Is you home decorated for fall yet? I am still working on getting my house ready for the fall holidays.  

Fall Centerpiece

Normally, I am content to buy a single pumpkin and set it in the middle of my dining room table.  But, after seeing my mother’s beautiful fall centerpiece (above), I decided to try to do something a little more creative…

Fall Centerpiece

So, I decided to challenge myself to see what I could come up with for my own unique fall centerpiece by taking a visit to the produce section of my local supermarket.  I was determined to look beyond the normal fall offerings of pumpkins and Indian corn to see if I could be inspired. 

Fall Centerpiece

Surprisingly, I found quite a few vegetables and fruits that would look nice in a fall centerpiece.  So, armed with my cell phone camera, I started taking photos of some of my favorites…

Fall Centerpiece

Acorn Squash

Now, I don’t like to eat squash at all.  I still remember hiding the cooked squash in my napkin that my grandmother would try to get us to eat.

Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash

BUT, squash looks great when used as a fall decoration.

Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash

In fact, I have even seen Butternut squash decorated as a ‘Jack-O-Lantern’ with a ghost face colored in using black markers.

Artichoke

Artichoke

Okay, artichokes are another vegetable that I don’t like.  But, they look great in arrangements, so I bought one.

Pomegranates

Pomegranates

Finally, I found something that I do like to eat AND decorate with – pomegranates.  I love their deep color, don’t you?

Oranges

Oranges

Limes

Limes

Let’s not forget citrus, which is always beautiful no matter how you use it – whether in a bowl in the center of the table or as part of a larger arrangement.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

I admit that heirloom tomatoes aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when creating a fall centerpiece.  But, their deep and rich colors would accent any centerpiece.  Tomatoes won’t last as long as the other produce I have profiled, so use for a few days and then eat them.

Mangoes

Mangoes

How about mangoes? 

Apples

Apples

Apples are great for decorating the tabletop.  I like to use them at Christmas time as well.

Red Pears

Red Pears

I don’t think I have ever noticed all of the different types of produce that my grocery store had before now.

I did come away with a few things that I will attempt to create a centerpiece out of.  I promise to share it with you later.

In the meantime, I did find myself captivated by the unusual pumpkin offerings at the store…

Fall Centerpiece

Aren’t they beautiful?

I selected one for my centerpiece.  When I got home, I excitedly showed it to my kids, who to my surprise, were not happy about it.  They asked, “Is this the pumpkin we are going to carve?”

I assured them that this pumpkin is for decoration only and will hopefully last until Thanksgiving.

I did promise them a ‘regular’ pumpkin for carving later on.

So, when you head to the supermarket this weekend, take a closer look at the produce aisle and see what you can use to create your own ‘natural’ fall centerpiece.

Is It Fall Yet?

decorative garden

Earlier this month, I was visiting the garden of a homeowner while doing a consultation.  The landscape was in great shape with healthy shrubs and trees.  But, what kept catching my attention were the beautifully decorated blocks that made up the border.

decorative garden

The entire front landscape was bordered with uniquely decorated cement block, decorated with pieces of dishes, glass beads and more.

Every block was a unique creation.

While admiring the border, the homeowner told me that his wife had made this beautiful border using everyday items such as plastic food containers and cooking spray.

He offered to introduce her to me, so we headed into the house where I was greeted by more of her beautiful creations.

decorative garden

I love this welcome stone, don’t you?

Here is another decorated step stone…

decorative garden

I love the spiral pattern.

workshop

I was shown her workshop where she creates her works of art.  You can see the plastic food containers and some dishes ready to be broken into small pieces.

glass beads

The dishes were purchased at the local dollar store and the glass beads came from the craft store.

I asked her how she made them, so that I could share it with you.

DIY Stepping Stones and Border

Supplies: Mortar mix, a bucket, a trowel, plastic food container in desired size, cooking spray, broken pieces of dishes and glass beads.

DIY Stepping Stones and Border

1. Mix the mortar mix in a bucket with water until you have the consistency of brownie batter.

2. Spray the food container with cooking spray.

3. Add the cement mixture to the container to the top and smooth out with the trowel.

DIY Stepping Stones and Border

4. Now for the fun part – add pieces of dishes and/or beads to create your design.  You could even use small pieces to spell out words.

5. Allow to dry for 48 hours.

6. Pop out and place in your garden!

DIY Stepping Stones and Border

You can buy plastic forms at your local craft store to create stepping stones, following the same steps above.

I thought it would be a fun way to create plant markers for the garden by using small food containers as forms.

DIY Stepping Stones and Border

I will undoubtedly be trying this in my own garden.

How about you?  Have you ever created your own step stones or border?

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I have two exciting new items to share with you…

The first is that my daughter, Rachele, graduated from her Navy Seabee school today.

She texted me a photo of her wearing her “Seabee Greens” for the first time.  The Navy camouflage uniform is gray and blue, but when you are a “Seabee” you get to wear green.

I shared it on my facebook page if you would like to see it.

Rachele is coming home this weekend after 5 months away of training.  Then she will be off to Mississippi for a month for more schooling (Expeditionary Combat Skills).

The best news is that she is going to be stationed in CA, just a 1/2 hour away from where I grew up!

For my second bit of news, I will share with you next time, but I’ll give you a hint – it involves television cameras…  

Favorite DIY Posts – Day 3: Stepping Stones and Border

You’ll never guess what I made this Christmas tree out of…

Christmas tree

A tomato cage, mini-white Christmas lights and a hair band is all that it took to create this festive Christmas tree.

Christmas lights

I brought out my tomato cages and grabbed some Christmas lights and took the hair band out of my hair 😉

I used the hair band to wrap the top of the tomato cage.  Then all I had to do was to begin wrapping lights around the cage, starting from the bottom.  

holiday decoration

This is what it look like when I was finished.

holiday decoration

I decided to use them in my vegetable gardens since I can see them from the house.

holiday decoration

My son, Kai, had fun helping me get all the lights up and connected.

Before we connected the lights, Kai said “This is like the movie Christmas Vacation just before the plug in the lights.”

holiday decoration

I must say that I am so happy with how they look.

I liked it so much that I did the same thing in my other vegetable garden…

holiday decoration

holiday decoration

Who knew that a tomato cage could turn into something so beautiful?

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How about you?

Have you ever transformed an everyday object into a holiday decoration?

Blue Booties, Hot Wheels and Christmas Decorations….

decorating for fall

decorating for fall

I love decorating for fall and so I always grow some pumpkins in my garden.

But, I must admit that I also use a few ‘faux’ pumpkins as well when I decorate.

This year, I am very excited to be hosting our family’s annual Halloween party.  Mostly because we have the best neighborhood for trick-or-treating.

So, I have been trying to add to my Halloween decorations.  I visited our local craft store to buy a few extra ‘faux’ pumpkins and was shocked at how expensive they have become.  Even with a coupon, I left the store without buying any.

I went online to look at other options and maybe how to make a pumpkin.  After a bit of research – I decided to make paper mache pumpkins.

All it took was beach balls, twine, newspaper, flour, water, spray paint and a little piece of tree branch.

decorating for fall

It all starts with a beach ball tied with twine.  You will need someone to help you hold the knot down with their finger as you tie it.

decorating for fall

Gather 1-inch wide newspaper strips.

decorating for fall

Prepare your paper-mache mix (1 part flour to 2 parts water).  It’s optional to add 1 teaspoon cinnamon to mask the ‘paper mache’ smell and 1 teaspoon salt which helps keep mold from forming on the paper mache.

decorating for fall

 Mix together.  Add a single strip of newspaper to the paper-mache mixture and then gently wipe off the excess paper-mache mixture.

decorating for fall

Apply strips to beach ball, overlapping.  Tear the strips to whatever size you need.

How to Make Your Own Paper Mache Pumpkin

Allow to dry.  This will take longer in more humid areas.  I used a fan to help speed up the process.

How to Make Your Own Paper Mache Pumpkin

Apply a total of 4 layers, allowing them to dry after applying each layer.

Paint with black spray paint and let dry.  This keeps the black and white colors of the newspaper from showing through the colored spray paint later.

Then spray paint with either orange or off-white paint.  (I used 2 coats).

Using a glue gun, glue a 1-inch piece of a tree branch for the stem. 

Finished!!!

How to Make Your Own Paper Mache Pumpkin

I am very happy with the results.

Although you can’t carve them – you can paint on a ‘jack-o-lantern’ face or just leave them plain.

It did take a couple of days to finish, factoring in the drying time.  Paper mache can be a bit messy, so I recommend wearing an apron and covering your work surface with plastic trash bags.

I hope you try it!

**Update – I made these paper mache pumpkins four years ago and they still look great!

How to Make Your Own Paper Mache Pumpkin

Feel free to ‘Pin’ the image above to your Pinterest!

Did you know that you can kill weeds with ingredients that you probably already have in your cupboard?

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to make your own ‘natural’ weed-killer that is organic and much cheaper then buying weed-killers?

Well, here is all you need…

Vinegar & Soap

Believe it or not, vinegar, dish soap and a spray bottle are all you need to make an effective weed killer.  You have these things already, don’t you?

I had known that vinegar  and soap could kill weeds, but had never tried it before.  So, I set out to prove that it worked in my own garden.

First, I took photos of a few of my weeds…

natural weed killer
natural weed killer
natural weed killer

I must admit that it felt kind of funny taking pictures of ‘weeds’.  My neighbor thought so too 😉   I sprayed each weed with my vinegar and soap mixture and waited 24 hours.

Here are the results:

natural weed killer
natural weed killer

Pretty impressive, isn’t it?  I couldn’t even find the third weed – it had dried up so quickly.

So for those of you who like to know how vinegar and soap kills weeds, here is the scientific explanation:

The acetic acid in vinegar ‘sucks the water’ out of the weed while the dish soap helps to break down the outer coating of the plant, which helps the vinegar to penetrate.

*You can try using vinegar alone, but I didn’t get good results without using the soap.

So are you excited to try this for yourself?

Okay, here is how to make your own….

1-gallon of vinegar (5% acetic acid)

&

1 oz. dish detergent

1. Put in a plastic spray bottleand apply to plants on a sunny day.

That’s it!  

Because this a non-selective weed-killer, it will kill anything it lands on – be careful not to get any on your plants, grass or trees since this mixture can hurt or kill them. 

**For tough weeds, regular white vinegar may not be strong enough.  In that case, you may want to use ‘horticultural vinegar’, which has a higher level of acetic acid (20%).  You can find this type of vinegar online, which is a popular, organic weed killer.

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Wouldn’t it be great to be able to make your own ‘natural’ weed-killer?  It’s organic, cheap and easy to make from ingredients you already have at home. 

A Tale of Two Landscapes and a Single Weed

I’m sure you all have been waiting with baited breath for the second installment of how to grow and dry your own herbs….I know I have 😉

Oregano, Basil, Sage, Purple Basil, Parsley and Thyme.

Clockwise from top left – Oregano, Basil, Sage, Purple Basil, Parsley and Thyme.

Last time we talked about how to harvest and dry your herbsThe process is so easy – the ‘air’ does most of the work for you.

Once your herbs are nice and dry, it’s time to get the herbs ready for their containers.

dry your herbs

Now, I will be the first to admit that dried herbs aren’t all that pretty.

dry your herbs

Even though they aren’t all that attractive at this point, they are full of concentrated flavors that will help you create delicious food.

I bought inexpensive glass jars at IKEA for a $1 each in which to store my dried herbs.

jar

Now it is time to get the dried leaves off, without the stems.

dry your herbs

I found the easiest way to do this was to simply press the leaves between my fingers.  They came off easily, without too many stems falling in.

dry your herbs

The few stems that fell in, were easy to pick out.  I then used my fingers to grind up my herbs to the desired size…

dry your herbs

All there is to do at this point is to pour the herbs into my glass jars…

Jars of Oregano, Thyme and Oregano

Jars of Oregano, Thyme and Oregano

My homegrown dried herbs are ready to use right away.  They also make great gifts.

Dried herbs should be stored in a dark, dry place (pantry or cupboard) and taste best when used within 6 months.  

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I hope your week is off to a good start.

I had two consults last week, which went very well.  In the summer, I don’t do too many consults because many people don’t want to spend a lot of time in the garden in the heat.  I actually enjoy this time of year because it is a bit of a break for me 🙂     

Do you love using herbs when you cook?  I do – especially basil and oregano. I also appreciate how easy they are to grow. 

How to Grow and Dry Your Own Herbs

I grow basil, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme in my garden.  To be honest, I don’t use a lot of fresh herbs and I really should.  I tend to use dried herbs instead.

While I do like to use dried herbs when I cook – I don’t like to pay $3+ dollars for a tiny container.  So, instead of buying dried herbs
at the grocery store – I make my own.  

It is very easy to dry herbs and they make great and inexpensive gifts. Herbs are best when they are air-dried – which is the method that retains their flavor best.

Here is how I do it:

How to Grow and Dry Your Own Herbs

– I harvest my herbs, usually before they flower, for best flavor. In my herb container, there is basil, dill, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme growing.    

– Pick your herbs in the morning and wash and dry them.  Discard any discolored leaves.  

– Using string or twine, tie your herbs into small bundles (this is especially important for basil, which as lots of moisture in its leaves).  Wrap the string a few times around each bundle to keep them from falling out as they dry.

dry herbs

Bundles of Oregano

Tie each bundle to a coat hanger.

dry herbs

Bundles of Oregano and Sage

Herbs need to hung indoors to dry.  Hang them in an area out of the sun in an area with good air circulation – I used our garage.  

dry herbs

You can hang them from a clothes rack that you use for drying your clothes, or you can tie them from almost anything.  Laying herbs on paper towels and placing them by a de-humidifier to dry is another method to dry herbs.

**To protect your herbs from dust, you can place paper lunch bags over each bundle – to do this make a hole in the bottom of each lunch bag and thread the cotton string through it before attaching the string to whatever you are hanging your herbs from.  It is okay if the herbs stick out the bottom of the bag – it’s the top which need protection from dust.

Depending on where you live, drying herbs can take as little as a week in a dry climate up to 4 weeks in more humid climates.

Come back for “Part Two” to see how I how to crush and store dried herbs.

*If you are interested in growing herbs, learn how I planted my herb container here.

Lately, I have been collecting toilet paper rolls.  Now I know that may sound a bit weird to some of you, but I needed them for my garden.

So how on earth can toilet paper rolls help you in the garden?

Well, they are an inexpensive, environmentally friendly tool in which to start seeds indoors.

bush beans, marigolds, Kentucky beans, cucumbers, sugar snap peas and spinach

From upper right – bush beans, marigolds, Kentucky beans, cucumbers, sugar snap peas and spinach.

I thought this would be a good project to do with the kids, so we gathered our seeds.

toilet paper rolls

We cut each toilet paper roll in half (you can use paper towel rolls and cut them into thirds for this too.)

toilet paper rolls

We used a planting mix that had slow-release fertilizer already included and also had water-holding granules. I advise wetting the soil before adding it to your toilet paper rolls.

toilet paper rolls

Now that we had everything, we were ready to start. The kids used tablespoons to ‘spoon’ the planting mix into each tube.

toilet paper rolls

Then we lightly pressed down the planting mix and added more.

toilet paper rolls

Now it was time to plant.

toilet paper rolls

Then we used a spray bottle filled with water to thoroughly water each planted seed.

Now we had to create a ‘mini-greenhouse’ effect by covering our toilet paper roll with clear plastic wrap with some holes in the top.  Then we placed them on top of the refrigerator, where it was warm enough to help them germinate.

 
 
 

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Every day, we checked the moisture of each toilet paper roll and added more water if necessary.

Once the seedlings germinated, we removed the plastic wrap permanently and placed our seedlings by our bright, sunny kitchen window.

We are keeping the soil moist, but not soggy.

Soon, we will be able to plant our seedlings (with their toilet paper rolls) in the vegetable garden.  The cardboard from the toilet paper rolls will disintegrate into the soil.

Of course, you can always use the ready-made plastic seeding trays, but I must admit that I like this method better 🙂

**Are you new to vegetable gardening in the desert?  We are fortunate that we can grow a large variety of vegetables, as well as fruit.  I invite you to click the ‘Shop’ tab where you’ll find some great information on growing vegetables.

Do you remember my post about my runaway gourd vine?

Well, I planted two birdhouse gourd seeds and a few months later, it was escaping my vegetable garden and was making a good attempt at taking over the lawn.

gourd vine

In fact, every time my husband mowed our lawn, he had to cut back the gourd vines.

Every few days, I would peek around to see if there were any new gourds…

gourd vine

By the time we harvested all of the gourds, we had a total of 17.

Now the vine is gone and I am having to let my gourds ‘cure’ in a cool, dry place. 

The experts say that putting them on a wooden pallet is a good place because it allows for air flow.

The problem is, is that I don’t have a pallet and it is against the law to ‘borrow’ one from the back of the store – people even get arrested for that according to a police officer friend of mine.

So, being the law-abiding citizen that I am, I asked my husband if he could make me a pallet.

You see, my husband enjoys woodworking and the entire third-car bay of our garage is his workshop.  So, my husband thought it would be a good project for my son, Kai, to work on.

So they got to work…

Little Helper

 First, they laid out the wood from some scraps we had.

Little Helper

 Then marked where to cut the wood.

Little Helper

 Then it was time for Kai to learn how the band saw worked and how to operate it safely.

Little Helper

Now the fun part….cutting the wood – with dad’s help.

Little Helper

Now it was time to nail the boards in place.

And then my new pallet was finished….

gourd

Here are a few of my gourds.  The rest I am using as a centerpiece on my dining room table and I also gave some to my mother.

I don’t who was prouder, me or my son….

Hummingbird Feeder

Do you have a hummingbird feeder?

I have two.  One is the popular plastic variety, above, and the other is a beautiful glass one that my sister-in-law gave me for my birthday.

Hummingbird Feeder

However, when I first opened the glass feeder, I couldn’t find the stopper and feeding tube.  So, I went online and ordered a single stopper/feeder tube.

Imagine my surprise when I received the box in the mail and discovered that instead of just one stopper/feeder tube…..there were twelve.  I had evidently not read the fine print when I ordered them.  But, they were really inexpensive and I figured that I would use them someday.

Well, life has a way of getting busy and I forgot about the stopper/feeder tubes sitting in my closet until the other day.  I figured that there must be some way to make my own hummingbird feeder.

Okay, you might be thinking that I already have two and isn’t that enough?  My answer would be “NO” 😉

I am fortunate to live in an area where we have hummingbirds visiting all year long.  My plastic feeder is the most popular one with my little feathered friends and they occasionally visit my glass one.  But, I had the perfect place for my third feeder in mind….hanging from my Palo Verde tree in the back garden.

And so, I collected the tools that I would require:

– a plastic water bottle

– wire

-homemade hummingbird nectar

1 part granulated (white) sugar to 4 parts water

(I use 1/4 cup sugar for every 1 cup of water)

Boil 1 cup of water and then add sugar and stir until dissolved.

Boil for 2 minutes and then let cool.

Fill your feeder

1 stopper/feeder tube

I asked my husband if he wouldn’t mind wrapping the bottle with wire so that I could hang it from a tree.  In the meantime, I made the hummingbird nectar.

Hummingbird Feeder

You can see how one piece of the wire is wrapped around the bottle and then another piece is used to hook onto the sides of the wrapped wire.  You will notice that the wire is quite basic and not ‘curled’ into decorative shapes.  I didn’t have the courage to ask my husband to do that – but you certainly could 😉

It is important to not make any holes in the bottle since this interferes with the vacuum necessary to keep the nectar from leaking out.

I filled the water bottle all the way and then inserted the stopper/feeder tube and turned it over.  This action forms the vacuum that keeps all the water from leaking out.

You might notice that my nectar is not colored red.  It is not necessary and may even be harmful to hummingbirds.

Hummingbird Feeder

You could decorate the bottle if you like and make the wire into decorative shapes using needle-nose pliers if you like.  Since the stopper/feeder tubes were so inexpensive, I think this would be a great project for a group of kids.  I bought my stopper/feeder tubes on Amazon.

I admit that our little water bottle hummingbird feeder is rather simple, but within 24 hours of hanging it up….

Hummingbird Feeder

Believe it or not, rather plain feeder is the most popular one in my garden.  I have two hummingbirds visiting frequently during the day and then they take some time to perch up in the tree.

Hummingbird

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I hope you are all off to a great start this week.

I have a busy week planned.  I have a landscape consult today and a doctor’s visit, carpet cleaning, as well as planning my son’s birthday party later this week.  But in the midst of this busy week, my husband and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary.  My husband and I will be leaving the kids home and go out for dinner and a movie.  Later we will go on a trip for a few days…..I can hardly wait 🙂

“Talk” to you soon!