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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Make Roses from Maple Leaves

Make roses from maple leaves and use them for a fall centerpiece.  If you are crafty and good with your hands you must make these roses made from maple leaves. I came across this blog this morning and was so impressed that I tried my hand at these maple leaf rose beauties. To do this project I gathered three sugar maple leaves for each rose,  The leaves that I picked were still on the tree. They had full autumn color however because they were still on the tree they were easier to work with. I collect various colors from the sugar maple trees. I had yellow, golden, orange and a bright florescent red orange leaves.
 I tried my hand at making these roses made from maple leaves, I will admit it looks easier than it actually is. I will continue to practice and if I complete the task and make a perfect maple leaf rose I will share the image. Here is the link for the instructions. If you do happen to succeed in making the roses please leave me a comment.

Making roses out of maple leaves is a great way to spend the afternoon with your children. Make this craft a family activity.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Spooky Halloween Branch Decoration - DIY



Get your spook on with this easy Do it yourself Halloween branch container.  If you are on a budget or prefer not to buy expensive seasonal decorations then you will find this branch and orange light Halloween container to be easy to make with huge results. Plan to make this container with your children, Allow them to help gather branches and then to decorate with lights and pumpkin or spider garland.

The branch decoration looks great when you add lights and place at front door or entrance to your porch. You could make a few and line your walkway or driveway! Here are some easy to follow tips on how to make a Halloween branch planter.

What you need to complete DIY Halloween Decoration

Black spray paint
9 inch container
Strand of 200 orange lights
Plastic tarp
Quick drying cement
Small skulls
Hot glue gun
Halloween garland
Branches  that are gathered from your yard or bought from craft store




Collect branches from the park or your backyard. You will need 12 branches for one container. Choose thin straight branches that are 18-28 inches in length.

Clean the branches by removing leaves or other small branches.  Then use a wire brush to scrub the branch this will lend for a smooth surface.  Set the branches on top of the tarp, space them ½ inches apart.  

Spray the branches with black paint. Wait for the branches to dry before turning them over to paint the backside.   While branches are drying you would then spray paint the container black. 

Plug up the drainage holes in the container and then add quick cement powder to the container.  Mix with water until you form cement like substance. Gather the black branches in your hand, and align as if you are making a bouquet. Grasp the ends of the branches to hold them tightly together. 

Put the branches in the center of the pot, continue to hold them together.  When the cement starts to dry and is holding the branches securely you can let go of the branches.  

Allow the cement to dry completely before moving on to the decoration of the branches.

Decorate the black branches with orange or purple lights.  Add festive pumpkin garland.

Take your glue gun and attach the small plastic skulls or spiders to the planter. Place your branch decorative planter at your entrance way, plug in and your Halloween branch container will light up your porch.

Tips
  • Be creative
  • Wear a mask when painting, to protect your lungs from paint fumes








Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hearty Italian Minestrone Soup Recipe





Make this classic Minestrone soup on a cold autumn day and it will chase the chill away.  A bowl of this hearty beef and vegetable soup served with crusty Italian bread makes a satisfying meal for your family.   I learned this Minestrone recipe from my mother-in-law. She made this recipe for a very long time, and when I lived in Florida I would visit my mother-in-law and it did not matter what season it was there was always a pot of minestrone soup in the refrigerator, freezer or simmering on the stove.  This soup is a classic in every Italian household.  It is as popular as the tomato sauce.


In the autumn season I enjoy hearty soups.  I will make the soup in the morning and allow it to simmer on the stove all day.  That way if anyone comes over I will offer them a bowl of soup.  Having the soup on the stove is a good way to warm up, especially if it is a cool or cold fall or winter day.  If you enjoy making soup then you will love this recipe. The soup is quick and easy to make, I hope that this recipe will become one of your family favorites.


Note:  This recipe was not shared with me immediately; I was married 16 years and lived in another state when my mother-in-law gave me her recipe for classic minestrone soup.  I think I got the recipe then only because my husband was sick and she did not have enough time to make fresh soup, pack carefully and ship it overnight.


Here is the recipe....enjoy!

Gather your ingredients for Hearty Italian Minestrone  Soup




3 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil

1 lb of lean ground beef

1 diced onion

7 ounces of sliced carrots

7 ounces of diced celery

24 ounces of diced canned tomatoes

1 cup of cooked red kidney beans

1 cup of cooked white kidney beans

44 ounces of reduced fat beef stock

1 ½ teaspoon of oregano

1 tablespoon of chopped garlic

½ teaspoon of basil

2 ½ teaspoons of parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

½ teaspoon of tobasco pepper sauce

24 ounces of spaghetti sauce

4 ounces of shell macaroni

Stockpot



Turn your stove burner on to medium high. 


Add the olive oil to the stockpot and heat.  Next, add the lean ground beef.  Cook the beef until it starts to brown.


Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic to the stockpot and saute.


Next, add your diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, beef stock your spices, salt, pepper and tobasco pepper sauce.


Stir the ingredients.  Turn the heat down to medium and allow the ingredients to simmer for ten minutes.


While soup is simmering, drain and rinse your kidney beans.


After ten minutes, you will add the beans to your soup, and the macaroni.  Stir all ingredients.


Simmer the soup for 45 minutes to an hour.  Stir the soup every 5-7 minutes to prevent it from sticking to the pot.

Tips:


Serve the soup in bowls garnished with freshly grated Romano cheese


Store the soup in a covered container in your refrigerator up to five days.

It is Okay to freeze the minestrone soup.

Here is a recipe for another delicious soup recipe.  



Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Autumn Activities Keeping Warm Outdoors


The weather in my hometown has been gorgeous: daytime temperature in the mid-70's and at night the temperature was in the 50's. No need to turn on the heat, we just snuggled under a lofty down comforter and sleep all night long.  How I love this autumn fair weather and I was hoping the temperature would never end however today it was rather crisp and the air was cold enough for me to put on socks and a sweater. 

Normally I spend the morning hours outdoors; I will walk with my dog in the woods, looking for insects, wildlife or unusual leaves or rock formation. I am happiest when I am taking photographs of nature. 

 Today my husband and I ventured out for an off trail hike along the oak tree ridge.  We hiked to the highest elevation and could not descend downward as we had planned because my feet, hands and nose were cold.   I assumed the day would warm up but instead dark clouds rolled in and the air became colder.  Autumn is a season when one day can be sunny and warm and the next day can be cold. Today I obviously was not prepared and did not dress properly as I was freezing.


This weekend my region will be in peak color for the autumn season.  The change in weather is not going to stop me from experiencing it and I intend to spend a few days hiking and taking photographs of waterfalls.  I will pack a hat, gloves thermal shirt and rain gear, that way I will be ready for any change in  weather. 





If you have plans to hike or spend time outdoors this autumn, think ahead and take clothing that will keep you warm as the weather could be lovely in the morning and cold in the afternoon.

If you plan on hiking on trail or off, never hike alone as it is not safe, hike with friends, or spend quality time with your family.  If you are hiking at a state park, stop at the park ranger’s office to inquire about safe trails.  It is always a good idea to check in with the park ranger especially if you are not familiar with the park.  The ranger will note your time of arrival and will watch for your departure.

 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hunt for Chanterelle Mushrooms in Autumn


Hunting for chanterelle mushrooms is a fun activity especially if you enjoy hiking in the woods and viewing wildlife. My husband and I discovered that the heavily wooded landscape that surrounds the Ozark Mountains is an ideal hunting ground for wild mushrooms. We took a stroll in the woods in the middle of September and discovered many mushrooms however most of the fungi that we found was highly toxic. Therefore we needed to do some research to learn more about wild mushrooms. 

Image Credit Wikipedia Creative Commons
The library had many books on mushrooms grown in the wild.  We studied the books and learned the characteristics of the Chanterelle mushroom;  they have a sweet scent like apricots and that they do not grow in rotting wood, but rather in areas close to the ground by oak, pine, birch, maple and other hardwood trees. We also learned that the best time of the year to hunt for these mushrooms in the wild was September through October and if the weather continued to be mild you could hunt for them in early November. 

The chanterelle mushroom is easy to locate as long as you keep your eyes on the soil line, they are a brightly hued orange-yellow, although there is a copycat mushroom that is highly poisonous. So you need to be certain that what you are picking is a chanterelle mushroom.  After weeks of studying books on wild mushrooms we decided it was to our best interest to hire a mushroom picker to make sure that what we found was edible. My brother volunteered his services and thus it was a fun autumn family activity.

We selected a day in autumn when there was rain in the forecast and we prepared for the day by gathering our rain gear, hiking boots and pest repellent.The expert mushroom picker met with us in the morning and we spend most of the days in the woods hunting for wild chanterelle mushrooms. 

Note:  Hunting for wild mushrooms is nothing like strolling down a nature trail, to be successful in mushroom hunting you need to go off trail and walk through leaf piles, climb over timber and cross over streams.  You may find the mushrooms in moss or pine needles and it will require you to gently move the moss or needles away from the mushroom stalk and you may get your hands dirty.   If this is not to your liking then trust me hunting wild chanterelle mushrooms is not a hobby for you.