Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Goodness to Share

I thought today I would share the Halloween fun I've been finding online at all my favorite blogs!

Tip Junkie Our friends over at Tip Junkie have oodles of fantastic Halloween inspiration! Crafts, costumes, food, and anything else you need.

Dabbled: Learn how to make Creep Fingers, and Creepy Halloween Cocktails, plus much more!

Amanda's Crafts: Amanda is the Queen of Crafts in my book and she has SO many cute crafts on her blog for Halloween. Most are recycled and EASY so you can do last minute stuff if need be!

Perhaps you'd like to enter some giveaways, if you are like me and LOVE contests.

Mommies United has some great contests listed. Some expire today but a lot of them are going til next week, so check them out. I've entered most of them!

Isabubu Designs: Maker of Isabooties, which are adorable, is having a big give away! Click on the link and then enter from the main page and you'll see the button for the drawing.

~Happy Halloween, Brenda

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Family Pumpkin Carving

I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion. ~Henry David Thoreau

Each year my husband carves pumpkins with our kids because I am not good with knives, or anything sharp for that matter. I do love taking pictures of them as they design their pumpkins. We don't use patterns, and encourage the kids to be creative. First they draw their designs:

Next the kids lay their drawings on the pumpkins and poke holes through it into the pumpkin, then they cut the design out.

If you have been carving pumpkins for over 30 years then you can freestyle cut a design for your daughter that's too young to do it herself. This year she wanted glasses on her pumpkin face and a smile.

The finished pumpkins turned out great this year. I hope yours do too!

On OFL we have more pumpkin carving tips here:

~Happy carving, Brenda

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fall Fun for the Entire Family

Before the fall leaves have turned brown, be sure to play with them:

-Make leaf rubbings. You'll need very fresh, moist tree leaves or other plant leaves, a hammer, and pieces of muslin. Lay your piece of muslin down on a piece of paper, taping it down around the edges with masking tape. Lay your leaf down on top of the piece of muslin, and place a thin piece of paper over top of it (scrap will do). Pound the leaf with the hammer evenly over the entire leaf. This will transfer the leaf shape and color to the piece of muslin, so make sure to pound it all! Afterwards, you can glue the muslin to a piece of cardboard-framing it with a colorful mat if you wish. Note: I like to put a piece of scrap wood under the paper and cloth before pounding just to make sure it doesn't leave marks on my counter or table.

-Chop your fall leaves up with the lawn mower and use as a free winter mulch for your flower beds and throw some in the compost pile if you have one.

-Stuff a scarecrow with leaves instead of straw. Tie off the ends of the shirt and pants with jute (twine), and make a head of plain muslin-stuff them very tightly and leave a few showing for a fun touch.

~Create centerpieces by lining wicker baskets with leaves and filling with gourds, pine cones and other seedpods, or place a mum plant in a basket and surround with leaves.

-Have the kids gather leaves, and they can make a big collage on a piece of poster board. This won't be a "keeper" art project, but they will have a great time collecting, designing and gluing the leaves. Hang it up for the season, be sure to take a picture for them too.
Slip in some educational fun by having them identify each leaf!


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Home & Hearth: Freezer Tips

Nothing beats a haunted moonlit night on All Hallows Eve.... And on this fatal night, at this witching time, the starless sky laments black and unmoving. The somber hues of an ominous, dark forest are suddenly illuminated under the emerging face of the full moon. ~Kim Elizabeth

Freezing meat to have on hand is almost a necessity when you have a family, and it certainly helps the budget when you buy items on sale and freeze extra for another week. I try not to pay full price for meat by shopping the sales and buying double. You will want to keep your freezer neat and orderly or you will end up losing track of what you have, even in a small freezer. Label everything with the date and the contents.

When you buy meat from the market remove it from the store wrapping and rewrap it before freezing. You can use freezer bags, coated freezer paper, heavy-duty aluminum foil or plastic freezer containers. Make sure the wrapping or container is clean and free from tears or holes. When packing several pieces in one package, place two layers of freezer paper between the pieces. Trim the meat of any fat before freezing-this will help it keep better. Also, if you are freezing meat for stew or soups, remove as many of the bones as you can-this will cut down on space.

Freezing doesn't kill bacteria, nor does it stop spoiling if the meat is not fresh. So, freeze your meat or poultry as soon as possible to avoid problems. Keep the meat and everything that touches it, such as your hands, kitchen items and work surfaces, VERY clean while working with the meat.

Maintain your freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or less,and keep it at a consistent temperature. Do not place items in the freezer until they have cooled off. This will warm up the freezer and could cause problems.

Freeze only the amount of fresh meat or poultry that will freeze within 24 hours-this will work out to be approximately 2 to 3 pounds for each cubic foot of freezer space you have. In other words, don't freeze an entire freezer full of food in one day.

Bacon and cured hams have a short freezer life and they should be used within one month. Freezing is usually not recommended for hot dogs and lunch meats because they can become rather soggy. However I freeze hot dogs and shaved ham for 1 to 2 weeks and they are fine. The ham is a little watery, but it tastes great. I freeze small freezer bags of cubed ham for omelets, pizza toppings and other dishes, plus bags of shaved ham for sandwiches.

Cooked meat that has any type of liquid should not be frozen longer than three months. Frozen ground meat should be used within 3 months also. Pork can be frozen for 6 to 8 months. Beef, lamb, veal or venison will be fine for 8 to 12 months. Fresh poultry will last about 12 months. (Watch for bone-in turkey breasts and young chickens on sale to freeze-these make great crock pot meals!)

Seafood varies; if it's a lean fish it will last about 4-6 months, but if it's a fatty fish like tuna, smelt or swordfish it should be used within 3 months. The same goes for shellfish. Always thaw your frozen meat in the refrigerator or in the microwave before cooking. Do not thaw it on the counter the day you need it.

More on OFL: How to freeze cookies and cookie dough.

~Enjoy the day, Brenda

Monday, October 27, 2008

Herbs 'n Spices: Fall Tidbits

There is something haunting in the light of the moon; it has all the dispassionateness of a disembodied soul, and something of its inconceivable mystery. ~Joseph Conrad

Goldfinches will also eat seeds from many herb plants,including catnip, lemon balm, and coneflowers. Leave those seed heads to dry for the birds.

Next time you boil potatoes try adding 2 minced garlic cloves and a small pinch of ground rosemary. Mash the potatoes as normal for a delicious treat!

Quick Herb Salt

2 Tbsp. kosher salt or sea salt
1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
1/4 tsp. black peppercorns
2 tsp. fresh thyme

Place 1 tablespoon of the salt, the fennel seeds, peppercorns, and thyme in a blender or grinder. Pulse until finely ground. Place in a glass jar (I use empty spice jars). Add the remaining salt. Use this on meats, poultry or fish.

Vanilla Lavender Syrup

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 cups water
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped lavender buds/flowers

Boil the sugar, water, and vanilla bean gently for 5 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and stir in the vanilla extract and lavender. Cool and strain. Use in tea or desserts.

Essential Oil tips: Add 15-20 drops of Rosemary oil and 10-12 drops of Lemon to unscented shampoo as a treatment for dandruff. Baby shampoo will also work. Stir well. Wash hair as usual.

We have more tips on crafting with lavender here on OFL:

I hope your Monday is stress free! ~Brenda