Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Make your own Branch Centerpiece

Decorating your home with branches is a great way to add interest to your décor. You can shop for branches online at or you can make your own by using branches from your trees.

Using your own branches is a frugal and fun way to create unique decorations. I have created branch decorations for under $10.00, of course, it does take the time to complete but if you enjoy doing crafts then you will love making branch centerpieces.

The best time to gather branches is late summer or after the trees or shrubs have been pruned. If you have no branches then look for them at a park.  Look for a branch that is 18 to 24 inches in length, it should have a straight center branch then side branches.

Clean the branch with warm soapy dawn antibacterial dish soap to remove excess dirt. Let the branch air dry. When the branches are dry you would then treat them with a pesticide to kill any insects. Allow the branches to dry.

Spray paint the branches the color of your choice. I like the colors gold, silver or white, but you can choose the color that you like. Use a spray paint like the brand name Krylon or Rust-Oleum. Shop for these paints at It is best to spray the branches lightly otherwise it can be messy. You can always reapply the paint with second spraying.

When branches are dry, secure them so they are standing upright. Buy from the craft store a Styrofoam block and a hot glue gun. Push the branches into the center of the Styrofoam block and use a glue gun to keep the branches in place. Gluing around the top of Styrofoam and the base of the branch is good.

When branches are secure you would then put the Styrofoam block into the display box or vase. If using a vase to display your branches then choose one that is not clear, a pattern or color vase, pot or urn is best.

Decorating Ideas

Decorate your branches with glitter by spraying the tip of the branches with glue then dust the branches in the glitter.

You can also decorate your branches with Halloween lights or garland. For autumn drape a swag of autumn leaves or small lightweight autumn season ornaments.

Here is another way to decorate, learn how to use the leaves from your trees.  

Monday, April 24, 2017

FUN Autumn Activities for Teenagers

Autumn is the last season before the bitterly cold weather so our family always spends quality time outdoors doing activities with our teenagers. Most people think that teens do not enjoy traditional activities but if you start them out doing the same things every year they do look forward to the activities, especially if they can bring along their friend.

Here are a few autumn activities that my family enjoys
    On a sunny afternoon, we make plans to go to a pumpkin patch. Pick out pumpkins for decoration and for carving into a Jack O’ Lantern. Our teenage kids always like picking the biggest pumpkin that they can find. Half the fun is getting it back to the car.

    I will watch for the advertisement for the fall bazaars my hometown then check out the activities, looking for the traditional autumn activities like pumpkin carving, drinking apple cider, going for a hayride or enjoying roasting marshmallows on an open fire for s’more chocolate treats. Teenagers love participating in the carving contests, they will eat smores and listen to the live music. City festivals are always fun for families with teenagers.

    Know that teenagers have different interests so my husband will plan an ATV outing. He will choose a trail where the trees are in full autumn color. Sometimes he brings along a picnic lunch, other times just snacks and drinks for the kids. Everyone loves this outing especially if the day is warm and sunny.

    What activities do you do with your family during the autumn season?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Caramel Chocolate Pie Recipe

Chocolate pie is one of my favorite desserts, especially during the fall and winter months. my family craves comfort foods and this caramel chocolate pie is satisfying.

When you serve this pie to your family and friends they will scrape the side of the plate with their fork and when they finish they will feel comforted. It is very chocolaty and the nuts make it taste delicious.

Here is the chocolate pie recipe

You will need the following ingredients

  • Store bought ready-made chocolate cookie crumb crust
  • 30 vanilla caramels
  • ½ cup caramel ice cream
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 2 cups chopped unsalted peanuts or pecans
  • ¾ cup semisweet chocolate morsels ( I like Ghirardelli)
  • ¼ whipping cream

Optional: vanilla ice cream for topping

  1. Turn on the stove to low heat and melt caramels with the caramel ice cream in a saucepan. Keep stirring, then add ¼ cup whipping cream, stir to blend all ingredients.
  2. Remove saucepan from the heat
  3. Add nuts to pie filling and stir
  4. Add pie filling to the 9-inch pie plate
  5. Spread the filling over the crust
  6. Let the pie set until it is cool, then cover with saran wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  7. Make the topping for this pie by melting the semisweet chocolate morsels in a saucepan over low heat. When chocolate is melted stir in the remaining whipped cream.
  8. Top the caramel chocolate pie with the melted chocolate. Drizzle the chocolate over the pie. Recover the pie and chill in the refrigerator for an hour.
  9. Cut and serve with vanilla Ice cream
Here is a video that will show you how to melt chocolate in a double boiler.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Hearty Chicken and Vegetable Casserole

A hearty casserole with nutritious ingredients is a great way to fuel your family with energy.  Plus this casserole tastes great on a cool autumn day.

When it comes to preparing dinner for my family I like to make casseroles because they will provide my family with a balanced meal and the preparation is in on pan, less mess, easy cleanup. Tonight I am making a chicken casserole that is hearty, filling and tastes great.

Ingredients needed for casserole
  • 3 eight ounce chicken breast filets (pre-cooked)
  • ½ pound egg noodles (pre-cooked)
  • Sea salt, fresh cracked pepper
  • 12-ounce jar of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 9 ounce frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and excess liquid removed.
  • 2 garlic cloves diced
  • 1 cup fresh Italian cheese, I use Kraft natural cheese, five cheese blend; mozzarella, Parmesan, provolone, Asiago and Romano
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley minced
  • 1/4 cup Mayonnaise ( I use Kraft olive oil Mayonnaise)
  • ¼ cup low-fat sour cream
  • ½ cup low-fat milk

*** you can substitute chicken with turkey.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 then lightly grease a 2-quart casserole dish
  2. Dice the chicken breast and put in small mixing bowl
  3. Add the chopped artichoke hearts, spinach, and egg-noodle to the chicken, then mix all ingredients.
  4. Next add the garlic, parsley and ½ cup of the Italian cheeses, salt, and pepper and mix into the chicken and vegetables.
  5. Using a whisk mix mayonnaise, sour cream and milk together in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth. Then add cream sauce to the pasta, chicken, and vegetables and blend all ingredients.
  6. Add the casserole ingredients to the baking dish. Smooth out the top so that the surface is flat. Garnish the casserole remaining Italian cheese.
  7. Put in the oven and bake for 18 minutes.
  8. Remove and let the casserole rest before cutting. I serve this casserole with a side salad and dinner rolls.
Here is another chicken casserole recipe that you may like.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Best Garage Sales are in Autumn

Autumn is the perfect season to go antiquing or hit the area garage sales. I know in my city we tend to shop for bargains in the spring and the autumn because summer is too hot. Normally I do not go to garage sales in the spring but autumn is a must on my to do list. This is the time of year that you can bargain shop for autumn and Christmas decorations.

People tend to do a fall cleaning of their house and stored items and want to earn some extra cash for the holidays. I found some home décor products including a stained glass lamp at an autumn garage sale and there was nothing wrong with it. 

Here is a photo of my best buy at an autumn garage sale.

It is best to know what you are shopping for and to check out the newspaper on Wednesday and look for the garage sales that offer a list of products that they are selling. Then make a list of the garage sales that you want to check out.

The night before the garage sale I will do a drive by. If they are setting I will park get out and ask if I can take a quick look. Many times if you find something that you love you can buy it ahead of time. Otherwise, plan to go to the garage sale at the crack of dawn. In my experience, everyone has the same idea so if you want something special then it is best to get to the sale early.

Things that I look for at garage sales; vintage china, leaded glass ceiling light covers, sterling silver flatware, vintage table lamps, table linens, trivets, crystal or cut glass perfume bottles, hat boxes, vintage dolls, art deco jewelry, bag and gloves and holiday decorations and ornaments. My husband shops for vintage cameras, 1970's Peter Max posters and autumn season posters or prints, antique door knobs or knockers and antique train sets.

Going to garage sales in autumn is something my husband and I enjoy, we think of it as entertainment because it is a fun thing to do. Plus when we find something of value and it is a good price we are ecstatic.

Friday, February 17, 2017

FUN Family Activity /Picking Apples at Orchards

One of my favorite late summer through October activities is going to the local apple orchards to pick fresh apples from the tree. Where I reside there are u-pick-it orchards and this family activity is one we do annually.

When it comes to picking apples from trees we always plan to do this activity on a breezy or after a hard rain day because it is easier to gather newly fallen apples off the ground.

How to pick apples from the tree:

    Climb to the top of the ladder and harvest apples from the lower limbs. Or while standing on the ground reach up and pull the branches down and pick the apples from the tree. Climb the tree and harvest by putting apples in sack or bucket before lowering the container when it is full. 

    We will pick ripe and almost ripe apples from the tree, because you can put hem in cardboard boxes and large brown bags, then store in a cool area that is 60 to 70 degrees.  The fruit will ripen this way.

Other Tips for Picking Apples

Call the farm that offers “you pick it apples” make sure that the apples are ready for harvest. Know that we have taken day trips to get to a farm in Missouri only to arrive and find out that they were picked clean of apples.

Apple Pie

Apple Pie by sgolis featuring a watercolor painting

Wear a comfortable long shirt and baggy pants, hiking boots and socks are important and also a sun hat. Treat your clothing for insect repellent, including biting flies fleas and ticks.

Bring along bottled water and snacks. I like breakfast or protein bars, but if you are going to be out in the country you may want to bring along a picnic lunch.

Don’t forget your camera. Make happy memories with your family by spending the day in the country picking apples. These photos are great for scrapbooks and sharing on Facebook.

Search for other places to see in the u-pick it area. There may be an old mill, park or scenic overlook that your family will enjoy.

Related Autumn Activities for Home and Family articles that I recommend