Archive for Home and Garden

Crafting with Gourds

Every year the harvest of Gourds begins in the fall and fills the groceries and natural food shops with fresh Squash, Cucumbers, Luffas and Melons. There are also the Calabash Squash, which is the most common Gourd. Luffas and Calabash Squash have to be harvested very young to be edible. If they are harvested after they have dried out, there is nothing to eat but their skins make fantastic containers, scrubbers and other tools. The Loofah or Plant Sponge is often used in sandal making and other crafts. You know it because you’ve seen in the bath section of the department store, where it’s sold as a body scrubber. Loofahs are also used to make the sponges you use in the kitchen and have been used in certain types of constuction.

The Calabash Squash is the one you are most familiar with when you think of Gourds. They are often called Bottle Gourds because the older, larger ones have been used as containers for generations. You are familiar with a form of Gourd use through the use of Pumpkins as decorations at Halloween and Thanksgiving. Pumpkins are a form of Squash that has Gourd properties. You can scrape out the Pumpkin and eat the insides but use the thick skin as a container for candles and you can carve it out in designs, the most popular being a face. This is a form of Gourding.

However, in short time, your Pumpkin wilts and shrinks and collapses and ends up in the trash. You cannot get a long lasting decorative collectible this way. So I suggest sticking with the hard, inedible, bitter Melons and Squashs that are referred to as “Ornamental Gourds”. These are a distinctively different variety than the edible Squash you see in the stores and they are never edible. They are purely for ornamental use. You will find them in the grocery stores, in the vegetable stands, in the craft shops and health food stores during the fall and winter season. They are there right now. So read this article and get an idea of what kind of Gourd you want to use for what project and then scoot on out and get it. You will be amazed at how fun this is and you will end up doing every year from now on.

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Something More than Pumpkin Pie

This is the time of year for Winter Squash and that old seasonal favorite, Pumpkins. We all have leftover Pumpkin, mostly from the Halloween carvings but also from tabletop decorations of fresh Squash and Gourds that are not eaten. My next post will be on crafts you can make with fresh Gourds. Today we are going to tackle the leftover Pumpkin. Although everyone is familiar with the use of leftover Pumpkin in pies and for the roasted seeds, there just aren’t a lot of tasty recipes for that leftover Pumpkin that everyone in the family will eat. So I thought I’d tackle some great ideas for recipes using that leftover Pumpkin and make sure to toss in something for everyone. I promise you these recipes will give you something more than the same old Pumpkin Pie..

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Flowers as Gifts: Going Beyond the Bouquet

Just about everybody loves flowers. Flowers are a beautiful gift from nature that smell great, look great and have come to represent love to most of us. They are the most popular gift in the world, given for the many events in our lives, from Mothers Day to birthdays to weddings and even at our funerals. They seem to be everywhere, popping out of the foilage around us, brightening the world whereever they are. We love to give a bit of that beauty to our loved ones when we can. But did you know that flowers are useful in gifts other than bouquets? That you don’t have to put them in vases to give them and there are a lot of ways you can give flowers as inexpensive gifts, even at Christmas. You don’t even have to know anything about flowers to take advantage.

As fall peeks around the corner, we start to see the summer blooms fading and falling in our yards. The grass is littered with slowly wilting bright colors and the last scent of the blooms lingers in the air. Why not capture this now and make gifts you can give later? Homemade food gifts like pickled flowers, flower honey or flower jellies and jams. Homemade beauty gifts like floral perfumes, toners or cleansing creams. Homemade floral soaps, potpourri or candles. Cards and stationary made with pressed flowers. All personalized and special, made by you. And you don’t have to be some creative genius to do these things because I have the recipes, the plans, the step by step instructions. All you need is to round up the dieing blooms you find in your yard and beyond. So get the basket and go picking!

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The Magic of Mullein

From soothing your cough to flavoring your liqueurs, Mullein has a lot of uses, some of them you’ve never heard of. The seeds are cheap and they are easy to grow; simply put in a pot full of soil and water. And if you don’t want to grow Mullein, there are many sources for it online, most of them inexpensive. There are about 250 genuses of Mullein, which is a member of the Figwort family. Mullein is also called by about 30 common names including Velvet Dock, Candlewick Plant, Cow Lungwort, Hags Taper and Aaron’s Rod. These cultivars grow all over Europe, Asia and the Meditteranean. They are also widely cultivated in North America and can sometimes be found growing wild. Very common varieties include Moth Mullein, Dark Mullein, Wooly Mullein and Common Mullein. The cultivar I have used the most and whole heartedly recommend is Verbascum Thapsus or Common Mullein. This particular cultivar has been naturalized all over the US, mostly in Hawaii and also in Australia. So it can be grown almost anywhere. I highly recommend planting Mullein in your garden and using it year round. I have recipes and guidelines for you to use when making use of the plant so bookmark this page for after your plants are growing and blooming. You can use Mullein for many things during every stage of it’s growth so it is well worth the few cents it costs to buy a packet of seeds.

Mullien was considered a magical herb in antiquity and it was given to Ulysses to protect him from the magic of Circe, who had changed his crew into pigs. The soft fine hairs on the leaves and stems of this plant makes a superb tinder and it was used this way throughout history. Hence, the popular name, Velvet Plant. These same soft hairs protect the herb from moisture loss, creeping insects and grazing animals because the down irritates mucus membranes. So this plant has few enemies in the garden, making it even easier to grow. So here are my hints on how to cultivate Mullein and how to use every part of the plant in every stage of it’s growth.

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Natural Safe Ways to Freshen the Air

The smells inside our caves can get pretty rank, even if we’re really clean and neat. I am constantly cleaning myself and the trash alone makes the living room smell like a dumpster. And then there’s the cat boxes in the bedrooms, the left over lingering odor from several cooked meals a day, the smelly shoes that my sister loves to leave all over the place.. etc.. You get the picture. You know it in your own home. The temptation to grab the Lysol or the Febreze is almost overwhelming. I am guilty of this, too. When the cats make a mess or my father spills his coffee, I reach for a can. The couch actually smells like a Febreze factory. But I am a hypocrite because I am a believer and a promoter of natural living and this is a far cry from natural. Chemical fragrances are dangerous. I have already done a post on that and you can read it HERE. So why would I use them? Oh, they are convenient and I am so busy. It is much faster to grab a can and spray than it is to devise another solution at the moment. But it really isn’t all that hard to fix this problem and I am going to start doing it this weekend.

In the past, I have also turned to candles and incense. This has been a time honored international tradition that we borrowed from the Middle East and Asia. But it’s a dangerous one. The smoke from these burning scents are dangerous for our lungs, sinuses and overall health. I discovered my chronic sinus problems at the time were caused by the smoke from the incense I loved so much. So I just don’t recommend Incense. Candles have been proven to cause cancer in much the same way cigarettes do. It is not a good idea to stand around burning candles or to suck in the fragrance from a burning candle, no matter how lovely that fragrance is. So I am not going to recommend using candles or incense to solve odor problems.

But I do I have some great ideas for odor control. Some require recipes while others require a simple change of habit. Some of the things we get used to doing day after day make the matter worse. I, myself, get into habits and patterns that I am reluctant to change because I think it’s going to be hard or tiring or take up too much time. Don’t wait until you are sweating over the broom or the vacuum before thinking about making a change. Get started while you are sitting around or planning your day. The most important part of any change is making the mental note and the decision to do it. We gear up for change, toy with it in our minds, work up the energy and determination needed for it. But the decision to start is a big step. Once you focus yourself on the change needed, you will eventually find yourself just doing it. So let’s get started today!

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Making Cool Summer Drinks

Everyone always drinks a lot more in the summer. The heat, the humidity, the activity, all conspire to make us thirsty. Even swimming in the ocean, with all that salt, brings people out to grab a soda pop. So when everyone is around the pool, enjoying the sun and the beautiful blue sky, why not make some cool drinks they will enjoy? How about making some of them from herbs and natural ingredients? How about making some of them alcoholic so people can relax and get into a groove? And how about making some blender drinks or a punch that even the kids can slurp down? I have recipes for all of these so there is no excuse for sitting around the pool or on the beach with a cooler full of boring canned drinks. You can make these up and serve them out of the blender, pitchersor a thermos . If you put your drinks in Stainless steel reusable cooler cans then you are also helping the environment, protecting your children from dangerous plastics and keeping your drinks cool for the long haul! But if you do not have these stainless steel containers then there is nothing wrong with sterilizing some old drink bottles in boiling water and filling them up with one of these potions for the trip to the beach or the park.

For making the blender drinks you will need a blender. Any blender will do; although bartenders use special ones, you can use just about any blender you can find. The thift stores have used ones for really cheap. But if you do not have a blender and do not want to keep one, then you can use a cake mixer

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Easy Spring and Summer Flower Projects

Isn’t it just wonderful that Spring has finally arrived? If you are in a part of the country where Spring is taking it’s time, you will just have to get an early start on the melt! There is nothing more cheery and lovely about Spring and Summer than flowers. April brings the rains and May brings the flowers, or so goes the rhyme. There will be blooms everywhere, if not today then very soon. And those blooms need to be captured and made use of; don’t leave them to rot on the ground! I have great simple and cheap ideas for decorating your home with flowers for Spring and Summer. Bright yellows, blues, greens and whites. Lovely brash, happy colors to make your home just glow with cheery sunlight.

Be prepared for some very simple ideas and projects. These could actually cost you very little or even nothing at all if you have old containers in your home that are packed away and flowers growing in the garden outside. Otherwise, you can get containers and other items at the flea market or thrift store and pick flowers in the neighbor’s garden (with permission, of course!). So get out the floral supplies from last year and clear the winter decorations from the table.. you are about to make some great decorations that will help you welcome Spring with open arms.

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