some more spring cleaning

 I spent a little time in the garden today. I did a little more spring cleaning.

I cleaned up some of the remains of last year’s garden, and deadheaded lightly the hydrangeas that bloomed. Now I have a box of what resembles floral tumbleweeds. (See photo above.)

I also planted a red currant and some horseradish root. Yes it’s a little early, but I needed to play.

Now to get on with the rest of my day.

benjamin jacobs house in exton gets new lease on life



I have said (and written previously) that ever since I came to Chester County I have loved this house alone in its own meadow and field on Ship Road in Exton. So I put a photo I took up on the Chester County Ramblings Facebook page and a friend of mine told me it was a house on the National Register of Historic Places, the Benjamin Jacobs House .

Anyway, the Benjamin Jacobs House has been part of the Church Farms School land parcels.  It was even mentioned in the Downingtown Area Historical Society Newsletter of April 3, 2014 . That house and the family from which it gets its name are steeped in Chester County history.

So today I got a new Twitter follower request and much to my delight it is the new owner of the Benjamin Jacobs house!  And the house is being restored!!!

The owner, Sarah Toms,  is chronicling the restoration in a blog. Personally, old house nut that I am, I am very excited about this!  This is, after all something amazing in today’s age: someone actually wants to restore a truly amazing house like this! I can’t wait to read along with everyone else as the work progresses!

Here is her inaugural post:

Benjamin Jacobs House: Why Exton?

I’ve lived in Pennsylvania’s Chester and Montgomery counties since the mid 1990’s, and to be honest, the Exton area never spoke to me. For one, there’s no quaint town center like so many boroughs in this area to draw you in and make you want to explore the shops and neighborhoods. The busy routes 100 and 30, which transect Exton, are uninspired corridors of stop and go traffic lined with same-same chain stores and restaurants. It really could be Anywhere, USA. So when my husband Ben and I started looking for a home close to a train station and near our children’s charter school, we reluctantly decided to take a second look at this area.

The Benjamin Jacobs House was the first home for sale that we looked at online and based on the pictures and description, it seemed to be exactly what we were looking for. Large enough for our big family and situated in a peaceful park setting, Ben and I were excited to see it in person. We also liked that this home has a really interesting past that is connected to the founding of our country (Benjamin Jacobs’ father, John Jacobs, was Speaker of the House when the Constitution was signed, and Benjamin not only helped to fund the Revolutionary War but was also a signer of Continental Currency – stay tuned for more history!).

Our first viewing was in March, 2014 and I have to say my first impression as I pulled in and parked in the home’s parking lot (yes, it has a 15 car parking lot) was Addams Family, here I come! Half of the front porch had fallen down and was lying next to the house, all the exterior paint was flaking off, and there are no shrubs or gardens, so the huge white structure felt stark and at odds with its setting. The house sits a little way back from Ship Road, but given the unwritten rule that everyone must exceed the speed limit by at least 20 mph, I didn’t feel too keen about living on this busy road. When I looked to Ben to gauge his first impressions, I was amazed to see my beloved beaming from ear to ear. My English husband had finally found his country estate, and where I saw years of renovations ahead of us, he saw vast potential in this dilapidated gem. Our realtor Terry, who with his wife Lois, has helped us to sell and buy previous homes, let out a chuckle – he seemed to already know that this place would be right up the alley of his quirky clients.

good morning coffee cake



I also call this cheater’s coffee cake because it is made with Bisquick a pre-made baking mix. So it is also semi-homemade but without Sandra Lee’s coordinating kitchen scape, table scape, and so on. You can also use a generic baking mix that is like Bisquick.

The base for this recipe used to be on the Bisquick box. I don’t see it there anymore. But over the years I have tweaked it and this is my favorite version. It mixes up quickly and is a delicious treat on weekends!


    Batter
    2 cups Bisquick (or comparable generic baking mix that is like it)
    2/3 cup milk (NOT skim – 1% or 2% or even buttermilk)
    1/2 cup frozen or fresh blueberries
    1 egg
    1/3 cup sugar
    1/2 teaspoon  cardamom 
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
      Topping
      2/3 cup Bisquick
      2/3 cup brown sugar
      1 teaspoon cinnamon 
      4 tablespoons butter
    Preheat oven to 400°

    Grease with either butter or Crisco  a large deep dish  pie plate.
    Mix batter ingredients – everything except the blueberries. Fold them in when everything else is mixed thoroughly.  (NOTE: You can also use dried cranberries or white seedless raisins instead of the blueberries. If you use dried fruit like that you’re going to bake on the lower end of the time estimation, or about 20 minutes.)

    In  a separate bowl mix topping ingredients together with either two forks or a pastry blender until crumbly crumbs are formed.

    Take a large deep dish pie plate and grease it.

    Pour batter into pie plate. Evenly distribute crumbly topping on top and cut crisscross well across top a few  times with a knife. 

    Bake in 400° oven for approximately 25 – 30 minutes

    Allow to cool for a little bit (at least 20 to 25 minutes) before serving but tastes best serve warm.

    little old italian lady in training 

    

    I became a bit of an Italian cliché today, or a little old Italian lady in training, take your pick.

    I made sauce, I made gnocchi, and I made a ricotta pie.

    I will give you the recipe below I used a roll out store-bought crust this time –Pillsbury  brand.

    Deep dish pie plate required.

    Preheat oven to 350°

    Follow instructions on premade piecrust – I like using my own pie plates so I get the Pillsberry brand piecrust when I don’t feel like making my own crust. 

    So I laid my piecrust in my pan, fluted the edges of the crust and tossed in the freezer while I mixed up the ricotta mixture.

    Beat 5 eggs and  1 tablespoon vanilla together. (my mother bought me back this amazing Mexican vanilla on her last trip there and that is what I use today – the flavor is better I think than regular vanilla.)

    Mix in with electric mixer 1/4  cup of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, the grated rind of one fresh lemon and one fresh orange. (I had some blood oranges and so that is the grated orange rind that I used today.)

    Mix in with electric mixer 1 cup of white sugar and beat together well.

    Beat in 3 1/2 cups of whole milk ricotta cheese. When mixture is well mixed, you next stir in 1/3 cup candied minced orange peel and 1/3 cup candied minced lemon peel.

    Get out your pie shell in your deep dish pie plate and carefully pour the creamy ricotta cheese mixture into the piecrust.

     Bake at 350° until firm and light brown on top approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes.

    You can either serve this at room temperature or chilled.

    Enjoy!

    had to do it….had to plant something 

    

    I couldn’t wait any longer. It was like the temptation  of the Siren’s song.

    The garden was calling my name. Even in the not quite spring feeling rain.

    So I gave in and planted pansies. Well I also planted onions and another peony (just a root hasn’t budded yet).

    It felt good. Actually, it felt terrific.

    Hopefully now it won’t snow or anything more…