof Chef Knife

If you’re just chopping through large cuts of meat without all the bones, you’ll might get away with just a simple, handy chef’s knife. The chef’s knife is the all-in-one workhorse of your knife set and will allow you to cut regular-sized steaks, roasts and chicken breasts (and more) when preparing to throw them on the grill (or in the oven).  

Chef Knives Range in Blade Size

Chef’s knives come in a variety of blade lengths – from 6” to 12” long. The longer the blade, the faster it can slice – but the more unwieldy it is – and vice versa. 

Cleavers

Cleaver

When you start cutting up large cuts of meat into smaller ones – or even need to quickly chop through some bones – you might start to find a cleaver necessary. A cleaver might be overkill for many kitchens, but if you love barbecue and often cook for large parties, you might find this large, wide blade makes a great addition to your chopping and cutting arsenal. It cuts more than meat, too – and can come in handy for crushing garlic, chopping large tomatoes quickly, and even tenderizing and pounding chicken breasts for more even cooking. 

A Cleaver is Versatile to Handle Endless Jobs Around the Kitchen

Oh – and scraping and moving food around the cutting board is ridiculously easy with the back of a good cleaver. Some people even use a cleaver as quick vegetable peeler. 

When to Use a Carving Set

Carving sets – which include carving knives and a carving fork – are best used for cooked meats – like ham, roasts, turkeys or even chickens – that are ready to serve. Proper meat carving is a learned skill, – especially with smaller meats like chickens. But with some practice…you too can be slicing some great filets and sandwich-ready slices with ease. 

Wusthof Carving Knife

That’s because carving knives are even thinner than chef’s, and thus capable of much finer, more precise cuts and handiwork. They typically have blades about 12”-14” long, with very pointed tips (unless it’s specifically made for slicing roast beef, in which case the knife will have a round tip). 

Best Practice Tips for Using a Carving Knife from Monkeysee.com

Just keep in mind you should never use a carving set for chopping meat; the very fine edge would be easily damaged and dulled by such forceful motions. Instead, use a general sawing or slicing motion back and forth.