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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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Fall Projects for Roses

You have been enjoying the Rose Garden all summer, watching the lovely flowers bloom and smelling their luscious fragrance. Now you are left with the coming of fall and the bloom is off the Rose. You have a house full of fallen petals from those lovely stalks you had in vases. You have a garden covered in pretty red, pink and yellow petals as your plants thin down, preparing for the colder, darker days ahead. You are thinking about raking them up but maybe just let them scatter. DON’T! Get busy and gather them all up. Don’t throw them out and let them fly off in a gust. There are many wonderful things you can make using these Rose petals, leaves and stems! They will make fodder for fascinating fall projects during the boring, indoor days you must now face. The beach and the sun may be fading, but the flowers are about to take over your life.

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DIY: A More Natural Halloween

Oh, I know it seems kinda early to be talking about Halloween but when it comes to DIY projects it sometimes takes awhile to get it all together and no one wants to be rushed at the last minute. So I thought I’d throw out some good ideas for a natural, crafty type of Halloween so you’d have time to work on it if you wanted to. Some of these ideas are really scary so be careful how you use them; if you have religious friends who are easily offended, keep that in mind. If you have kids who are easily frightened, keep that in mind as well. There are ideas that are not scary at all and will be enjoyed by everyone. I also have ideas if you want to throw a party, so those of you are up for that will find something as well.

I tried to find ideas that required few ingredients or steps so that people with skinny wallets or rushed schedules could work in a project or two. So here we go, from the sweetest to the scariest, in that order:

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Are All Plastics Dangerous?

With all the grim news about plastics and plastic products, with much of this information already presented in my posts here on this blog, it brings to mind the question of whether there are safe plastics or not. Are all plastics poison? Or are there some that we can handle without fear? This question interested me so I thought I’d investigate.

Looking around on the web, I found quite a few articles about the dangerous chemicals in plastic and why plastic is dangerous to the human body. It took a little more digging and research to pull together a list of plastics and plastic products that are more benign. Here is what I discovered about both, in a handy, easy to reference, list:

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Recipes for Herbal Inks

Now that I have finished the two part series explaining how to make herbal papers, I thought I’d post a few recipes for homemade herbal inks. There is no special equipment needed, really, and the procedure isn’t difficult. The first recipe, for Oak Gall Ink is a homemade recipe from scratch, where you make the actual ink yourself. The second recipe is for a simple scented ink, which requires only store bought ink and a few other ingredients.

The third recipe is for a colored ink. In this case, a red ink. With practice, you can learn which flowers will produce what colors and you can create many different colored inks using the same recipe. In fact, you may learn to blend all of these recipes in a creative fashion and come with a colored, scented ink made from scratch. Once you start doing this, it gets to be a lot of fun to see what you can come up with. Use your imagination!

It’s up to you which recipe better suits your lifestyle as to how much time you have and how creative you wish to be. The first recipe requires a few more ingredients than the others but it is the basic recipe for homemade ink that can be altered to make variations. Which ink do you want to make? For me, the goal was always a colored, scented ink made from scratch. It takes practice and time but the end result is really neat and a lot of fun to share with the kids and your friends, too (if they are the crafty type). So dig in and get started! And let me know what the results come out like for you.

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