Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pumpkin Decorating 101



Is there a bright, cheery, orange pumpkin sitting on your doorstep? Have you decorated it yet? Halloween is just a few days away. I’ve got some ideas for you to try.

Choose a healthy pumpkin or two. Go to an orchard, pumpkin patch, farmer’s market, or grocery store. Choose one that is ripe or orange – no green – and free of nicks and scratches. Choose a pumpkin based on what you want to do with it, otherwise just pick the one that you like. If you will be using store bought stencils, a medium size pumpkin is best. Small pumpkins are good for general carving and work up fast so you could do a bunch of them. Large pumpkins make good centerpieces and are the best for complicated designs.

Resin pumpkins are sold at Joann Fabrics, Michaels, and other craft stores. They come in a variety of sizes and some are can even be carved. No mess and you can keep them for next year.

An uncut pumpkin will last several months if kept cool. A cut pumpkin will shrivel up and die quickly so you will need to wait until a few days before Halloween to cut it. You can try to preserve it by washing all the dirt off before and after cutting. Spray the inside of the pumpkin and cut areas with a solution of 1 tbsp. bleach in a quart of water. Let the solution penetrate for 20 minutes; then wipe all cut areas with petroleum jelly. Wipe off the excess.

Now for the fun part – decorating your pumpkin. Have fun and be creative!!!

Plant pokes. The fastest and easiest way to decorate a pumpkin is to use plant pokes. There are kits in the stores to make black cat and witch designs, etc. I like to arrange leaves on top of my pumpkin and stick a scarecrow pick through the top. An ice pick or nail or Phillips screwdriver will make a good hole for sticking in the picks, otherwise they might break off when you try to poke them through. Pumpkins have a tough, thick skin. This is a cute and festive way to decorate a pumpkin and you can still carve it later on.

Painted Pumpkins. Painting a pumpkin is nice because it allows small children to participate. You can be very creative. You can make a character, use stencils, kid’s handprint, stickers, or anything you think of. They can be very simple or be an intricate scene if you have the talent. Make sure pumpkin is clean and dry and at room temperature. Paint your design on with acrylic paint. Try putting a little paint on the bottom of the pumpkin and letting it dry to see if your kind of paint will stick. A first coat of sealer or varnish will help the paint stick and will also preserve the pumpkin if you want it to last longer. After the paint dries, you can add fake fur and hair, sticks for arms, small hats and jewelry, feathers, etc. You can use a variety of paints and stencils. Michaels has dozens of pumpkin decorating ideas. You can find them on their website (http://www.michaels.com/art/online/search?pageNumber=1&channel=0&search=yes&type=0&searchWords=pumpkins) or in the store. Gold painted pumpkins are very elegant.

Beaded Pumpkins. Push beads on extra long pearlized pins into painted or unpainted pumpkins. You can make some awesome faces from beads.

Shimmery Pumpkin. You can make a shimmery pumpkin from a finished painted or unpainted, cut or not cut, pumpkin by spraying on spray adhesive and sprinkling with clear glitter. Beautiful!!!

Carved Pumpkin. Spread out some newspapers. Cut a hole large enough to fit your hand in the bottom of the pumpkin and make sure the pumpkin is level. A pumpkin carving tool works best. Pull out the “guts” with your hand or a spoon. Save the seeds for roasting. Draw or transfer a design on the best side of the pumpkin with a pencil or washable marker. Cut all the way through the pumpkin following the design you have marked. Push the cut pieces out and discard. Place a votive candle on a saucer and place the pumpkin over it.

There are many carving sets, stencils, and books you can buy in the stores to use on your pumpkin. You can get them for pennies the day after Halloween and use them the following year. Target has some really cute ones this year. They have sports teams like the Miami Dolphins or the Green Bay Packers for around $10.00.

You can create anything with a carved pumpkin. Make a person or creature, spell out BOO, make a birdhouse, etc. Put two or three pumpkins together to make a head and a body for a black cat or snowman or to spell out a sentence. Embellish with carrots and sticks.



White lights pumpkin. A lighted pumpkin can be mad with a ¼ drill bit and a set of battery operated white lights. Hollow out the pumpkin and drill a lot of holes. Slip a little white light in each hole. This looks really spectacular in multiples along a sidewalk.

There are many other uses for pumpkins in decorating. Large to medium pumpkins can be used for centerpieces or as a soup tureen. They can be cut into a basket shape and filled with flowers – see Martha Stewart’s pumpkin basket at her website: (http://www.marthastewart.com/portal/site/mslo/menuitem.3a0656639de62ad593598e10d373a0a0/?vgnextoid=dd6f809dc732f010VgnVCM1000003d370a0aRCRD&lastnavigatedchannel=cd1efb749d7fe010VgnVCM1000003d370a0aRCRD) or hollow out and arrange some fall flowers in them. You can also plant mums in them for a pretty fall decoration.

Small pumpkins or even mini pumpkins can be used as soup bowls. Carve them out a little and insert a candle for a pretty fall candle holder. Group together with some fall leaves and nuts on a cake stand for a pretty centerpiece.

Scented Pumpkin. Cut out the top of pumpkin and save for a lid. Remove pulp and seeds. Carve little round holes all around the pumpkin with an apple corer. Rub pumpkin spice or cinnamon or insert cloves on the underside of the pumpkin lid. Place a lighted tea light candle inside and replace lid. It will give off a wonderful smell for hours.

Here’s a great little recipe for Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds from the Gooseberry Patch:

Sweet and Spicy Pumpkins Seeds

Ingredients:
1 cup pumpkin seeds
5 Tbsp. sugar, divided
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 ½ Tbsp. peanut oil

Lay pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet lined with was paper; bake at 250 degrees for one hour or until dry. Cool. In a bowl, combine 3 tbsp. sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and pepper. Set aside Heat oil in a skillet; add seeds and remaining sugar. Cook for 45 minutes or until sugar melts and pumpkins seeds begin to carmelize. Transfer to bowl and stir to coat. Cool. Makes 1 cup. Delicious!!!



Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dog Halloween Costumes




I’m seeing a lot of Halloween costumes for dogs and even cats in the stores. Pet Smart, Target, Wal-Mart, and even the dollar store have cute, cute costumes!!! They range from $1.00 at the dollar store to up to $30.00 for the fancier ones. My dog won’t wear a costume but my cat probably would. Last year I made her a witch hat but I couldn’t figure out how to keep it on her head. I would like to dress her up as a princess this year. I’m going to try to make one from a book I have called Doggy Fashions.

eHow.com has a cute article about how to choose a costume for your pet and how to dress them safely. Basically, the costume should fit. It should not be too loose or too tight. It should not interfere with vision or movement. It should be safe. The costume should not pull over the head but be fastened around the neck with Velcro or something that will allow the costume to come off if it gets caught on something. It is a good idea to let your pet wear the costume before Halloween to get used to it. Choose a costume to fit your pet’s personality.

If you are interested in making your own dog costume, I have 3 copies of Doggy Fashion by Alison Jenkins for sale in my eBay store: The Crafty Cupboard http://cgi.ebay.com/Doggy-Fashion-by-Alison-Jenkins-2003_W0QQitemZ350024196824QQihZ022QQcategoryZ378QQtcZphotoQQcmdZViewItemQQ_trksidZp1713.m153.l1262. It is a very pretty book. It has instructions and templates to make 12 different costumes: Elvis, a Pilgrim, a Sheriff, a Hot Dog, a Fairy, a Dinosaur, a Vampire, a Clown, Blues Brothers, a Space Man, a Doctor, a Nurse, and a Rock and Roll Hero. The costumes are really cute and the book has a lot of color pictures. Each costume is very easy to make and instructions are given to custom fit them to your own dog. It is an awesome book!

Halloween night can be frightening for pets. They don’t really like to see humans dressed up as other things. Don’t leave your pet outside as there have been tales of pranksters torturing or even stealing pets. Be careful around lit pumpkins – curiosity might cause your pet to get burned. Be carful around Halloween candy - your pet might choke on small candies and chocolate can be poisonous. Last, be careful your pet doesn’t dart out the door while you are handing out treats.

Make your dog some tasty Halloween Treats:

Dog Treats

Ingredients:
2 cans dog food (16oz)
1 cup unprocessed bran
1 cup old fashioned oatmeal
½ vegetable oil

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
2. In a medium sized bowl: mash dog food to remove all lumps. Mix in bran and oatmeal; slowly add the oil, mixing to a consistency that will allow you to shape into patties or roll and cut in a biscuit shape. Add more oil if mixture is too dry.
3. Arrange biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 3 ½ hours or until hard. Cool, store in a canister. If refrigerated, will last for 1 month.(Home Made Best Made)





Howl-O-Ween Tricking Treats
• 2 1/2 cups water
• 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
• 1/8 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 egg
• 4 cups whole-wheat flour
• 1/4 cup chopped pecans
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
• 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/4 cup oats
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. In a bowl, mix water, pumpkin, vanilla and eggs thoroughly
3. Combine flour, pecans, baking powder, nutmeg and cinnamon in a separate bowl, stirring well. 4. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix well, making sure no dry mixture is left.
5. Spoon into a greased muffin tin, filling each cup completely.
6. Sprinkle the top of each muffin with oats and bake for 1 1/4 hours. Cool completely and store in a sealed container. (Three Dog Bakery Cookbook)



Happy Howl–o-ween!!!!!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Free Pumpkin Crocheted Coaster Pattern




Pumpkins are picked and ready to be brought home for decorating. I have been crocheting mine this week. Here is the pattern I have been using to make cute little Pumpkin Coasters for your home or office.




Pumpkin Crocheted Coasters



Materials:



2 oz orange yarn
Small amount green yarn
Small amount of black yarn
H hook
Small amount black felt
Needle and thread

.
Rnd 1: Ch 4. (counts as hdc), work 11 more hdc in first chain. Join with sl st in first st.


Rnd 2: Ch 2, hdc in same st as joining; 2 hdc in each of remaining sts. around. Join with sl st to first st. (24 hdc).


Rnd 3: Ch 2, hdc in same st as joining, hdc in next st; *(2 hdc in next st, hdc in next st) repeat from * around. Join with sl st in first st. (36 hdc.)
Rnd 4: Ch2, hdc in same st as joining, hdc in next 2 st;*(2hdc in next st, hdc in next 2 st) repeat from*around. Join with sl st in first st.(48 hdc.) Fasten off and weave in yarns.



Stem:
Join green yarn with a sl st anywhere on rnd4. Make 3 sc. Chain 1 and turn. Sc in next 3 sc. Fasten off and weave in yarn.



Face:
Cut out black felt eyes, position, and sew into place.
Using black yarn, chain 15. Trim ends of yarn leaving about a ½ inch. Position into a smile or frown and sew into place pulling ends through coaster to the back.


My friend Fatts MaGee at Etsy.com is making some really cute bags for Halloween. Check them out at http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5968816.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I love Jamaica!!!







Vacation is over. I didn't want to come home. I had such a good time. I got really relaxed for the first time in months. Eating, drinking, lying on the beach, nothing to do but relax. It's just like one of those Corona commercials on tv.

It was raining when arrived in Montego Bay - the remnants of Huricane Ike. The rest of the week was beautiful sunshine. The bus trip over to Negril was about an hour. We got to our resort - RiU Clubhouse in Negril - and received an upgrade to an oceanfront room. We spent our days lying on the beach or by one of the two pools. We did pool aerobics, played pingpong if we felt like it, listened to the 4 man Reggae Band, walked on the beach. We ate our meals in the huge buffet or one of two restaurants. The buffet had delicious made-to-order omelets every morning for breakfast. There was a huge variety of foods at every meal. My husband loved the Radizzio Resaurant. It was a Brazilion Style restaurant which has 5 courses of meat served on skewers: steak, pork, lamb, bacon wrapped turkey, and chorizo sausage. Too much meat for me!!!
There was entertainment every night: shows, music, craft markets, even a disco. The bartenders make every kind of drink you could want and love to make up new ones for you to try. Some of them will even sing to you.

We took a sunset cruise to Rick's Cafe. Rick's Cafe is a well known establishment on some cliffs overlooking Bloody Bay. You can eat there, listen to bands playing, swim in a pool, jump off the cliffs into the warm Caribbean, or watch other people dive. They are about 30 feet high. We slid down a slide from our catamaran into the Caribbean and swam about 50 feet to the bottom of the cliffs and walked up stone stairs to Rick's Cafe. It was a lot of fun.

The best thing about Jamaica is the people. The people of Jamaica are so nice. They are always happy and laid back. They truly want you to have a great time. That's what keeps us going back! Also, it has to be the most beautiful place in the world!!!
So now it's back to work. Cleaning, cooking, laundry,etc. Still have the memories and pictures to hold me over until next year!!!












Thursday, September 4, 2008

Going to Jamaica


It's raining cats and dogs here in central Illinois. We leave for a much needed vacation on Monday. We are going to an all inclusive resort in Jamaica for a week. September seems to be a very bad time to go. Hurricane Gustav just passed through there. Hanna went to the north so it's no worry. Next comes Ike and Josephine. Taking a Carribean vacation during the hurricane season is risky. This is our 4th trip and so far we've been lucky.


We always stay at a RiU resort. We have been to Paradise Island in the Bahamas and Ochos Rios in Jamaica. This is our first tip to Negril. Negril is supposed to have the most beautiful sunsets. The RiU has really nice rooms and the staff are very pleasant. They are all inclusive resorts which means food and drinks and some watersports are unlimited. There are bars everywhere. They have several buffets going for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are a few specialty restaurants and maybe a jerk hut on the beach. Watersports are free or maybe a small fee. There is free entertainment at night and activities during the day. All for one set price.


I'm busy getting ready for vacation and making Halloween decorations, potholders, and coasters. It's only 57 days until Halloween. Christmas will be here before you know it.


Today I am making Apple Potholders and Coasters. I got the pattern from Freepatterns.com. I use Lily Sugar and Cream cotton yarn. Cotton yarn is easier to work with and holds it's shape better than the acrylic yarns. Cotton yarn is also better for potholders as it doesn't melt if it gets too hot.


4 more days until Jamaica!!!