Simmer the Sweet Scents of Fall

IMG_4514Don’t you love walking into a home that smells good? Our sense of smell is pretty amazing. It can trigger memories and sway emotions, so no wonder it feels warm and inviting to have a fragrance like Cranberry Orange drifting through the house on a cool fall day. It carries with it delicious memories. I also think the right fragrance can make a house feel clean and well cared for – and who wouldn’t want that thought running through the mind of your next guest?

There are tons of great options for making your house smell awesome. A trip to Bath & Body Works alone will provide hundreds of selections. P.S. I’m in love with Cranberry Woods this season.

But if you want to conjure up a warm, delicious (and inexpensive) aroma, try brewing one of these fall recipes on the stove. It works like magic making your family and friends feel, well, right at home-sweet-home.

Cranberry Orange

  • 1 sliced orange
  • 1 tablespoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Bay Leaves and Cinnamon

  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 2 sticks cinnamon

Lemon Rosemary

  • 1 sliced lemon
  • 3-4 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Once you choose your concoction, toss everything into a small stockpot. Cover with water (about 2/3 full) and simmer until the smell drifts through the house. My heavens, this is a treat!

You can also opt for the oven. Fill a loaf pan with water and your favorite recipe above. Set it in the oven at 350 degrees until you start to smell the lovely fragrance. Then turn off the oven and prop open the door.

Tip: Freeze uncooked batches to have on hand when a friend or family stops by for an impromptu visit. So even if the house isn’t clean, it will at least smell like it is. I won’t tell.

Enjoy simmering some fall fragrances, and let me know which recipe is your favorite!

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DIY Pumpkin Seed Ornaments

IMG_4412Earlier this week I listed three ways to use your Halloween pumpkin seeds – other than the usual heat and eat. One idea I mentioned was making a beautiful and easy ornament like this one above. And when I say easy, I mean it took me all of 20 minutes to gather my goods and have this picture taken. Not to mention, I had everything I needed on hand. Hopefully you will, too!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Dried pumpkin seeds
  • Small seeds for the center
  • Cardboard circle – about 2” in diameter
  • Piece of felt – same size as the cardboard
  • Pretty ribbon
  • Glue gun
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All of the supplies, minus the glue gun

Ways to make this practically free:

  • The pumpkin seeds can come from your freshly carved jack-o-lantern.
  • The small seeds can be anything from birdseed (which I had in the garage) to poppy seeds (which might be in the spice rack).
  • I raided the recycle bin for cardboard. Then I traced the bottom of a mason jar to get a perfect 2″ circle.
  • Inexpensive squares of felt can be found at any craft store.
  • When it comes to ribbon, I’m like a squirrel. Any time I receive a gift or see ribbon on sale, I stash it away in plastic bins in my craft area (aka garage). I received this gorg velvet ribbon on a gift and knew it would find the perfect craft one day. Hello.

Here’s the step-by-step guide:

  1. Fire up your glue gun!
  2. Glue seeds to the outside rim of the cardboard circle. Then work your way to the center with each row of seeds.
  3. Once you’ve filled the entire cardboard, place a dot of glue in the middle of your ornament.
  4. Sprinkle smaller seeds on top. Birdseed, poppy seeds, even sunflower seeds would be pretty.Steps
  5. Glue your strip of ribbon to the back of your ornament in a loop.
  6. The finishing step is to cover the back of the ribbon with felt. This makes it look nice from all angles.
    Finishing step

    The final steps. Boom. Boom. Done.

    You’re finished! How easy was that? As I was making this, my mind was racing with fun ideas for how to display and use these ornaments. I might be making a few dozen batches of these babies!

  • Hang it to the stem of a pumpkin for some added charm.
  • Tie it to the top of a holiday gift. After all, it is an ornament.
  • Give it as a hostess gift hooked to the neck of a bottle of wine. Be sure to make the ribbon long enough to slip around the bottle.
  • Attach to the center of a bow on wreath for an extra accent like this!IMG_4374
  • Or add to any decorative element. I’m going to put this cuteness on my mantle.Decorative
  • Make festive Thanksgiving napkin rings! Instead of looping the ribbon, glue the ribbon flat in the center so you can tie it securely around your napkin. See below.IMG_4408

Happy crafting and enjoy your lovely pumpkin seed ornaments!

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Pumpkin Seeds Three Ways

Halloween Week Banner2Happy almost Halloween! For my family, the most exciting part of this week (other than Halloween night itself) is carving our jack-o-lanterns. We’ve had one too many squirrels demolish our creations, so we learned to wait it out. The all-you-can-eat pumpkin buffet can open after Halloween!

Speaking of carving, did you know it’s easier to carve from the bottom? I had NO idea until I recently stumbled across this carving video from Better Homes & Gardens. I’m a huge sucker for a good tip like this.

Once the excitement of carving our ghoulish grins is over, we love playing with the seeds. Well, once they’re clean. Funny how the kids suddenly have something terribly important to do when it comes time to desliming the seeds. Thanks, guys.

Since pumpkin seeds are pretty much a once-a-year treat for us, I love finding new ways to use them. Here are three of my favorites!

  1. Bake them. The basic salt-and-oil roast like this from SimplyRecipes is classically delicious. If you want to mix it up a bit, try a batch of Sweet and Salty seeds from Real Simple.
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Sweet & Salty Pumpkin Seeds, Real Simple

  1. Grow them. Why spend lots of money on pumpkins next year when you have a handful of free seeds this year? Once your seeds are washed and dried, store them in an envelope. Pumpkin seed envelopeThe best place to keep them is somewhere cool and dry. I like to use the refrigerator in my garage. Label the envelope with the date and name so you remember what’s inside! When to plant? In cooler parts of the country, the best time to plant pumpkin seeds is late May. In warmer parts of the country, you can wait until mid July to plant pumpkins in time for Halloween.
  1. Craft them. Seeds are way underrated in crafting, IMO. Look at this pretty ornament I whipped up. I’ll have a full DIY on these beauties Thursday. Be sure to check back!
Pumpkin seed ornament_finished

Pumpkin seed ornament. Watch for DIY instructions Thursday!

In the meantime, what’s your favorite way to serve up some seeds? Do share!

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Give Parsley a Chance

Parsley

Freshly picked parsley

Parsley is one of those herbs that’s usually tossed aside. And I mean that literally. In restaurants you’ll see it perched on the edge of a pretty plate – and that’s where it stays. It’s not the star player in many recipes, and it doesn’t have an elegant fragrance like basil, oregano or thyme. So what’s it good for?

To be honest, I was pretty nonchalant about parsley until I started planting it in my garden for my pet rabbit, Rosie. She looooves parsley, but only when it’s fresh. She’s a bit of a princess that way. So I always include a little patch in my garden for her.

Rosie the Rabbit

Meet Rosie the Rabbit! Pets deserve an organized and creative life, too. So you’ll see Rosie featured in posts from time-to-time.

Get creative in the kitchen

One day I casually tossed a few springs of parsley in my salad and loved its punch. It has such a fresh taste with hints of lemon and pepper. The next thing I knew, I was sneaking it into soups and stews. It’s native to the Mediterranean, but can be used in all kinds of dishes.

Here are some recipe ideas from beautiful Sunset Magazine. This article features 11 ways to cook with fresh parsley.

parsley-ravioli-with-brown-butter-sauce

Parsley Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce from Sunset Magazine. A plateful of yum.

Get healthy

Come to find out, parsley is really good for you. It’s rich in all kind of vitamins: A, B1, B3, C, and K. That’s a nice portion of the vitamin alphabet. It also keeps your immune system strong and encourages digestion. No wonder so many chefs nudge it onto our plates.

Some people even use it for medicinal purposes. A few of the more interesting options I’ve read include:

  • Reducing hair loss by massaging parsley essential oil into the scalp.
  • Relieving joint pain by eating parsley daily.
  • Treating insect bites with the juices squeezed from the leaves.

Grow your own

If I’ve piqued your interest, why not grow your own? It’s a cool-weather-lovin’ kind of herb, so right now is a great time to plant. Here’s a helpful guide from Gardening Know How.

As a tip, flat leaf parsley has a little better flavor for cooking than its curly cousin. You’ll want to keep that in mind when buying seeds or plants from the nursery. By the way, I’m a huge fan of nurseries that carry the Monrovia brand. They always have quality plants.

I hope you’ll give parsley a chance. Comment below or email me your favorite way to enjoy this healthy herb!

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Aromatic Herb Bundles for the Perfect Bonfire

Herb Bundle

This is the “Sweet & Lovely.”

Nothing says, “it’s fall, y’all” quite like a bonfire. Well, other than pumpkin lattes, cozy sweaters and apple-scented candles. Regardless, I’m a huge fan of glowy bonfires – especially on a crisp autumn night. Our family likes to sit out back huddled around our fire pit with blankets and cups of steamy cocoa. We usually crack open a bag of marshmallows while we’re at it. S’mores, anyone?

Now, the start to any fire, whether it’s an indoor fireplace or outdoor pit, is proper kindling. Any small pieces of flammable material will do: torn newspaper, old receipts, junk mail. It’s actually a great way to declutter. Just be sure to ask permission to burn certain items – like your husband’s Sports Illustrated. For a burst of fragrance in your kindling mix, you’ll want to toss in an herbal bundle. Mmm.

Plow and Hearth sells lavender fire starter bundles for about $25 each. They’re lovely. If you’d like to make your own for way less (MYOFWL), here are super easy instructions.

What you’ll need

  • Dried aromatic herbs – approx. 12-15 stems
  • Small strip of decorative paper – 1 inch wide x 4 inches long (optional)
  • Raffia – several strands

Neatly trim each stem to about 6-8 inches.

Divide the herbs in half. Gently gather each bundle and point the tops in opposite directions to create a “bowtie” effect. Tie the middle of the bunch with a small piece of raffia – just to hold it together.

Next you can wrap the bundle with a piece of decorative paper if you want to add a pretty design element. Hold the paper in place with another piece of raffia. This last piece of raffia will finish off your bundle, so make it into a pretty bow or just keep it simple like I did.

That’s it! You’ve made your super amazing bundle of aromatic goodness.

Herb Bundle Styled

This bundle is dolled up on a garden seat.

A few ideas to enjoy your new creation:

  • Use it for yourself! Toss into a bonfire for fragrant kindling.
  • If you’re not ready to light that flame, display a few bundles on your hearth or a garden seat like I did above.
  • Put one or two in a pretty dish on your nightstand – especially if it includes lavender. Lavender helps you sleep!
  • Give as a thoughtful hostess gift.
  • Decorate the top of a birthday or holiday package.

Here are some delicious combinations to try:

Sweet and Lovely

  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

Warm Spice

  • Sage
  • Tarragon
  • Oregano

Winter Wonder

  • Evergreen sprigs
  • Cinnamon sticks or vanilla beans
  • Small oak or maple twigs (or anything readily available)

I hope you enjoy your bundles of goodness! What fragrant combinations do you love?

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Lovely Lavender No-Sew Sachets

IMG_4169The smell of lavender can be intoxicatingly good. Giving someone a bundle of fresh lavender wrapped in silk ribbon always makes a nice gesture.

In fact when given as a gift, lavender flowers represent luck. They also offer the promise of new adventure. So why not go the extra mile and make a no-sew lavender sachet for your favorite travel buddy? Sachets are perfect for tucking into a suitcase for a sweet-smelling arrival. I mean, who wouldn’t that?

Let’s do this thing.

First you’ll need a bundle of dried lavender buds. Either buy some in bulk or create your own. To DIY, simply cut fresh stalks from your garden. Either hang the lavender stems upside down to air dry or lay them flat on a towel for a few days. Once the buds are dried out, strip them off the stem into a pile. This is what you’ll use inside your sachets.

If you don’t have access to fresh lavender, don’t despair. You can still make sachets with a couple of tablespoons of uncooked rice and a few drops of lavender oil.

Now take an antique handkerchief or pretty scrap of fabric cut into a 6” square. Place the lavender buds in the center of your fabric. Pull all four ends together into a bundle and tie with a pretty ribbon.

IMG_4187You can add a personalized note to complete the package. Now go surprise someone with this precious gift.

What’s your favorite way to use lavender?

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