DIY Leaves and Pinecones Fall Wreath

Happy Halloween, everyone! In celebration of the season, I would like to share with you this super fun DIY natural wreath I made last weekend. There is nothing like a fall wreath to welcome you into a home. I really love making wreaths because they take less precision than the other pretties I make. All day I’m using tiny brushes and squinting until my eyes go cross, trying to paint these tiny words and pictures. So taking a step back and  making a project that can afford some mess-ups and stumbles is a welcome break.

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This DIY Leaves and Pinecones Fall Wreath is completely natural – everything you see came from my backyard! (Except the wire base.)

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This ^ is what I call my Autumn Box of Treasures. Every time I go outside to take a walk or pet the horses in my backyard, I find things I just can’t let get away. So I go inside and put these things in my box. It’s handy having a box like this, because everything I used for my wreath came right out of it!

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Such as pinecones.

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And leaves.

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And sticks.

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And more leaves.

Now, I hope you have an Autumn Box of Treasures, but if you don’t you can start one now. Go outside and gather some pretty things for your wreath. You will also need:

  • A thick wire for your base. The type I used is covered in brown twine, and can be found at Hobby Lobby.
  • Floral wire, which can also be found at Hobby Lobby or Walmart.
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks.

Now let’s get started.

The first thing you will want to do is form a circle with the wire. This will be the base of your wreath, so make the bottom a few layers thick.

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Next, attach pinecone to the bottom of your wreath by twisting floral wire around them. Make sure they are tight. These pinecones will form a sturdier and thicker base for glueing on your leaves and sticks.

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Now it’s time to start attaching your leaves and sticks. Put them wherever your heart leads you, but try to cover as much of the green floral wire as you can. This step is the really fun part, because you can make your wreath as exuberant and full as you’d like.

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Keep glueing and arranging until you like the way it looks. Lastly, spray some clear gloss varnish over top it to protect it from the elements, and it’s ready for door hanging!

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Here is my wreath in action. What a lovely piece of door decor this wreath makes!

Enjoy!

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Gingersnap Granola

There is nothing quite as satisfying as making homemade granola (well, except bread maybe). The smell of granola when it is baking…it fills the house with deliciousness! I decided I wanted to make a granola that tasted like my favorite cookie without all the calories and sugar. My kitchen smelled like a gingerbread house factory, and this is not a bad thing.

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In my opinion, the holiday season is not the holiday season without gingersnaps. If you want the real thing, try these Orange Spiced Gingersnaps; they’re to die for. Otherwise, try your hand at this simple granola. Pair it with a Jonagold apple (my favorite type of apple) and it makes for the perfect fall breakfast!

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Gingersnap Granola

INGREDIENTS:

4 cups oats
1/2 cup nuts of your choice (I suggest hazelnuts or walnuts)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup honey
2 tbsp Greek yogurt
1/4 cup water

METHOD:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine oats, nuts, spices, and brown sugar into a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine olive oil, honey, greek yogurt, and water and whisk until well incorporated. Fold wet ingredients into dry and stir until there is no dry oatmeal left.

2. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until crunchy. Stir every ten minutes or so.

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The Old House: A Tragic Tale About House Mice

DSCN6186So I had a bit of a breakdown this weekend.

Grant and I live in a rental house that is approximately 100 years old. With living in a house this old, I have had to face and grow used to all sorts of crawly things. Until this weekend, in fact, I was very proud of myself – I have become a master wasp killer (sometimes I have to assassinate up to 6 a day in the house), I am no longer fazed by the giant hairy spiders that blend in so well to our outdated brown carpet, and I don’t freak out so much about rollie-pollies on the rugs. Insect realm – dominated. So suffice it to say, I never expected the absolute frenzy I went into when I discovered that a band of mice had not only moved in under my kitchen sink, but had found their way into my kitchen drawers as well. My kitchen drawers that contain all my cooking necessities. My kitchen drawers which hold silverware, spatulas, can openers, etc etc!!!

Of course, I didn’t discover this misfortune until after dinner on Friday. I was washing dishes and noticed a chunk had been taken out of the silicone spatula I had just been using to flip quesadillas. I took a closer look and with much squinting saw that this missing chunk was the result of tiny teeth. Mouse teeth. So I cautiously opened the drawer where the spatula came from and saw what I feared the most – droppings. Everywhere. I tore open the rest of the drawers and they were ALL CONTAMINATED!

I seriously almost died.

The only thing I could think for about fifteen minutes were the words “Bubonic Plague.” After the shock wore off a bit, Grant and I ran to town to get DeCon and mouse traps and of course a little frozen yogurt to temper the surprise of it all.

The next day I got busy scouring every inch of the kitchen. My mania reached its culmination when I started questioning the viability of the dish soap I was using and wondering if it was worse to ingest mouse poop or Lysol.

When it was all said and done we did catch two mice (and somehow, after all the terror they put me through, I was still saddened by the sight of their limp little feet) and my kitchen is cleaner than it ever has been. Neither Grant nor I have contracted the Bubonic Plague, either, which is a good sign, I think.

Living in an old house has its ups and downs, but ultimately, I wouldn’t change it for a thing. There is character here, and the creaking floors, holes in the sideboards, and cracks in the walls are merely reminders that we aren’t the only ones who have lived here, that there are stories in these walls.

“She lay for a long time listening to the mysterious sounds given forth by old houses at night, the undefinable creakings, rustlings, and sighings…which sounded like the long murmur of the past breaking on the shores of a sleeping world.”
― Edith Wharton, The Buccaneers

DIY Reversible Bunting

You’re going to have to bear with me – this is kind of a technical DIY blog post, with lots of instructions. But the end result is great!

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If you’re like me, you are horrible at making decisions. I stand in front of the jam section at the grocery store for 15 minutes trying to decide between apricot or strawberry. I agonize over which laundry detergent to choose. When I am making a sewing craft, it literally takes me longer to decide which fabric to choose than it takes to make the thing. With this DIY reversible bunting, you can choose your two favorite patterns, and cut your agonizing in half!

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So here’s how I did it:

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1. Cut out a cardboard triangle the size you want for your bunting. Choose your two fabrics, and for a “Give Thanks” bunting, cut out 11 triangles of each fabric.

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2. Iron all of your pieces.

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3. If you choose a white fabric or a really thin fabric, iron on backing so it is less see through and flimsy. You can skip this step if you feel your fabric is thick enough.

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3. Place your pieces out sides together and then sew a seam through the top of the fabric.

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4. Sew another seam where I’ve marked in black below. This way, you have an opening for the string and you will also be able to easily turn it right side out.

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5. Trim your edges and turn your triangle right side out.

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6. Iron and sew a final seam on the top and sides again.

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7. Now that you’ve finished sewing, paint on your letters. I used acrylic paint mixed with textile medium.

8. The final step is stringing some twine through your triangles, and I have a trick to make it easier. Find a skinny paintbrush (a pencil would work too) and duct tape your twine around it. That way, you can string your triangles with ease! Make sure you set them out in the order they are supposed to go before having at it. It is easy to get them confused and end up with gibberish.

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And there you have it!

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10 Ways to Use Fresh Apples

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Sometimes it really sucks living so far away from family (ten hours from Grant’s, twenty from mine), and that can really get me into the dumps. But I need to remember how truly blessed we are –  not only do we live in an absolutely breathtaking part of the country with mountains and wildlife in our backyard, but we also have loving families who remember and support us even though we are far from home. Not to mention, Grant and I are young and healthy, so making a ten-hour drive to spend a day and a half with family is well worth it.

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Last weekend we made the long trek back to Northwest Iowa and were beyond pleased to find a healthy crop of apples on the DeRocher’s apple trees! All of our apples in Wyoming perished due to that freak winter storm a few months ago, which was definitely a bummer, as there is nothing better than fresh apples. The DeRocher’s have got Red Delicious and Golden Delicious on their trees (both notorious for being gross in the grocery store) that are absolutely to die for.

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We had a great time this weekend enjoying the company of our family, but we also had a great time picking apples, and came home with nine whole bags. Which means – drumroll please – apple recipes galore! So here are 10 ideas for using up the hundreds of fresh apples that are possibly waiting to be picked on your own apple tree.

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  1. Make applesauce. I’ve already done this. It is literally the easiest thing to do with apples. All it takes is peeling them, cutting them up, putting them in a dutch oven, pouring a few cups of water (depending on how many apples you use), and simmering on low for a few hours. And this applesauce is literally better than any store bought applesauce I’ve ever eaten.
  2. Make juice. Probably the second easiest choice. I have a juicer, so all it takes is coring and cutting. Be sure to save the pulp for brownies or soup!
  3. Include apples in your pureed soups. Especially squash soup. An apple gives squash soup just the right amount of sweetness without overpowering the flavor that should be highlighted. Try this Acorn Squash Chestnut Soup.
  4. Make cake. Apples are amazing in cake, especially this time of year. Try this Apple Green Tea Cake or this Pumpkin Apple Spice Cake.
  5. Make granola with apple. I plan on trying this delicious-looking granola in the next couple of days.
  6. Make apple butter. Apple butter really isn’t much harder than applesauce, especially when you make it in the crock pot. It does have added sugar, so it’s not as wholesome as applesauce, and it takes a little longer, but hey! that’s life, right? Try this crockpot apple butter recipe from Brown-Eyed Baker.
  7. Put them on your grilled cheese sandwich. Cheese and apples pair wonderfully together. This is definitely a must-try.
  8. Make apple pie. Obviously. This is something you must do if you have an explosion of apples. Try doing something a little out of the ordinary with your apple pie, such as this Cinnamon Roll Dutch Apple Pie or this Apple Gruyere Pie (again, apples and cheese rock).
  9. Add them to your salad. Apples do not belong solely to the dessert realm, people. They make excellent additions to any type of salad.
  10. Freeze them. If you can’t eat another thing with apples but still have a ton to use, fear not. Just slice them, sprinkle them with lemon juice, layer onto a cookie sheet, freeze for a few hours, and them transfer them into a plastic bag. Now you’ll have fresh apples all year!

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Book Recommendation: Looking for Alaska by John Green

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No, this book is not about someone with really poor geography skills. Looking for Alaska by John Green is a harrowing coming of age story that centrals around Alaska Young, a beautiful, emotionally troubled teen.

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The story begins when the narrator, a boy called Pudge (Miles Halter), decides to discover his “Great Perhaps” (from the last words of Francois Rabelais) and leave his normal high school to go to a prestigious boarding school in Alabama. Though Culver Creek is not at all as extravagant as he had expected, he does end up grasping that elusive Great Perhaps when he becomes close friends with Alaska (the girl for whom he also has incorrigible feelings), his boisterous roommate The Colonel, a boy called Takumi, and a girl named Lara. And when a tragedy hits their friend group, they don’t let it destroy them, but rather grow even closer because of it.

I’ve got to say, I’m rather impressed by John Green. The first book I read by him was The Fault in Our Stars, which was really good, but – I felt – a little flat in terms of characters. The themes were rich and thought-provoking, but it seemed like all the characters had the same brain stuffed in different bodies. Looking for Alaska, on the other hand, does not have this problem. All the characters are elaborately unique: The Colonel, a short, poor boy with a huge brain and an even huger heart, Miles Halter, a timid boy who never had friends until getting to boarding school, Alaska Young, a girl so troubled by her past that she’s let herself become entangled in a sticky web of suffering, and even the secondary characters are full of life.

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“I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.”

What is really fascinating about this book is that everything and everyone in it is brutally honest – there is no sugarcoating. These kids aren’t the image of perfection – they make a plethora of mistakes, including but not limited to drinking, smoking, and hooking up (“But there was so much to do: cigarettes to smoke, sex to have, swings to swing on. I’ll have more time for reading when I’m old and boring.”) – and they know that what they are doing isn’t necessarily on the straight and narrow. Nevertheless, their knowing rebellion is refreshing, and I found myself rooting for them in spite of it all. Furthermore, with their honesty in regard to their own actions also comes an honesty in their way of looking at the world – they are not blinded by what others of their age, perhaps, are.

“What is an ‘instant’ death anyway? How long is an instant? Is it one second? Ten? The pain of those seconds must have been awful as her heart burst and her lungs collapsed and there was no air and no blood to her brain and only raw panic. What the hell is instant? Nothing is instant. Instant rice takes five minutes, instant pudding an hour. I doubt that an instant of blinding pain feels particularly instantaneous.”

This novel delves into some really deep issues about life, death, love, and friendship. If you feel like a quick read with some profound themes, I definitely suggest this one.

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“Alaska finished her cigarette and flicked it into the river.

‘Why do you smoke so damn fast?’ I asked.

She looked at me and smiled widely, and such a wide smile on her narrow face might have looked goofy were it not for the unimpeachably elegant green in her eyes. She smiled with all the delight of a kid on Christmas morning and said, ‘Y’all smoke to enjoy it. I smoke to die.”

Making Candles at Home

I am so obsessed with candles omgeeeee. Especially when it gets to this time of year. Sometimes all I feel like doing is burying my nose into a frosted cupcake candle and literally doing nothing else. My husband gets exasperated every time we walk by the candle section in Wal-Mart because we inevitably linger there for fifteen to twenty minutes so I can smell all the new flavors.

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So last time we were wasting our lives away in the Wal-Mart candle section, I had a lightbulb moment – DIY candles!

It is so easy! And cheap! And you can use the prettiest dish you want! Make your way over to Wal-Mart and get these things:

  • Parrafin wax (find it by the baking section)
  • Twisted cotton twine (hardware section)
  • Essential oils (candle section)
  • A pretty dish if you don’t have one at home.

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One pound of paraffin wax will make two to three candles of the size I made. It cost about $2.50, I believe. The essential oils cost $0.98 a piece, so that’s a steal! Cotton twine is inexpensive as well, so when I say this is a cheap DIY, it’s true.

I decided to choose Warm Sugar Cookie and Cinnamon scent for my essential oil. I mixed them, because I wanted a really sweet, delicious, fall smelling scent. You can choose any number of scents to mix, but make sure your scents are complimentary or your candle will be ruined!

So here’s how to do it.

First, cut a length of twine longer than the height of your container. Tape it to the bottom of your container with duct tape. If you are using a clear jar, use clear tape. Pull the string so it is tight and straight, and place it between two paint brushes or pencils, taping those together tightly. Now your container is ready.

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Next, prepare a double boiler. Find a heat proof bowl (one you don’t mind getting full of wax) and a pot on which the bowl will sit. Fill the pot about half way with water. Put the water on heat and boil. While the water heats up, break your wax into smaller pieces so it melts evenly.

Place your wax in the heatproof bowl and set on top of boiling water. Heat the wax until it reaches 120 degrees or is completely melted.

Take your wax off the heat and add your oils. I used about half a bottle of each of my scents. Mix in gently.

Carefully pour your wax into the container with the wick. Let the wax cool for 24 hours before burning.

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And there you have it! Candle made at home! Mine turned out fantastically and smells absolutely delicious. I also really love the container I used because I feel like it has a distinctive Halloween vibe.

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I hope you enjoy!