Friday, October 24, 2008

A Halloween Pin or Magnet Craft

Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them --
The summer flowers depart --
Sit still -- as all transform'd to stone,
Except your musing heart.

~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

My daughter and I made these easy Halloween pins last weekend, and I wanted to share.

What you'll need:
Craft foam
Sticky back craft foam
hole punch
Glue stick and Elmer's Glue
craft or floral wire
magnets or pin backs

We didn't use patterns, but you can get an idea from the picture. The "dots" were my daughter's idea and worked fantastic. We punched holes out of the sticky back craft foam in orange and black, then we simple removed the paper and placed them on our hats or masks. The hats we cut out of the first color (plain foam), then cut the "brim" to match in black sticky foam. The floral wire was fun to use. We curled it around toothpicks, removed and stuck the ends through the foam to attach. The sequins were from an assorted bag that I had purchased. They glued on easily with the Elmer's glue, but not with the glue stick. After all the designs were finished I placed a heavy book on them for the night and they were ready for pin backs in the morning. The pin backs we purchased last month for less than $2.00. It was an entire bag, so we'll be making more holiday pins for Christmas.

My daughter also made this mask in the same way as the pins, but it's about 6 inches across and we hung it for a decoration. We wrapped the craft wire around pencils for this one.

The sticky back foam was about $4.00 at Walmart for a huge package and it's been money well spent. My daughter used the scraps to decorate drawings she made. She seemed to love cutting out dresses and placing them on her girl drawings the most:)

We also have these easy fall kid crafts on OFL:

I hope you have a lovely fall weekend. ~Brenda

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Halloween Fun for Little Goblins

The snapping of pitch from a burning log,
The faint scent of pine filling the room.
Flames leaping about as if it were a ballet
Performing for its audience.
The soft, comforting glow of candlelight,
Bringing with it serenity and quiet thoughts.
~Linda Christensen

I always love getting different ideas from readers and message board members for Halloween games and activities. This year I'm helping organize the classroom party for my daughter's third grade. We are breaking the kids into groups and having "centers"; one with crafts, one with games and another with food. I'm also putting together a treat bag for each student. I will let you all know when I have everything planned out. In the meantime, here are some neat ideas from our visitors.

Ring Around a Pumpkin - A harvest version of ring toss, it's easy to make this game with a hula hoop and a few pumpkins. Paint point values on the pumpkins - 5, 10, 15,and 25 -and arrange the pumpkins with the highest point value farthest away. Players stand at a starting line and try to toss the hula hoop around a pumpkin. Each kid gets three tries, and the high score wins.

Pumpkin Hunt- Instead of hiding eggs like we do at Easter, we hide mini pumpkins. Let the kids find and decorate them. For the younger children use glue sticks with construction paper cut-outs for decorations. The older kids could use the same, as well as paints, glitter, buttons or whatever you can think of. ~Lina, a long time visitor and friend.

I work in a Retirement Village, and at Halloween, we play a game with the preschool that visits us. All of the seniors sit in a circle, and hold a bowl of candy. The little ones in costume walk around the circle to music and when the music stops, the senior nearest them gives them a treat! The seniors love this, they get to look at the costumes close up. Plus, it gives the children something to do besides be shy! Not all of the seniors give candy, some give stickers, some plastic rings or other small toys. We play this for awhile til all of the kids have a share of treats. Then we have cocoa and cookies, and cap it all off by lighting the jack-o-lanterns the seniors have spent the evening before carving. We turn off the lights, and enjoy it to the fullest, I sometimes read a few poems to set the mood. (Not too creepy, the kids are still small!) Happy Haunting to your little goblins! ~Bunny

On OFL we have a lot of fun ideas for Halloween. Check out our holiday index here:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What To Do About Smelly Towels

May we make wise choices in how and what we harvest,
may earth's weather turn kinder,
may there be enough food for all creatures,
may the diminishing light in our daytime skies
be met by an increasing compassion and tolerance
in our hearts. ~Kathleen Jenks

Today I have a question from a reader on towels that smell "wet", plus the comments I received from other readers.

I was wondering if any of your readers might have a suggestion on how to handle a laundry problem. When I wash my towels and face cloths, now using Tide, (has happened with other brands) after they are dried in the dryer, using no dryer sheets, they seem to have a "damp wet towel smell". I can't get ride of this smell! I've used vinegar in the wash, and also have put baking soda in. I've not used bleach because of the colored towels. I've even boiled the washcloths on the stove top to get out any soap...and believe it or not there is some still in. I have a front load washer and you use less than the normal amount of detergent. ~Carol

From what I've researched you probably have bacteria on the towels, which isn't going away, so they still smell. Try running your washer empty on hot with 1 cup of vinegar, then run again but with 1 cup bleach this time. You can do this on the smallest load setting, but use hot water. After doing this, try washing the towels with the addition of vinegar again and see if it improves. It's also important to not overload the washer and dryer, they really need enough room to circulate properly. I'm guilty of doing this, especially if I'm in a hurry!

If the vinegar and bleach method (don't mix them) doesn't do the trick, check with a plumbing store or hardware and they have products you can run through your washer to get rid of bacteria as well.

Readers' Tips
Carol, the lady with the smelly towels, should let her towels hang outside for a day in the sunshine. If she doesn't have a clothes line she can hang them over a rail of a porch or deck, or over the back of a chair. I had some bathroom rugs that had the worst smell
after I washed them. I tried everything I could think of, and then finally left them out on my deck (over the rail) for a day. They smell wonderful now! ~Linda C., in middle GA

We had the problem of smelly towels and we found the dryer vent line was "full" of lint. We cleaned it out and haven't had a problem since then. ~Gloria

We too have that same problem with our bath towels smelling musty and damp..What I have found is that kids (and adults) toss the towels into the clothes hamper (on the floor) while they are still damp. Thus the damp moldy smell which is just gross and we cant wash it out. The only way I have been able to fix this problem is to hang the towels out on the line and not dry in the dyer. Our other problem is our towels are just getting too old and used for so many years and should be for the rag bag. The rest of our regular laundry doesn't have this problem nor do the newer towels. ~Mary

I moved from Colorado. to Southern Mexico-2 hours from the Guatemalan border. I use an spin agitator washer and centrifuge to do laundry. I've found that when I use a little less soap. Even though I rinse by hand in a huge soapstone tub, I can get the soap out fine, that really helps. Then hang outside on the roof,or inside on the lines strung in the hallway. The open windows let the breeze dry things fairly quickly. If it's too cold for open windows, they air dry fine-usually overnight for my towels. There is no heat here. Even with high humidity, which keeps it cold when the fog insulates us from the sun, things dry. Note: I just did my laundry and realized the other important tip I would pass on is that we only use cold water to wash and rinse. It works for me and costs less than using heated water! ~Charlene, Missionary Gramma

Whenever my towels start to smell musty and every time I wash dish clothes, I pour white vinegar into the wash water with the soap. The vinegar kills the mildew and the vinegar smell rinses out with the rinse cycle. This way I can dry in the drier, especially in the cold winter when hanging on the line is useless. If the mildew is bad, I use hot water and add extra vinegar. ~Anna

I found and have been using a product called ODO-Ban. It's a multi-purpose cleaner, Air freshener and fabric freshener. I had some blankets and a car that had a mildew smell to them. This stuff works- I know that you don't normally tell readers about products and tell of natural ways to remove odors and such but believe me when I say this stuff works. I have bought it at WalMart and at Sam's Club. ~Karen

On OFL we also have tips that we collected on keeping towels soft AND absorbent:


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Olive Oil Herb Blends for Bread

Listen! the wind is rising,and the air is wild with leaves. We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!"- Humbert Wolfe

Today I have another reader's question:

I have been looking for recipes for spice blends to use with olive oil. What I would like to do for gifts this year for Christmas is to paint bottles for olive oil and then include some spice blends for dipping. ~Helen

I found two blends you could use. The only thing I thought of is they would probably be better if the person you gave it to used fresh garlic instead of the powder or granules-- you could give them instructions to use 1 tsp. of fresh, minced garlic along with the oil and the blend if you wish.

Bread Dipping Herb Blend

1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. garlic powder or granules
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

To prepare- mix With:
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon lemon juice

Combine all ingredients, except oil and lemon juice, in a small food processor or grinder. Process and store in a covered container. To serve, combine 1 1/2 tsp. blend to 3 Tbsp. olive oil in a small dish or plate. Dip crusty bread in the oil mixture.

Another bread dipping blend:
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder or granules
6 Tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano Cheese

This is one serving. Mix the ingredients with a small amount of olive oil and a tiny bit of Balsamic vinegar for dipping.

Another idea for homemade herb gifts are herb jellies. We have a how-to article on OFL here:

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Autumn Garden: Four O'Clocks

There comes a time when it cannot be put off any longer. The radio warns of a killing frost coming in the night, and you must say good-by to the garden. You dread it, as you dread saying good-by to any good friend; but the garden waits with its last gifts, and you must go with a bushel basket or big buckets to receive them. ~Rachel Peden

Today we are discussing Four O'Clocks, a wonderful old fashioned heirloom flower. My website visitors send in questions and I answer either with my own experiences or I do a little research. What I love about my readers during these last 5 years is that they always share THEIR experiences even if they differ from mine. I LOVE learning new things, so this is a treat for me, and I hope you as I share in this blog.

What is the best way to store the roots from Four O'Clocks? Some years they *make it* through winter storage and sometimes they don't. I really like planting previous year's roots because you get more robust plants that bloom much earlier than starting from seed. ~Debbie

I've always grown my Four O'Clocks from seed, so this is a neat thing to try. Four-O'Clock, Marvel of Peru, Mirabilis Jalapa, is a perennial in warm climates, but it can't handle the frost. As Debbie mentioned, those of us in colder climates, can dig up the tubers can store them until fall. They should be stored in a dark, dry location either in peat moss or sand-but don't use plastic or any type of container that is closed because they can rot. Use cardboard boxes, and store the tubers between layers of paper. A basement should work fine for storage.

I live in zone 6 in Pennsylvania. My Four O'Clocks have sprung up from seed every year, but only close to the south side of my house. I never bother mulching either. My guess is that the Four O'Clock seeds would survive even in other locations IF you apply a mulch layer over that area (I would try 12 inches of straw).

I thought that I would pass along that we found a package of Four O'Clock seeds from my great grandmother's garden (They had to be at least 25-30 years old) that we planted in Colorado(Zone 4 or 5) and they not only grew, but came back every year with very little(almost none) care. The only thing we ever did was clip off the top of the plants after they had died. Between the seeds and the roots, they came back every year. I think it's wonderful having a piece of living history in the garden. ~Melissa

I have been so proud of the four o' clock seeds I brought from Missouri to southeast Alabama. They started in my cousin's garden in Illinois. After she moved to Arizona, I sent her some seeds and she grew them in her new garden. Mine have been coming back every summer for over 25 years. ~Rose

Four O' Clocks were one of my father's favorites. I live in the Midwest and they grow as annuals. The great thing about them is that you can take the little black seeds off the plant to plant the following year. Each year you will get more and more plants from the seeds. They are a bushy type of plant growing about a foot or more tall. They come in red, pink, white, and yellow. They look great when mixed. The flowers open and close, depending on the time of day. They grow almost in any kind of soil and are pretty hardy. They are worth a try if you never planted them. Put them on your seed list for next year. ~Mrs. B

~Enjoy your fall garden. ~Brenda