Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How to Preserve Autumn Leaves!

The weather here this fall has been amazing.  Bright sunny warm days.  For some reason, the leaves on the trees around Sweetwater have not been as colorful as usual.  I suppose there is a scientific reason for that but I don't know what it is.

Fall leaves that are brightly colored just call to be brought in to the house to use for decorations.

I have memories of classroom art projects that involved trying to save fall leaves.
  • We ironed them between wax paper.  
  • We made leaf prints with paint.  
  • We used color crayons to make leaf etchings. 
  • We pressed leaves in heavy books.
What I really wanted was leaves that look like they are still outside on the tree.
This is the technique I tried this year and it comes pretty darn close to actually preserving the leaves.
The leaves in the silver vase have been in water for 2 days.....and you can see how dry and curled they are.
The leaves with the white pumpkins came into the house at the same time.  They got the "magic solution" and you can see they are still nice and soft.

How did this "magic" happen?

The "magic" ingredient is Glycerine.

You can buy glycerine at the drugstore or in craft stores.
I buy mine by the quart from Amazon.

What You Do:
  1. Mix the glycerin and water so that it is one part glycerin and two parts water. ...
  2. Pour the solution into a flat pan, place the leaves in the solution, and then put the weight on the leaves to keep them submerged. ...
  3. Keep the leaves submerged in the solution for a couple of days.
  4. Dry the leaves gently with a paper towel.
These giant red oak leaves were perfect to show you the process.

  I just put the leaves in the solution and didn't bother to weight them down.  Every so often I would go and push the solution around with my fingers to make sure the leaves all got covered.

Look how lovely and shiny and soft the leaves are after just 2 days.

They really hold the colors too.

I am not sure what I am going to do with these.  But I am sure to think of something.
 Almost as good as the ones in nature!

Are you wondering how long these will stay looking nice?
I don't actually know.....but the ones I did two weeks ago still look great.  I don't know if it matters.....they really only have to last until Fall decor turns to Winter....!

Now.....Are you ready for your chemistry lesson?

Glycerin is a neutral, sweet-tasting, colorless, thick liquid which freezes to a gummy paste and has a high boiling point.
Glycerin can be dissolved into water or alcohol, but not oils.
Many things are able to dissolve into glycerin easier than they do into water or alcohol. This makes it is a good solvent.
Glycerin is a humectant.  That means that it draws moisture from the air.
Glycerin has the ability to make "water wetter" meaning that it breaks the surface tension of water.

Glycerin has lots of uses besides preserving leaves.
If it can make those leaves so nice and soft.....imagine how products containing glycerin will help soften skin and hair.

 This is a nice article with lots of information about glycerine.
Creative Uses For Glycerine 
It is worth checking it fact....I discovered that glycerin mixed with water and heated over a candle flame makes a cool Halloween Fog Machine.  I can't wait for the UPS guy to deliver my new glycerin supply so I can try this!
Glycerin is also a great additive for Home Made Bubble Solution.
Recipe for Magic Bubbles
1 oz. glycerin
2 oz dish soap (I like Dawn)
8 oz water

Hope you are having a wonderful day!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Trick for Using Artificial Pumpkins Outdoors!

Oh the dilemma....Real Pumpkins or "faux"?

A trip to the pumpkin patch to find the perfect pumpkin is a wonderful tradition!

At Sweetwater the pumpkins we "scored" at my brother's farm make a very cute display on the bench in the front yard this year!  

Not to mention they are a perfect backdrop for a "photo op" featuring the "cutest kid in the world"!

Alas.....after a few weeks of frosty weather those orange beauties will begin to deteriorate!
This is where "Faux" pumpkins win me over!
They never get rotten and can be kept from year to year.

Yes, these artificial pumpkins sometimes look a little too orange and perfect!

Yes, there are a myriad of ways to make them look more "real".....just google it and you will find out how to paint, glitter, carve and otherwise "fix them up"!

This arrangement on the deck uses artificial pumpkins that have been lightly brushed with some brown paint that was rubbed off.   That took the orange down to a more natural color.
The pumpkins needed to be arranged so that they leaned against the little lantern.

The problem with using artificial pumpkins in an outdoor display is the fact that a foam pumpkin doesn't have enough weight to stay in place.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Tabletop Fix

Sitting at the kitchen table the other morning I started to obsess over the scratches that had been accumulating on it over the years.
There were the little ones.....and then there were some really big ones!
You know....the kind that the placemats don't you start using a tablecloth to cover the whole thing.  I suppose one could pretend that the whole distressed furniture thing was ON PURPOSE and get on with life.....

Or it was time to do something!
But....WHAT to do?

Should we start looking for a new set for this space?  Seriously....NOT!  It took over a year to decide on this set and it is a great size, shape and look for the room!

Should it get a coat of paint?  That sounded okay.....until it came to trying to figure out what color and if the whole table should be one color.  Right now the tabletop is stained wood and the legs and chairs are a distressed sage green. 

I decided that what I really wanted was the SAME table top without the scratches!
That meant sanding, lots and lots of sanding!
That meant staining which meant mixing and testing until the color was just right!
That meant not one or two but FOUR coats of Poly for the hard and shiny finish that can stand up to our wear and tear!!

I did it!
It worked!
My table looks great!

But this POST IS NOT a tutorial for refinishing wooden furniture!
If you need a tutorial....GOOGLE IT....or Check out this Link from the folks at HGTV who are far more expert than little old ME!

This POST IS about having a can do attitude about taking on a project to fix what you already have.

I WASTED a lot of time "bemoaning" the scratches on the table. 
Once I got to work it only took:
  • The four hours of sanding....
  • The two hours of staining....
  • The 15 minute coats of Poly times 4....
All told, just a total of 7 hours of work plus wait time and now instead of "bemoaning" I can celebrate my "just like new" shiny table!

There were some costs involved....all that sanding meant lots of sandpaper!
At one point Mr. S decided to put his muscles behind the sander and sander overheated and started smoking!

There was some walnut stain and some thinner on the basement shelf so that did not need to be purchased.

We did need some new Poly and I was thrilled with the quality of this stuff that cleans up with water.

Other than the need to buy a new sander.....the total cost of the project was in the range of $25.
The table was out of commission for about 5 days,

The skill level of the project was pretty basic.
The real skill was the ability to just get on with it!

The finished product is JUST what I wanted.... the SAME table top without the scratches!

OOHHH!  Look how shiny and new it looks!

Here's to making do.....and getting what you want in the bargain!

Have A Wonderful Day!

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Best Halloween Read-A-Louds!


Spiders and Witches and Bats OH MY!

It's time to get yourself to the library or bookstore to find some great books for Halloween.

If you are volunteering at your kid's Halloween parties....what better way to set a calming tone than a great read-a-loud.
Just have them at home to curl up on a cool evening for a family read-a-loud.

Check out this link for a nice annotated list of favorites from back in 2011.
Here are just a few of the titles on that list:
  • The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid Of Anything by Linda Williams
  • Night of the Pumpkinheads by Michael Rosen 
  •  The Hallo-Wiener by Dav Pilkey 
  • Bats at the Library by Brian Lies 
  • The Hobyahs by Robert San Souci 
I realized that this list needed are some newer titles that are truly "beWitching"!

Monday, October 12, 2015

What A Hoot! Halloween Owl Decor!

I have this fun feathered owl that I bought a few years ago!

It cost way too much money.....
It was really hard to explain to Mr. S that I really needed a black feathered owl!
I loved it....
I knew this guy would be a great Halloween decor item!

Guess what!
I was right!
Four years later....I still love to get this guy out and display him.
Oooohhh I love when I am right!

The "perfect branch" that we found in the Sweetwater woods finally bit the dust! You know I am a little crazy when I "store" the owl branch in the garage from year to year!

Friday, October 9, 2015

DIY Homecoming Corsages

Homecoming time is upon us!
What fun! Parades, the big game and of course "THE DANCE"!
And oh the cost.....!

Not just the dressed up clothes....but the corsages and boutonnieres too!

I did a little research and discovered that a typical corsage costs $25 to $40!  YIKES!
Boutonnieres run around $10-$15!

Did you know it is really really simple to make your own?

This is a great way to keep some of the costs of Homecoming or Prom under control!

Moms....think about getting together with your friends to do this!
OR....have the girls get together for a party to make their own!
It actually makes sense to get a group together to save money on supplies.

This little tutorial is designed to give you the courage to try this on your own.
I have included some tidbits picked up from my adventures in corsage making through the years!

Let's Get Started!
Supplies Needed
Flowers and Greens
Corsage Wristlet
Floral Tape
Floral adhesive or Hot Glue

Finding just the right flowers for the corsage or boutonniere is probably the MOST important part of this project!
As much as I am all about the "thrift store" mind set.....this IS NOT the time for that!

You really need great flowers.....and you really need good advice!
Your best bet is to head off to the nicest brick and mortar Florist you know!

Speaking of which.....a few weeks ran across this very cool websit.  Bloom Nation is an online flower delivery company which is unique in that it connects shoppers to local florists in that area.  How lovely to see all the gorgeous things that are being offered locally.
I buy lots and lots of the flowers I use for events at Costco, Trader Joes, and the Farmer's Market.  But I when the flowers need to be "extra special" I head to a florist.
I have discovered that the people in these shops are super willing to help the DIYers with their projects!

I needed white flowers for this corsage project.  I made a quick call to Arts and Flowers 
to see about white spray roses....which they didn't have!!!  But the florist suggested I come and get some Cymbidium Orchids.   Surprisingly, a stem of these beauties was only $6! And...the advice about the greenery was spot on!  Would you believe they would have sold me the little wristlet too!  So don't be intimidated about asking your florist for help with your project!  

Now...on to the corsage making!

 Sliding the little wristband onto a cylinder makes it MUCH easier to work on the corsage!

I used to use a rolling pin until Mr. S "invented" these "super duper corsage stands made from6 inch long pieces of pvc pipe.

  The first step is to make the base of ribbon loops.

This corsage has some aqua colored tulle as well as some black wired ribbon.

The loops are secured with a wrap of floral tape.

The tulle and ribbon are hot glued onto the metal base of the wristlet.

Then the fun starts!
Start playing with how the blossoms will be arranged.

This corsage is really simple.
Just two sprigs of greenery an three orchid blossoms.

Once the design is decided on....remove the blossoms and put some glue on top of the ribbon.

If you are planning to do more than one corsage, you may want to invest in a floral adhesive.

The advantage of this product is that you don't risk harming the flowers with the heat from the glue gun and the adhesive stays pliant even if the corsage is refrigerated.

The disadvantage of it is that it takes a while to "set up" when you are working and it is sticky sticky sticky....a real manicure destroyer!

I have seen lots and lots of corsages made with hot glue that last just fine!

Cut a piece ribbon long enough to tie around the wristlet to cover the elastic.

The extra ends add additional color to the corsage.

Notice the little prongs on either side of the base.

Those get bent up to raise the whole flower and ribbon components into a nice and sturdy corsage.

Now....isn't that gorgeous?

This corsage was for the exchange student who is sponsored by the Rotary Club that the Sweetwater Daughter belongs to.  We took the time to "package" our creation so that it looked like it came from the florist shop!
Since there were more blooms on the orchid stem, we made a very simple boutonniere with a sprig of greens and one orchid blossom.       
And....the payoff for me was this lovely thank you note with a photo from the handsome young man expressing his gratitude for the corsage and boutonnnire! (I didn't have photo permission from I cut off the faces!  But trust me...they were a pretty cute couple!)


This project was the perfect example for using a brick and mortar florist as a supplier.  The folks there were so helpful with the expertise needed to make this turn out well. Plus, the cost of the flowers was really reasonable!

I hope you take a moment to look at Bloom Nation to get some inspiration or to just discover the florists in your area.

If you have a "big dance" on your calendar, you really should consider the DIY route!

Have a Wonderful Day!

Link Parties
Sundays Down Under   

Monday, October 5, 2015

Make A Spooky Fairy Garden

I was at Goodwill a few months ago and found this little ceramic house.

It was only $4.99.

It is obviously a Christmas
ornament but I thought that it would make a great house for a Fairy Garden sometime.

HMMMMM.....what about a Spooky Halloween Fairy Garden?

That seemed doable.....and doable without spending hardly any money!
This would be a great kid project because it is so simple.
Click To Learn How I did it.....
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