Monday, October 27, 2014

~ Picture Perfect Pumpkins and Squash ~

I love decorating for the fall holidays.  The colors are so warm and inviting!  I also like to make my pumpkins and squash stretch, so we carve two pumpkins, one each for my kids, and leave the rest as is so they can last longer, even way past Thanksgiving!  We have in years past, turned our fall pumpkins into Santa and snowman pumpkins!  

This past weekend, I had the chance to visit a family farm not far from our farm, but on an out of the way road that ends at their farm!  I haven't been there before, and I have to say, I loved their farm!  My girls were able to pick a pumpkin from a great variety of large selection of pumpkins that unlike large scale commercial farms near here, these pumpkins haven't been climbed over, stepped on, tossed around while looking for 'the one'.  My thought is that these will last longer since they haven't been handled too much.  They were displayed in a very cute barn display, as well as stacked singly on wagons.   We picked up field pumpkins, a hubbard squash, a couple of warty pumpkins, and the orange unknown to me at the moment squash pictured above!

The two little pumpkins in front of this picture are the only two I got from my garden this year!  I"m not sure what happened, but I did plant them in the rain the day before we headed out for vacation this past June, and it rained every day we were gone, plus I could have mulched them better than I did, but I was focused on saving tomatoes and peppers since we have an unusually cool and wet June and July.  I knew by the end of July that I wouldn't have a  pumpkin crop, but I also figured that pumpkins and squash are a whole lot cheaper than tomatoes and peppers!  I also knew there were a handful of farms in our area that I could get pumpkins, so I accepted loss early on and focused on tomato sauce and salsa!  The little ceramic kitty is one that my daughter painted about 8 years ago, and it's has been happy to sit on our porch guarding the front door for a couple of years now.  It's perfect for Halloween!

I just really like these warty pumpkins!!  I'll save seeds from everything I bought this year to plant for next year too.  I've never used Hubbard squash for cooking before, but I'm going to puree this one.  I've read and heard from so many people that the hubbard's make the best pumpkin pie and desserts!!  I can't wait to try it!!  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

~ A Quick and Almost Free Scary Halloween Tree Decoration ~

 It really is almost free!!  This isn't the end result, I still have a bit of detail work to do, and I need to run to the store to pick up some clear tape!  But this is the idea of the look of the finished product.  I decided a few days ago to try this out, and got around to giving it a try last night.  It turned out so good, and with only about a week before Halloween, I thought I would post this right away in case someone else would be interested in making this.  :)

It starts with a few brown paper grocery bags.  You can use craft paper, but I am a recycler, and I these work great!  For this project you'll need:

* three brown paper grocery bags
* scissors
*a Sharpie pen or any kind of pen or crayon to draw the outlines for your tree and birds
* tape (both to tape the trunk and branches of the tree, plus for hanging)
* a can of black spray paint

I started with cutting the trunk from two grocery bags.  Cut along one edge to the bottom of the bag, cut the other side to the bottom again, and cut through the bottom at the side to make one long piece of paper.  This will give you about 3 to 31/2 feet for the trunk.  For our door, that was plenty big.  Save the scraps from cutting out the trunk!  You can use those for the birds, bats, and pumpkins if you want to add some at the base of your tree!  I googled an image of a Halloween tree to find an image I wanted to work from.  What I chose doesn't look exactly like the tree I ended up with at all, so don't stress about the detail in the google images, use that as a visual only, to get an idea of what you want.  I wanted a trunk that twisted slightly with a hillside and some scary looking branches.  You can see how I taped the pieces to the door as I went along.  It gave me an idea of where to place branches to make sure I got the look I wanted. As you cut the branches from the scraps of paper, just tape them into place.  Don't worry about the color or placement of the tape, it will all be spray painted in the last step.

It's really easy to freehand a branch.  See how it looks kind of weird drawn, but once it's cut and added to the trunk, everything falls into place!

I was happy with this as the 'skeleton' of my tree!  This is why I like taping it where it will hang once completed.  This way you can make sure your finished product will look balanced.  Adding that little hillside at the bottom grounds the tree instead of it looking like it's hanging in mid air.

At this point, tape the seams of the trunk and branches very well so they are secure.

With the scrap paper left over from the trunk and branches, cut out some bats and and owl.  Again, it doesn't look like much on the paper, but once cut out, it looks like a bat!  Also...very important!  You can cut your bat slightly different from the freehand drawing.  Once I started to cut this bat out, I thought I would like some ears to show, so I cut the ears in as I was cutting towards the head simply by cutting them 'outside the lines' so to speak!  

I liked the ears better!  /

I did the same for the owl that's sitting on the top branch of the tree!  My pool little owl looks kind of silly here, but the finished product looks great!  Cut out the eyes so the light can shine through them once a light is turned on at night.  You can add some transparent plastic film in the eyes too if you want them to glow more, either yellow or orange.  One hint to keeping that part cheap and not having to buy extra paper from the craft store is to search out something in your house already that is that color...a potato chip bag, some plastic wrap colored with a highlighter?  Use your imagination and resourcefulness here.  Glow in the dark paint would be a great option too.

  Once your tree looks the way you like, carefully untape it from the door, take it outside to spray paint.  You MUST spray paint outside in a well ventilated area!  I put my tree and birds on the lawn to spray paint.  When the first side was dry, I turned it over to paint the reverse side.  I left it outside to dry and let the fums dissipate.  Spray paint really stinks!!  Once both sides are dry, place your tree and birds in a dry place to make sure the fumes are gone before hanging in place.

This isn't quite done yet, but you get the idea.  I'll post a finished (and much better picture) later today after I get to the store to get some clear tape.  ( I will actually buy some clear packing tape.  Since the holidays are coming, and we send homemade cookies to relatives out of state, I need the packing tape anyway!)

This is a great decoration to make in a short amount of time with very little money involved.  I had to buy the can of spay paint and clear tape.  Everything else, I had on hand.  It's cute, I was able to personalize it to fit my likes, I didn't have to buy a prepackaged decoration so I have saved on packaging and the cost of shipping on a seasonal item, and it's frugal.  The cost of a door sized decoration like this would have easily cost about $10 to $20 dollars!  And did I say it's cute?!?  

Remember to check back for the finished piece in place on my front door!  

Awesome.  Imaginative.  Easy on the pocketbook.  I love it!!  :)