Saturday, October 31, 2015

Fabric Pumpkin Patch

Happy Halloween everyone! I hope you are having a wonderful day with all of your little trick or treaters. Today I am going to share more about the little fabric pumpkins I have been showing peeks of in some of my photos. Have you ever made fabric yo yos?  They are a simple little craft that you make with scraps  of fabric. In the past frugal women saved all of their fabric scraps and made blankets out of hundreds of yo yos. I must admit that I have not been ambitious enough to make a project that large, but  I have used them to make garlands or embellish wrapped packages.
To make a yo yo, you simply sew a running stitch around the circumference of a fabric circle about 1/4 inch from the edge.  When you reach the end of the circle you simply pull and gather the circle together. A few years ago a co worker told me about a template that you can actually use to assure even stitching of the yo yos, and I use it when making mine. These templates come in different sizes to you can vary the size of the yo yos you create for your craft projects.
 After making my scarecrow out of glass blocks, I couldn't resist making a pumpkin patch for him to protect and oversee. I decided that using fabric yo yos would create the perfect sized pumpkins for his patch. For some of the pumpkins I simply made the yo yos in the traditional way.
I then stacked several of the completed yo yos on top of each other and stitched them together.
Using a dab of hot glue, I adhered a small stick into the hole of the top yo yo to serve as a pumpkin stem, and then tied a few strands of straw raffia around the stick.
To add dimension to the field of pumpkins, I decided to make some fuller rounded gourds by stuffing the yo yos as I started to gather the stitiches.
Once I had the desired amount of stuffing in my pumpkin, I finished pulling the gathering stitches tight and then knotted it off. I then added the stem and raffia or even some strands of fine jute string as a finishing touch. The combination of stuffed and stacked yo yo pumpkins added a nice variety to the "field".
I had so much fun creating these tiny pumpkins that I decided to make some larger "no sew" pumpkins too. 
I'll share how I made those in my next post. The great thing about all of these fabric pumpkins is that while they are perfect for Halloween decorating, they can be left out through Thanksgiving to add a  handmade festive seasonal touch to your fall decorating.

Linking with:
Cedar Hill Farmhouse
Saving 4 Six
The 36th Avenue
Pieced Pastimes
The Crafted Sparrow
Between Naps on the Porch
Katherine's Corner
A Delightsome Life

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Autumn Sausage Corn Soup

Up until our first frost on October 17th, our garden was still producing some tomatoes and peppers, so I have been enjoying adding these last bits of fresh homegrown veggies to our meals. When the frost and cooler weather hit, I was definitely in the mood for some warm and hearty soups to grace our dinner table. So, I began digging through my cookbooks in search of some new things to try. I found this recipe in an old Taste of Home Holiday Celebrations Cookbook and it certainly fit the bill for a warm and hearty fall meal. Better yet, it let me use some of the tomatoes and peppers from our October garden yield. This soup is a way to warm your family after a day of raking leaves or hiking through the pumpkin patch in search of the perfect specimens for your fall decorating or pumpkin carving.

 3/4 pound full cooked smoked sausage sliced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
3 green onions, chopped
3 1/2 cups water
16 oz frozen corn
1 1/2 cups cubed, fully cooked hap
1 can (14 1/2 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
1 can (6oz) tomato paste
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Hot pepper sauce to taste

In a large skillet, cook and stir the sausage over medium high heat until browned; drain well and set aside. In a Dutch oven cook and stir the flour in oil over medium heat for 5 minutes or until golden brown.Add the green pepper, onion, and green onions; saute until tender. Stir in the water, corn, ham, tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, cayenne pepper, and hot pepper sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally.

Linking with:
Saving 4 Six
The 36th Avenue
Pieced Pastimes
Between Naps on the Porch
A Delightsome Life

Monday, October 26, 2015

Lighted Glass Block Scarecrow

Happy Monday! It is another gorgeous fall day today and I hope you are enjoying the colors that this season brings. Today I would like to share a craft that has been a while in the making. Have you seen all the creative crafts people are making with these glass blocks?
Well, one of my sweet friends gave me two as part of a craft supply themed birthday gift last year, as she knew I would have fun creating something with them. The problem was that there were just so many wonderful possibilities, that I  couldn't decide what to make. So they have sat among my supplies for months, but now that I am spending less time in the garden and yard, it seemed like the perfect time to finally utilize them in a project.  
Since I have been in the mood for adding touches of autumn throughout the house, I decided that it was finally time to commit to a project and turn these glass blocks into something fun. So, I dug through my other boxes of supplies and pulled out my trusty glue gun some paint markers, raffia, burlap  ribbon, twine, buttons and scraps of burlap and fabric that I had from previous craft endeavors. The only things that I had to purchase were 2 strands of decorative lights and some epoxy. I told my son about the idea I had and asked what adhesive he thought would be best to securely hold the 2 glass blocks together and he suggested this:
I had never used this before, but it was relatively inexpensive so I was willing to give it a try. 
The first thing I did was use the paint markers to draw the face of a scarecrow on the square block. Then I filled both glass blocks with straw raffia and placed one strand of lights in each block.
Next, I used my glue gun to adhere the burlap ribbon around the sides of each block. I attached some buttons down the front of the rectangular block and used a small piece of jute rope to resemble a belt with a larger button acting as a buckle.
The next step was to use the epoxy that my son had recommended to attach the scarecrow head to the body. I was a little nervous that it might not work, but this adhesive is super strong and it held like a charm!
Using some scraps of burlap I created a hat for the scarecrow, and with a thin piece of plaid fabric I made a tie around his neck. For some finishing touches I added a leaf to his cap, attached some straw "hair" peeking out from under the hat, and hot glued some twigs for "arms" to his sides.
I decided to display him on a bookshelf that holds my cookbooks, and added some cute little pumpkins that I had made earlier this month (I'll show you how I made those later this week so be sure to check back)

This shelf is close to an outlet, so it is easy to plug this little guy in and let him cast a warm glow to light up the corner as the sun sets each day...

He is ready to welcome trick or treaters this weekend and his smile will continue to light up our room right through Thanksgiving.

Linking with:
Cedar Hill 
Saving 4 Six

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Teal Pumpkin Project

Fall is in full swing, cooler weather has arrived and the colors of autumn are at their peak here in northwestern NJ. As a result I had several blog posts that I had planned to write this coming week that included seasonal craft projects and recipes. However I just received an email from one of my best friends that stopped me in my tracks and made me rethink everything. It was one of those emails that got my mind spinning with a ton of thoughts and ideas and my fingers just started to type away at the keyboard as I researched information.
Let me start by giving you a little background. Like me, this friend began her professional career as a pediatric nurse at a children's hospital. Over the years we had the opportunity and privilege to care for many children and families who were facing a multitude of life changing diagnoses. We cared for children with cancer, cystic fibrosis, renal disease, diabetes, neurological disorders and a multitude of other conditions as well. As a health care professional you learn that a diagnosis ultimately impacts the entire family, not just the client. Having a supportive family, friends and community can make dealing with any life change easier. As pediatric nurses, there are many organizations and causes that are near and dear to our hearts, and I have done volunteer work for several of them over the course of my career.
Despite the fact that we, and many of our friends, work in fields that deal with these conditions, when someone close to you faces a new diagnosis, even your many years of professional training can not fully prepare you for the multitude of life changes you must adapt to.This particular friend's oldest son was recently diagnosed with celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. If undiagnosed and not treated, people are at risk for long-term health complications. When people with celiac disease eat gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine. Currently the only treatment for celiac disease is to adhere to a strict gluten free diet. The challenge arises in the fact that there are many hidden sources of gluten and many processed foods may contain wheat, barley or rye. Gluten can  also be found in items like cosmetics, skin and hair products, toothpaste, chewing gum, glue on stamps and envelopes and some modeling clay. Even ingesting gluten free foods that have been prepared around other items containing gluten can be dangerous for people with celiac disease. Needless to say, Halloween can be a challenging holiday for children with this condition.
Since Halloween is one week from today, I decided to change what I had planned to write about in today's post and instead share with you some information about the project my friend just emailed to me. The campaign is called The Teal Pumpkin Project and it was launched by Food and Allergy Research & Education (FARE) in 2014. According to FARE's website, "The goal of the Teal Pumpkin Project is to raise awareness of food allergies and promote the inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season. FARE's Teal Pumpkin Project promotes safety, inclusion and respect of individuals managing food allergies. This nationwide movement offers an alternative for kids with food allergies, as well as other children for whom candy is not an option and keeps Halloween a fun, positive experience for all!" Although we already purchased some items to hand out next week, I plan to add some new options to the treats we will have available for trick or treaters that come to our home next Saturday. I've printed one of the free downloads that is available on FARE's website and will be hanging it on our door. As a pediatric nurse and the friend of a family who is dealing with the new diagnosis of celiac disease, I encourage you to visit FARE's website and take a look at all of the wonderful ideas they have. Our family has taken  The Teal Pumpkin Project Pledge and I hope you will too!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Seasonal Soap

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a fabulous weekend. I got to see by brother-in-law and one of my nieces for short visit and then spent some time working in the yard and doing some crafts. I got a lot of various chores done too, since my husband was at work, so it turned out to be a really productive weekend. 
One of the things I made was some seasonal soap. This is the second time I've made molded soap using this technique, and I have to admit, I am loving them. They are so cute and really simple to do. Best of all, you can personalize them to match any holiday, season, or decor. The formula is fantastic, lathers up nicely and leaves your skin feeling really soft. For this project you will need the following supplies:
~Soap base (I used this one and was really pleased with the quality)
~Raw organic honey
~Red and yellow coloring...this is an optional ingredient depending on the look you want to achieve (I used this brand)
~Small silicone soap or cake mold (Since I was making seasonal soap I used a  pumpkin mold)
~Glass measuring cup 

 Take a portion of your soap base and cut it into pieces. I used 1/2 of the soap block that I had and it ended up making 21 small pumpkin soaps. 
Put the pieces of soap into the glass measuring cup and microwave on high until the soap melts into a liquid. I microwaved mine for 30 seconds and then stirred the mixture, and repeated this step four times. The amount of time you need will most likely depend on your microwave, but just do it in small increments and stir frequently to assure that all of the soap is evenly melted.
Once the soap is completely dissolved, add the honey (I used 3 tablespoons of honey to 1 lb of soap) and stir thoroughly.
At this point, add a few drops of colorant if you would like. In order to achieve the orange look, I added several drops each of red and yellow, stirring after each addition. Honestly, I was hoping to obtain a deeper orange color, but was having a difficult time getting the exact color I wanted. The soap was starting to solidify at the edges, so I didn't want to waste too much time being extremely fussy about shade. It is not a good idea to reheat the soap once the honey has been added, so just work quickly. To be honest with you, my original plan was to make these soaps scented by adding some pumpkin pie spice to the mixture at this point, but I spent so long adjusting the color, that I panicked when the soap showed signs of hardening at the edges and I completely forgot to add the spice. Oh well, it gives me a good excuse to make more (like I really need an excuse to craft)
Once you are satisfied with the color, carefully pour the mixture into the silicone mold, and allow it to sit undisturbed until it cools and solidifies. The amount of time it will take to harden depends on the temperature and humidity of your room. This batch took about 30 minutes to  solidify for me, but I made some over the summer, and on that day it took a little longer. To be on the safe side, I left it undisturbed for several hours. Once hardened, simply pop them out of the mold. The beauty of using a silicone mold is that it bends easily and it is very simple to push the soaps out from the bottom.
The mold I used this time did not have a lot of detail to it, but I was still pleased with how they turned out.
 These would make adorable hostess gifts at Thanksgiving if you packaged them is little fabric gift bags and attached an acorn or cinnamon stick to the bag.
I wanted to share one more bit of fun news with everyone. I've told you about the company that my son recently started called Hexacomb, which is based on a project that he designed for one of his college art courses last semester. This past Friday David got to compete as a finalist in a contest that was hosted by the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City, and actually "pitch" his product to Daymond John who is one of the judges on the TV show Shark Tank. The contest was not associated with Shark Tank, but Daymond was in Atlantic City because one of the contestants that he sponsored on the show was being featured at a barbecue event that was being held there. David didn't walk away with the top prize, but considering the fact that over 100 people entered the contest, it was quite an honorable achievement to make it down to the five finalists!
He had an amazing time and met a lot of great people. He said that Daymond John and Bubba of Bubba's Ribs were wonderful. Daymond even grabbed David's phone at the party that was hosted after the event and took a selfie with David and his girlfriend Lisa.
It was quite an experience for a 21 year old college student and we are incredibly proud of his creativity and drive (He is in the process of designing the 3rd item in the Hexacomb family of products, so stay tuned for that update). Overall, it was an exciting and productive weekend around here!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Acorn Wreaths

There is a crisp chill in the air these days and the trees are just starting to get some hints of color to their leaves. We are fortunate enough to live in a very pretty area, that has many beautiful places to hike and enjoy the outdoors. High Point State Park is not too far away, and my husband and I decided to have a picnic lunch there recently. High Point sits at the peak of the Kitattinny mountains and is the highest elevation in the state at 1,803 feet. From one point in the park you actually have an incredible view of three states...New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. We thoroughly enjoyed our day in the park, soaking up the glorious weather and spectacular views. We have some tall and beautiful trees in our neighborhood, but the trees and atmosphere at High Point are just amazing. Spending a day at the park  made me want to go home and work on some more nature inspired craft projects.
As I explained in this post, I dried a bunch of acorns that I collected from our yard. Since I still had quite a stash available, I decided to continue using them in my seasonal crafts. In addition to my acorns,  for these projects I used some wired burlap ribbon,  stick wreath forms, some thin wire and LOTS of hot glue.
  I simply glued the acorns to the wreath forms. Initially I thought about using straw wreaths, but in the end I decided on these forms as the brown color would blend in more with the nuts. It wasn't hard, but turned out to be a much more time consuming process than I had anticipated. When the first wreath was done however, I was pleased with how it turned out.
This wreath made a beautiful candle ring for a battery operated candle that I had.
Since I liked how this turned out, and I still had a few more wreath forms as well as some bowls of acorns, I decided to make a few more wreaths. When I had three, I decided to make a door hanging using some wired burlap ribbon as the vertical banner. I cut the burlap ribbon into 4 strips. The first strip was 48 inches long and would serve as the banner that the wreaths would be attached to. The other 3 strips were cut into 30 inch, 24 inch and 6 inch lengths and would be used to make a bow.
 I took each end of the 30 inch strip and folded them in towards the center
I then secured the ends in place by twisting a small piece of thin floral wire around the burlap. I repeated the process with the 24 inch piece of ribbon and then secured the two pieces together with another piece of floral wire to form a layered bow.
I folded the remaining short piece of ribbon in half lengthwise, and wrapped it around the center of the bow to cover the floral wire. I trimmed the excess and hot glued it into place.
 I then tied a loop at one end of the 48 inch length of ribbon and  hot glued the bow below the loop. 
The last step was to secure the wreaths to the long burlap ribbon. I must admit that at this point, I started to doubt that this project was going to turn out as I had envisioned. The acorn wreaths were heavier than I had anticipated and I was not sure of the best way to attach them to the banner. I considered trying to tie them on using the thin wire, but the burlap ribbon that I was using had a very loose weave and I thought it might tear if I used that method. In the end, I decided to use more hot glue (LOTS of hot glue) at the top and bottom of each wreath. Even as I was applying the glue, I wasn't sure the ribbon was going to be able to support the weight of the 3 wreaths, but I had come this far and decided to plow ahead. I literally held my breath as I picked up the banner when the glue had dried, and guess what?...It worked! The wreaths didn't fall off and the ribbon didn't tear or get any runs in the burlap weave. The next step was to see how it looked hanging up.
 I liked how the project turned out, but I didn't love how it looked on the front door, as I thought it looked too "busy" with our other fall decorations.  So in the end, I took the banner down and hung up the burlap wreath that I had made last year and described in this post.
I decided to hang the wreaths on the inside of the door and I liked how it looked there better. Another way of bringing the natural beauty from this time of year indoors.
 I think I will make another wreath next year (when I replenish my supply of acorns), but will use a larger wreath form, rather than 3 small ones.
I hope you're taking the time to get out and enjoy the beauty of all that this season has to offer where you live.

Linking with these great parties:
Katherine's Corner Autumn Wreath Roundup Linky Party
Saving 4 Six Think Tank Thursday
The 36th Avenue
Pieced Pastimes
The Crafted Sparrow
Between Naps on the Porch
A Delightsome Life

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Apple Cinnamon Streusel Muffins

Happy October Everyone! Can you believe today is October 1st? I don't know about you, but to me it felt like September flew by. The weather is getting cooler and the days are getting shorter. This time of year makes me want to add warm cozy touches around the house. I've been adding splashes of fall decor here and there and was really enjoying the warm glowing colors. However when I was walking in our yard the other day, I simply couldn't resist clipping these beauties....
Many of our hydrangeas have started to fade and dry, but surprisingly there are also a few new buds on some of the plants, which I suppose can be attributed to the warm weather we had throughout much of September. Two of the plants had these gorgeous blue gems. The shrubs look varied and amazing, boasting everything from pretty drying pale flowers, to these vivid blooms in their prime, and even some small green young buds as well. The beauty and variety can't help but bring a smile to your face, especially in October. As much as I loved the depth of these blue hydrangeas, I felt like I should display them in one of the rooms where I hadn't added any fall touches yet, as I didn't think the color went with the warm autumnal shades I was using with the other seasonal decor. However, this morning I was reading some of my favorite blogs as I sipped a warm cup of coffee, and Kim from  Curtain Queen Creates, had a timely post that talked about using the color blue with fall decorating. She inspired me to branch out a little and expand the colors that I am incorporating into my autumnal decor. 
Even though the hydrangeas are still blooming, the fact remains that it is officially fall, and there is no better way to welcome in this fun season than to fill the house with the smells of some yummy home baked apple goodies. One of our autumn traditions has always been to go apple picking as a family. Some of my favorite photos from when our children were growing up are the ones we took on our outings to the local orchards. The day we went this year was a little overcast and the skies were a bit gray, but the scenery was as pretty as ever, the trees were bursting with apples, and the fun family activity still brought smiles to everyone's faces....
Over the past few days, I've had a great time baking some of the recipes I make annually with our freshly picked apples, but this morning I decided to try something new.  I'm happy to say that it was a hit with the family and is going to be added to the list of fall treats I bake each year. So, of course I wanted to share the recipe with you today.

Apple Cinnamon Streusel Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 medium apple, peeled and shredded
3 Tbsp finely chopped pecans
1 Tbsp ground flaxseed meal
1 Tbsp packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly spray 12 muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray. 
In a large bowl stir together the flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. 
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. Add in the buttermilk, oil and vanilla extract. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until moistened. Fold in the grated apple. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each about three fourths full.
In a small bowl combine the pecans, flaxseed meal, and 1 Tbsp of brown sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture crumbs. Sprinkle the mixture over the muffin batter.
Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a  toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the muffin tins on a wire rack for 5 minutes and then remove the muffins. 
These are fabulous when they are served as a warm breakfast treat.