Solar Powered Outdoor String Lights

Solar Powered Outdoor String Lights

Solar Powered Outdoor String LightsI’ve wanted string lights for a few years now and this summer I finally made that happen. There’s something about outdoor string lights that really liven up a yard. It’s makes it feel like you’re having a party every single night. And in fact, I think my kids goal for the summer is to have a party every single night. But lets get back to the string lights. To make the set up much easier I bought solar powered outdoor string lights. No need for outlets or worrying about where to hang them. I just put these solar powered outdoor string lights where I wanted and whammy, instant party atmosphere.

It’s July already and I’m usually knee deep in my yard chores at this point of the summer. But this year is a little different. We actually hired a landscaping company to mow the lawn. That saves me about 6 hours a weekend to work on other projects. The mowing the lawn part only took about an hour but the edging and using the leaf blower and picking up the leaves or other stuff that falls from the trees always took a lot of time.

72 Feet Solar Powered Outdoor String Lights
3 sets of 72 Feet Solar Powered Outdoor String Lights

These are the NJ Burbs so you’ve got to have a nice looking yard. It always seemed like I was working on yard maintenance for hours and hours every weekend instead of working on cool projects. Well now these landscaping guys swarm my yard every week with their high powered jet pack blowers and standing lawn mowers. And they’re out of there is less than 20 minutes. Good for them.

Anyway, one of the projects that I now had some time to work on was the string lights. We live on a little bit more than a 1/2 acre on a corner lot. It’s an odd setup because the side yard is where all the property is. That’s where the pool is and in a better distant time long ago, that’s where we spent thousands of dollars to make it beautiful. We had the pool redone and got pavers and stone walls installed.

cable for Solar Powered Outdoor String Lights
Here’s the supplies needed for hanging the string lights

Our actual backyard is small and neglected. There’s an old concrete patio and overgrown bushes back there. But it’s shady and not a bad place to eat BBQ. I was going to put the string lights in the backyard. Another one of those projects that I haven’t had enough time to do was to build a giant picnic table about 14 feet long. Perfect spot to hang string lights over.

Well I still haven’t built the picnic table and my son said why not put the lights over the pool

Whoa mind blown. What a great idea!

ferrule and stop set
You can use a Ferrule and Stop Set or cable clamps

The backyard span would have only been 25 feet and I could have made three back and forth passes with the solar powered outdoor string lights that I wanted. But the pool area is much bigger. And you can’t hang something made of plastic across a span of 70 plus feet and expect it to stay up. You need a metal cable to attach it to.

So I finally pulled the trigger and I purchased these lights from Amazon. They are LED, solar powered outdoor string lights. No need to worry about putting them near an outlet or installing a new outlet. Another good thing is that they’re always on. The solar panels absorb energy from the sun during the day and when it gets dark they come on automatically. Even when we’ve had overcast days where the sun doesn’t make an appearance these light still come on for a few hours. With a sunny day the lights stay on for longer than I’m outside. And that’s good enough for me.

Solar Powered Outdoor String Lights closeup
Here’s a close up view

The galvanized steel cable is 1/16”. Strong enough to hold up the lights but thin enough not to need any special tools or equipment to hang.

To attach the cables to a wall or tree or whatever you choose you’ll need a way to make a loop at the end. Either use with a cable clamp that you screw to the wire or with a ferrule and stop set that you crimp. These clamps cost $6 each so I opted for the $2/pair for the ferrule and stop set. A special crimping tool is used to affix them to the wire but that tool cost like $20 so I just hit them with a hammer and it did the trick.

Solar Powered Outdoor String Lights At Dusk
Here they are at dusk

I also got some big eye hooks and screwed them into a tree, my house and I put up a 4×4 post too. I’m hanging 3 sets of lights so I needed a few different places to work with. When putting in a post you should dig down at least 2 feet and pour a bag of cement into the hole when setting the post. Let it set for a day before you start screwing into it or hanging the lights. I also painted the post black so it doesn’t attract your eye and kind of blends in. It’s also right behind a giant Diablo Nine Bark bush that’s about 8 feet tall. So it totally blends in.

Here’s my tips for hanging solar powered outdoor string lights:

  • Measure the span carefully and make sure you cut the correct length
  • Test fit the cable and then take them down and attach to something low and stationary (I used some metal patio benches)
  • Wrap the lights around the cable and use zip ties to make sure they stay in place
  • Carefully hang them back up

I have to admit that I am completely psyched that I’m finally getting some cool projects done this summer. And these solar powered outdoor string lights have really made the yard look like there’s a party going on all the time. Now if I can just convince my kids to stop inviting their friends over every night, I’ll get a change to enjoy them myself.

Seasoning Cast Iron Skillet

Seasoning cast iron skillet

Seasoning A Cast Iron Skillet

Have you seen those frying pan commercials on TV? You know the ones where they demonstrate how non-stick the pan is by sliding sunny side up eggs around in it or by burning a slice of American Cheese. Look it just slides right out! I love those commercials but I don’t cook with those pans. It seems that we keep finding out that the old fashioned ways of doing things are the best ways. Look at how popular cooking in cast iron is getting. It seems like all of my favorite food bloggers have these great cast iron skillet recipes lately. So an important skill to have is seasoning a cast iron skillet.

Seasoning a cast iron skillet
Now that’s cast iron

Pans nowadays are made to be thrown out after a year or two. That sucks.  Once upon a time you got a cast iron pan and you kept it. You took care of it and you were able to cook a lot of meals with it. Your mama would leave you her pan in her will and you brought it with you in your covered wagon when you went west seeking fame and glory. Wait, I might be going a little too far in the past to be relevant

Anyway, instead of using a pan with a space age material that lets me fry a slice of American Cheese (I really must post my fried slice of American Cheese recipe, no not really), I’m now using cast iron.

What’s the deal with seasoning a cast iron skillet?

Before you start using a cask iron skillet you have to season it. It’s sort of like waxing a car. You put a few coats of wax on a car and the dirt just washes right off of it. Same with cast iron. You put a few coats of fat on it it and food doesn’t stick to it.

It’s important to remember when seasoning a cast iron skillet to coat the pan, top and bottom with Crisco or other solid shortening. Then put it in an oven at 350 for an hour. Let it cool in the oven. When it’s cooled down you can put another coat on it and repeat the process a few times if you want. The more time you put into it, the better it’ll come out.

And then when you start using your skillet, don’t wash it with soap.

I used to work at a diner and I remember cleaning that grill all of the time. I took a metal screen and a stone block and scrubbed it while it was hot. Tough stain, I used to put a little water and scrub harder. Same with the skillet. Get some paper towels and moisten them and wipe the pan out. Heat it back up again to dry it and you’re ready for next time.

The first few times you cook with your newly seasoned cast iron pan you should cook something high in fat like bacon. This will improve the seasoning.

I saw this deep dish pizza recipe on one of those food blogger sites that was cooked in a skillet and I can’t wait to try it. Pizza in a pan? Yes, please.

Seasoning a Cast Iron Skillet YouTube Video

Also i’m a big fan of the frittata. Leftover Italian sausage and broccoli raab always makes it into a frittata the next day. I like to start cooking them on the burner to make sure the bottom is cooked and a little crusty and then I put the whole thing in the oven to bake. The cast iron skillet is perfect for that.

Cast Iron Egg Breakfast
Father’s Day egg breakfast cooked & served in cast iron

So if you thought seasoning a cask iron skillet was hard, it really isn’t. You just need a little patience and you’ll be frying slices of American Cheese in no time.