Category Archives: DIY Projects

Chocolate Cake with Zinnias

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chocolate cake with edible flowers

Mmmm, chocolate and flowers, what a great combination!

Even though I like to decorate cakes, I still think it’s hard to beat fresh flowers as a cake decoration.

chocolate cake with pink zinnias

I was bringingย  a dessert to my sister’s house, and decided to bake a cake. Typically I like to do some type of piping or ruffles or something on cakes that I bring.

However, I didn’t really have the time to do that, so decided to go with a rough finish and to add some edible flowers just before I left.

I just love the contrast of the bright flowers against the chocolate frosting, don’t you?

easy chocolate cake decorating idea

The edible flowers used as garnish on the cake include: zinnia, Sweet William, orange daylily, and a few yellow mustard blooms as accent. The leaves are from a sweet potato plant. Did you know that they are a yummy edible green for summer?

Oh, and the spiky grass-looking greenery? Yep, just grass. ๐Ÿ™‚

Do you use edible flowers as a garnish in your home? For a picture of a pretty flower-garnished salad, click here.

So next time you have to bring a cake, take it easy and decorate it with flowers! Edible, of course. Stay away from alstroemeria.

Like this idea? Pin it for later!

Quick Christmas Centerpiece Idea

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Quick Christmas Centerpiece Idea

Christmas is tomorrow! Are you ready?

Gifts wrapped? Check.

House cleaned? Check.

Menu planned? Check.

Centerpiece assembled? What?!

If you need a festive centerpiece that will come together quickly and not require another trip to the store, check out this idea.

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It’s festive, quick, and convenient. Here’s the step-by-step instructions (if you need them). I know some of you crafty folks have already looked at it, deconstructed it, and modified it for your color scheme.

Good for you- I’d love for you to share your wonderful creations with me on my facebook page! I love to see how a simple idea can be transformed for different tastes.

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Get some fresh greenery and arrange it in a general bow tie shape. I used some free Christmas tree clippings left from my DIY evergreen wreath.

If you have a fresh tree, you could even snip a few branches from the back. ๐Ÿ™‚ Some of you may just need a field trip to your backyard for some greenery.

If your field trip takes you to your neighbor’s yard; I recommend asking first, plate of cookies in hand. Who could say no to that?

Easy Christmas centerpiece idea

Arrange ornaments and candles among the greenery.

You can just snatch a few ornaments from the back of the tree and impress everybody with how well your centerpiece and tree coordinate. ๐Ÿ™‚

Use unscented candles, preferably. I have a feeling that a Fresh Lilac candle and homemade lasagna would not mix so well.

Also, please exercise common sense when placing the candles near branches. We’re going for fresh here, not fiery!

cheap and easy Christmas wedding centerpiece

Here’s another look for the centerpiece; a bright, natural look.

Now you are ready for your guests!

Remember to pin this idea using the handy-dandy button below so you can remember it for next year. If you still don’t have a wreath, you can make your own with my DIY Evergreen wreath tutorial.

I hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

 

Easy DIY Evergreen Wreath- Tutorial with Pictures

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Easy DIY Evergreen Wreath- Tutorial with Pictures

I love the smell of fresh pine. I also love free stuff. I usually combine both of these loves to make a fresh evergreen wreath each year with the free clippings offered by whoever cuts our tree.

My evergreen wreath is similar to ones valued at $40, but was so cheap for me to make.

This wreath makes a festive addition to a front door or a thoughtful gift for a neighbor.

Time to make an easy wreath!

Supplies:

1. pine clippings (you can get these free for the asking at many home improvement stores)

2. floral wire

3. pruners

4. wire cutters (optional, you can use your pruners just this once- I won’t tell!)

5. decoration of your choice: festive bow, berries, ornaments, etc.

how to make easy Christmas wreath

Start by trimming branches so that you have long boughs without too many offshoots.

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Stack two branches, then secure the wire around them and begin wrapping the wire tightly up the branches.

Add another branch every 8 inches, wrapping them securely with wire as you go. It won’t be very pretty, but this strand will be the base of your wreath.

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When you have the desired length, overlap the ends and wrap them together with the wire. Do not cut the wire yet.

You should have a sturdy base. Again, it may not be pretty, but it is just the foundation of your wreath and will eventually be covered.

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Take more branches and lay them on top of the first, and wrap them as you go around the wreath. Allow more fullness this time, but do not worry about perfect symmetry.

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After the second round, you should have a sturdy wreath ready for final touches.

Cut off little branches and poke them into the wreath where needed for fullness or symmetry. I don’t find the need to wire them into place, as they tend to fit snugly under wires or between branches.

Easy Evergreen Wreath Tutorial

Hang it up, check for bare spots, and trim where needed.

Homemade Christmas wreath with berries idea

Decorations are optional, but fresh berries are classic and are easily tucked into the wreath like the clippings.

easy DIY Christmas wreath with bow

You can also attach a coordinating bow.

Which look do you like best?

I know that I have some super-crafty readers- if you make this wreath, I’d love to see pictures! You can share them on facebook or post a link to your blog in the comments below.

If this seems too daunting, I have a really easy Christmas centerpiece idea coming up for you next!

Remember that you can pin this idea using the button below or share via facebook. Feel free to share this idea with your friends!

Oven-Roasted Pumpkin Puree

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Happy Thanksgiving! I don’t know how your last few weeks have been, but mine have been a whirlwind. Our family experienced the loss of my Grandpa, and then I went back to work teaching. I have had my nose in the books studying alkali metals, valence electrons, tangents, proofs, the cardiovascular system, and graphing inequalities. Whew!

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It has been nice to have a little time off to spend with my family and to play in the kitchen a bit. I thought that it would be silly of me to buy pumpkin puree when I have perfectly nice large pumpkins already at home. Fall decorations will be coming down anyway soon, so why not turn one of them into pumpkin puree? In case you were wondering, those strong muscular hands above belong to my husband.:)

First, slice a side off of the pumpkin and scoop the seeds into a bowl for another use.

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Tilly from Simply Grateful Housewife has an easy way to clean the seeds in her Squeaky-Clean Pumpkin Seeds post.

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I’ll let you read all about it on her site, but I ended up with over 2 cups of clean seeds from my pumpkin!

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Slice the pumpkin, then use a spoon to scrape off any strings or seeds.

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Cut into chunks (do not remove the rind) and sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg if desired.The spice sprinkle was my husband’s idea, and it really made the house smell festive!

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Bakeย on a lightly greased cookie sheet at 375 for 30-40 minutes, or until fork-tender. You will find it quite easy to slice off the rind at this point.

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Puree in small batches. Notice the color is bright and fresh, quite different from canned pumpkin. If you have ever steamed fresh green beans and then compared them to canned green beans, you probably noticed a similar difference in color.

Some say that if you puree a large pumpkin rather than a small pie pumpkin, you will get a watery, stringy product. I did not find this to be true.

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From that one pumpkin I got about 12 cups of puree. Economically, I saved money by making my own fresh puree. The pumpkin cost $6 at a local pumpkin patch. Typically a 15 oz can sells for $1.99; this week you may have seen them on sale for less. Essentially I got 6 cans for $6 each, enjoyed a festive decoration, and I have some pumpkin seeds to play with too! ๐Ÿ˜€

Anybody have a yummy recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds? Feel free to add the link or recipe in the comments!

Homemade pumpkin cheesecake made with oven-roasted pumpkin puree is a much anticipated part ofย  today,ย  a holiday dedicated to gratefulness and enjoying God’s blessings. Happy Thanksgiving!

Painting Pumpkins

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If you are still staring at the pumpkin you purchased for a decoration, and really don’t want to carve it, then watch it deteriorate into a moldy pile of goo; paint it!

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If you use non-toxic paint, you can even convert the pumpkin to homemade pumpkin puree when you switch out the fall decorations for Christmas ornaments.

What do you think? I love this idea; I can have my pumpkin and eat it too!

Mixing Vegetables and Flowers for Winter Color

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My poor flowerbed looks pretty bleak in the winter. After our first frost, not much is green except the day lilies.

So, this fall, I am planning to plant snapdragons in that flowerbed, along with some herbs and leafy vegetables.

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I saw this display of snapdragons and pansies last spring and it sparked a determination to have some of my own. Seeing something like this from my kitchen window would certainly make doing the dishes much more pleasant!

So, right now I’m considering snapdragons and Swiss chard for color, curly kale for green, and potted herbs for structure. Maybe some lime green Bibb lettuce too?

Keeping the herbs in pots also gives me the option of tucking them indoors in case of a nasty freeze.

What do you think? Can you think of any other vegetables or flowers that I should add? What survives the cold for you? I’d love to hear your suggestions and ideas!

How to Propagate Rosemary from Cuttings

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Rosemary-roasted chicken is a wonderful way to start an evening. You can start more rosemary plants from cuttings with a little patience. You can even start your own plant from cuttings purchased from the fresh herb section of a grocery store.You don’t need rooting hormone, just some rosemary cuttings and a pot of compost or potting soil. I mixed a little sand in with the compost for drainage.

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Younger cuttings are best. Strip off all leaves from the bottom 3 inches.

 

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Poke the cuttings into the prepared compost or potting soil.

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Place the cuttings in a shady spot and be sure that the soil is kept moist. It may look a bit sad for a few days, but be patient.

In about 2 weeks, you will start to see new growth.

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Tip the plant out gently to check for root growth. If you see roots, it is a good time to let it get more sunlight.

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How to Propagate Rosemary from Cuttings

You now have a rosemary plant! I hope some roasted rosemary chicken is in your future!

Propagating your plants is a great way to save money in your garden. I have gotten free tomato plants using this method. For more money-saving gardening tips, check out this post.

What do you like to do with rosemary?

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest-Edible Garden!

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Although I did leave my garden for 6 days, I was able to visit another edible garden growing in the beautiful Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest. It was beautiful. The deliberate planning and the creative ideas made for an inspiring visit.

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There were a series of unique planters that caught my eye.

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They were made of straw by their artist in residence, Mei Ling Hom. They were arranged in a RhizoLink. This line of planters was arranged to represent the dits and dashes of Morse code. For more images, click here and here.

Maybe I’ll try to make my own someday. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Here is their greenhouse, with the RhizoLink along the path. Don’t the planters add a nice bit of structural interest?

I love their greenhouse. If I had one that big, I wouldn’t need a regular house.

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I could just put a little cot in the center aisle for sleeping at night.

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The raised beds are at varying heights to accommodate children, the elderly, and those in wheelchairs. Raised beds also provide more control over the growing medium. Some of the beds were made of wood, others of rock. The plants looked quite healthy and I loved looking at all the varieties.

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I’m sure this Faerie Garden is a favorite of the children and young at heart. I think it is a wonderful way to get children interested in growing.

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This compost bin is similar to my compost bins, but is made of logs rather than pallets. The thermometer helps them monitor the temperature.

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I thought that this was a neat way to provide shade, privacy, and color to a front entrance. You could plant a flowering vine(or pole beans!) to climb the string, and some sweet potato vines to spill over the sides. So much inspiration here.

DSCN4654This little garden sign seems to sum up the purpose and goals of Bernheim’s Edible Garden.

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If you ever visit Kentucky, a stop at the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest will be well worth your time. You can also visit their garden timeline. I hope that you were inspired!

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DIY Cucumber Trellis on Privacy Fence

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I have nice neighbors. Not everyone would agree to letting the crazy plant lady next door put a trellis on the privacy fence.

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I ended up using tacks, yarn, and scissors for this project. I also wanted to have a neat grid so I grabbed a tape measure as well. You can also do a helter-skelter version of this; I really don’t think that cucumber vines have a preference. ๐Ÿ™‚

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All you do is push the tacks(small nails or staples will also work) into the fence in whatever shape you want. I chose a grid of rectangles. My rectangles were approximately 3’x1′. The trellis is about 7′ tall.

I really did contemplate using staples and nails, but I could hear music playing on the other side of the fence and I didn’t want to try my neighbor’s patience by banging a zillion times. I may go back, though, and strategically place some staples as insurance. ๐Ÿ™‚

Then, twist the yarn or twine around the tacks(or nails).

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Maybe next year I will do some complicated geometric figure, but this year I am satisfied with a decent-looking grid with some slashes for the cucumber tendrils to grab.

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See? I think they like it.

If the new growth is any indication, the vines seem to really like their new trellis and the additional exposure to sunlight.

Technically, you don’t have to trellis your cucumbers, but a trellis can help keep the vegetables off the ground and lessen the damage due to bugs and moisture.

This project is an inexpensive way to trellis cucumbers. My garden plan changes from year to year, and this trellis can easily be removed if I decide to grow something else near the fence. If I do grow cucumbers here again, I will need to amend the soil with compost to replenish the nutrients.

My dill is growing nicely, and if I can restrain myself from putting it all in my Easy Chicken Salad recipe, I will have plenty for the homemade pickles on my June To-Do List.

Do you have any special cucumber recipes?

Easy DIY Cucumber Trellis

UPDATE: Look at it now! It has climbed to the top and is coming back down! The other day I picked 17 cucumbers off of the vines. They are loving being off the ground and all the warm sunshine. I have made pints and pints of my Amazing Refrigerator Dill Pickles.

Have a Mint? Make another Mint!

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Most of my herbs are for savory dishes, but one of my herbs pairs especially well with sweet. Mint is a wonderful herb to have in your backyard garden. I love to crush a few leaves to release the clean, fresh scent. It makes a refreshing hot tea on its own, and pairs nicely with iced tea, like in my refreshing mint-infused sweet tea. If you have a mint plant, but would like another; or you want to give one to a friend, mint is easy to propagate.

You only need a few cuttings of fresh mint. If you want to start a mint plant for yourself, you can get cuttings from a friend. You could even use cuttings purchased from the fresh herb section of a grocery store.

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mint cuttings

Cut off the leaves so that the bottom few inches are bare. Leaves below the water may begin to rot and create a nasty, smelly situation.

Place the mint stems in water.

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You should begin to see little white roots begin to grow within about two weeks. You may have some that will not root for you, but most should grow roots.

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Once you have multiple roots a few inches long, you can pot them into some of your homemade compost or some purchased potting soil. Leave it in partial shade for a few days to harden it off ( or you can place it on the bottom shelf of your snazzy pallet potting bench).

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You now have another pot of mint for eating or giving!

If you are brave, you can skip the whole rooting in water process and put the cuttings directly in soil. I think it is a bit more risky, but it can save you a bit of effort.

If you make another mint, what would you do with it? Make more tea or give it away?

Have you used this process for another plant? It’s really easy to comment on my blog and I’d love to hear your thoughts!