Tide Pods Container Crafts: Make a Halloween Luminaire

Tide Pods Halloween Craft

I’d been rolling ideas around in my head since spring about saving and reusing those Tide Pods Containers for Halloween crafts.  They are so obviously pumpkin-shaped,  and with an orange top,  how I could resist.

But then I read warnings against using them as candy containers.  Tide Pods already had a bad rap about kids thinking they were candy. I had to do something, so I came up with this cute luminaire.

This is how to make one:

You will need:

  • Tide Pods or another similar detergent container
  • Black, yellow,  or orange tissue paper
  • Stiff white paper.
  • White crayon or chalk (for tracing on black tissue
  • Scissors
  • X-acto knife
  • Glue that dries clear
  • Solar light or battery operated candle
  • Yellow paper
  • Googly eyes
  • Orange watercolor and brush
  • Black Sharpie

1.  Remove the peel by soaking the container in water (fill the container, too, or it will just bobble). Finish it off with Goof Off.

2. Air dry and then paint it with a wash of thinned watercolor to give it an opaque orange look.

3. Decide on a design.  You can do something simple like bats or a jack-o-lantern. I wanted to do a haunted house with a spooky tree, big moon, and spooky eyes peeping out the door.

4. Cutting shapes from tissue paper lets the light shine through. Make a pattern on stiff white paper. Cut out and trace onto the tissue.  Use an  X-acto knife to cut out windows.

5. Glue on shapes. Use glue that dries clear, and use it sparingly.  Use the black Sharpie to draw the window frames.

6. Glue on eye shapes from yellow paper and add googly eyes.

7.  Add lighting inside. You can use glow sticks, a solar light, or battery-operated tea lights.

Use your Tide Pods Halloween luminaire on the mantel, a patio table, or anywhere!

 

Goldenrod:Weed, Herb,Or Wildflower?

Out in the fields and wastelands, at the edge of the forest and along roadsides, my favorite wildflower is at its peak. The goldenrod is like a wild golden-haired girl who wants to come home. Most think of her as a weed. Perhaps she has been grossly misunderstood.

Goldenrod

Ragweed or Goldenrod

Along about the time goldenrod appears, her nasty cousin ragweed starts spreading her free-blowing pollen causing hay fever among the masses. Some tend to blame their problems on our golden girl when in fact, her pollen is too heavy to become airborne.

The lovely goldenrod has run rampant through the fields and mutated with other weeds or wildflowers to produce numerous species. These species are called invasive in some areas. So what? She’s not the only one. Look at all the different false dandelions that exist all over the world today.

Goldenrod Herb

Many people consider goldenrod to be a health-healing herb. A few animal and test tube studies suggest that goldenrod may help with the following conditions:

  • reducing inflammation
  • relieving muscle spasms
  • fighting infections
  • lowering blood pressure

It has been proven that goldenrod has diuretic properties. Europeans have used it to treat UTIs and kidney stones for years.

Like dandelion, the parts of the plant above the ground can be used for making teas and tinctures. Unlike the dandelion, the roots are not consumed.Goldenrod supplements are available in capsule form. It is recommended that one seeks advice from a doctor or botanical medical expert (could be a pharmacist) before using dandelion supplements. Goldenrod can interact with other herbs and medicines.

Natural Remedies

Although there are no high-quality studies to prove so, goldenrod is thought to have health benefits in the following areas.

  • used topically as a wound healer
  • tuberculosis
  • liver enlargement
  • diabetes
  • hemorrhoids
  • internal bleeding
  • asthma
  • arthritis
  • mouth and throat inflammation

Goldenrod and the Food Web

Lots of different insects and their predators get free room and board with the goldenrod. Some of these insects lay eggs within her. As the eggs hatch, the goldenrod provides incubation for the larvae. A tiny ecosystem is formed that becomes a larger part of the food web.

 

How Goldenrod Benefits the Garden

Birds, bees, butterflies and many other insects visit the goldenrod, helping to spread her heavy pollen. If there are other flowering plants nearby, this animal life will visit them as well. In this way, our golden girl attracts pollinators to the garden.

Goldenrod Flowers Identification

Our golden girl has cross-bred several times over to produce any number of a variety of species in any one local. Because they look so similar, these species have been difficult to isolate and identify. Scientists finally grouped them generally into categories according to shape.

The following chart highlights the general shapes, types, scientific names and a brief description.

 

Goldenrod Classified According to Shape

Shape
Type
Scientific Name
Description
(Plume-shaped)
Canada Goldenrod
Solidago canadenis
9 to 15 flower rays, flowers on upper part of stem
Gray Goldenrod
Solidage nemoralis
slender one-sided plumes, groups of flowers form a crest
Early Goldenrod
juncea
plume-like or elm-like shape, flowering branches curve downward
(Club-shaped)
Stout Goldenrod
Solidago squarrosa
10-16 flower rays, flowerhead is narrow
Bog Goldenrod
Solidago uliginosa Nuttall
long,broad cluster of flowers, likes moist woodlands
(Flat topped)
Grass-leaved Goldenrod
Solidago graminifolia & Euthamia graminifolia
flowers grow in clusters, grass-like leaves on stems
Houghton Goldenrod
Solidago houtonil
umbrella-shaped head that is flat-topped
Ohio Goldenrod
Solidago ohioenis
large umbrella-shaped head massive tiny yellow flowers
Uplands White Goldenrod
Solidago ptarmicoides
white flowers 1 cm wide 10-25 ray flowers per head
(Wand-shaped)
Erect Goldenrod
Solidago Erecta
long, slender stem
Downy Goldenrod
Solidago pubuula
tiny hairs on stems and leaves
Ontario Goldenrod
Solidago simplex
ray and disk florets, sticky flowers, found on shores of Lake Huron
Blue-stemmed Goldenrod
Solidago caesia
scattered clusters in leaf axile, smooth purplish stem
(Elm branched)
Rough-stemmed Goldenrod
Solidago rugosa Miller
scaly stems, elm-branched with clusters of flowers

Goldenrod in the Garden


Now that we know all the benefits of goldenrod, perhaps it is time to bring her in from the wilds and tame her for our gardens. Goldenrod will attract pollinators to our winter gardens of kale, lettuces and other greens.Goldenrod is hardy growing in zones 2-8. they propagate by both the spreading of seeds and the spreading of underground rhizomes. A variety of goldenrod seeds are available for purchasing on-line to make growing goldenrod in the garden more convenient.

Plant seeds in flats in spring or summer. Make sure that they are exposed to plenty of sunlight. Goldenrod will look especially good growing alongside purple salvia and assorted asters.

The goldenrod’s stiff stems make her a lovely addition to cut flower arrangements.These arrangements are sustainable, practical and inexpensive. They are great for all those fall events from luncheons to weddings.

Ode To The Morning Glory

This summer I let a little swatch of lawn at the edge of the backyard get a bit out of control. Well, okay, way out of control. But now I am glad I did. The weeds offer a barrier, a sort of natural privacy fence. I’m a sort of lover of weeds, if you may. I love flowers that grow in the wild like Queen Anne’s lace and goldenrod.

So I was delighted when bunches of colorful ones sprang up on my neglected lawn. They were morning glories and I was amazed at the colors and variegations, so I took photos, wrote a bit of prose and did some research on the common morning glory.

Ode To The Morning Glory

I can always count on your pretty face to grace the day’s beginning.

Your soul unfurls wide open,

No secrets to hide,

To embrace each morning, no matter how misty.

As the sun climbs high you seem to disappear

All shriveled, faded and spent.

But you’re still there.

The cool darkness nourishes your soul with dew

You rest

And I see you again the next morning.

Facts About Morning Glories

  • Morning glories bloom in the early morning and then fade and curl up a few hours later.
  • Cultivars have been developed and seeds are available to grow them in gardens.
  • In the Australian bushland, morning glories grow dense with thick roots and are seriously invasive.
  • Some species of morning glories were used in ancient China for medicinal purposes.
  • Mesoamerican civilizations used one species of morning glory along with other plants to produce rubber.
  • Aztec priests used the morning glory’s hallucinogenic properties.
  • One species is used as a vegetable in culinary dishes in East and Southeast Asia.
  • The Japanese were the first to develop cultivars for morning glories.
  • One species known as moonflower blooms at dusk instead of the morning.

Pretty Pink with White Throat

 

White tinged with dark purple

White tinged with pale pink

Powder Blue

Bright Orange with Yellow Throat

Royal Purple with Dark Purple

False Dandelions: Free Food Source?

Catsear False Dandelion

Will the real Dandelion please stand up?

I have been betrayed by the weeds on my lawn. They are impostors. Catsear, one of several False Dandelions, impersonate Dandelions so well that everyone I know calls them Dandelions and seem to “have never heard of Catsear.”

I found out about Catsear, and other False Dandelions when hundreds of them sprang up on lawns, fields and road sides after recent Spring rainy days. I thought they looked rather pretty, even though my lawn was in bad need of a good mow. And didn’t I hear somewhere that dandelions were very nutritious and have some healing benefits? Knowing they would only last as long as the mower blades were silent I decided to investigate. That’s when I learned about Catsear and false dandelions.

Question: Can Catsear and other false dandelions be consumed for the same health benefits as dandelions?

Benefits of Dandelions

Not only do dandelions have nutritional and medicinal qualities they also make good garden companions The longish taproot brings up nutrients for shallower rooted plants. Dandelions add nitrogen to the soil and attract pollinating insects to the garden.

Dandelion leaves are loaded with vitamins A, K and C, calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium. They have long been used as a folk remedy for liver and kidney problems and high blood pressure. Dandelions are a natural diuretic and are safer than other diuretics because they add potassium back that we lose through water elimination.

What is Catsear?

Catsear are perennials and will shoot up and bloom every Spring and Summer. They are native to some places in Europe and are introduced, or invasive In the United States. Catsear is found from the southeast north to New Jersey and westward to Mississippi. As with dandelions and other false dandelions, the seeds of Catsear are dispersed on a breeze and can travel far.

Those who wish to eliminate Catsear from the lawn can do so by using lime and nitrogen fertilizers for healthier grass. Healthier grass will discourage the growth of Catsear. There are also herbicides available that will eradicate them.

False Dandelion Types

Common Name
Scientific Name
Characteristics
Location
Catsear
Hypocaeris Radicata
Tall stems, basal rosette, hairy leaves
Southeastern United States, west to Mississippi, North to New Jersey
Texas Dandelion
Pyrrhopappus Caroliniaus
Deeply lobed and hairy leaves, distinguish from Catsear by purple middle
Eastern United States
Smooth Catsear
Hypocaeris Glabra
Smooth leaves, less bitter
Souteastern & Northeastern U.S. Western U.S, parts of Canada
Mountain Dandelion
Agoseris Glauca
waxy leaves, basal but not rosette
Western United States & Canada
Hawksbeard, Elegant & Narrowleaf
Crepis, Crepis Tectorum
Has both basal rosette and hairy leaves on stem, annual, not perenniel
Northern Hemispjhere, Tropical Africa, invasive in Northeastern U.S. & Canada
Autumn Hawkbit, Fall Dandelion
Leontondon Autumnalis
Resembles Catsear, flowers reddish underneath, appear June-October
Parts of Europe, Great Britian, Ireland

Ways To Eat Dandelions, False Dandelions

Add freshly washed leaves to garden salads

  • Make dandelion tea from the flowers
  • Make dandelion wine from the flowers
  • boil or saute leaves and eat like spinach
  • use the leaves in stir fries
  • Make into a batter with flour, onions, spices and a little milk to fry in a healthy oil

Are False Dandelions Edible?

To eat or not to eat…..that is the question. I am 99.9 percent sure that my “imposters” are Catsear. Although I found overwhelming support that Catsear is safe to eat I am not going to munch on my weeds. There is evidence that invasive weeds can mutate. In the state of Washington, False Dandelions are listed as noxious weeds. Best practices for weed eating is to consult an expert.

The possibility of insecticides or other chemicals in the soil is another reason to take care in eating weeds. Never eat weeds from an area that has been treated within in the past two years.

While I definitively would like the health benefits these weeds may offer, I am going to order Dandelion seeds, Taraxacum Officinale to plant in my garden. Then I know what I am eating is safe, and my garden will benefit as well.

Using Acorns, Seeds, Pods And Pine Cones In Fall Decor

Fall Decorating Using Acorns Seed Pods and Pine Cone

I love the rustic feel and colors of Autumn. All the pine cones, seeds, and seed pods signify the end of the growing season. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and textures that can make some interesting crafts. Use them as part of flower arrangements or in Fall crafts such as a sustainable pine cone and nut wreath.

As I was walking down the path on another one of my walks for inspiration by nature for unique ideas, I was hit on the head with a round object. Ping, Kerplink. Ping, Kerplunk. Acorns were falling to the ground from the tall oak trees.

And like Sir Issac Newton and the Apple, bright ideas started popping up (or rather down in this case). I noticed that the acorns were well – pretty. That got me to thinking about what I could do with those acorns. From there, the search for acorns, seeds, pods and pine cones began!

 

Acorns Galore

5671028_f248

The acorn is the fruit of the oak tree. Oak trees are very common and grow just about anywhere any tree will grow. Identifying an acorn as belonging to any one particular type of oak tree would be a daunting task.

I was not going to try to be a botanist on this walk but rather look for the fattest, juiciest looking acorns for our decorations. Those squirrels and other critters can wait, I will give them back later. Maybe. The squirrels have sabotaged the late tomatoes and early pecans.

Seeds and Seed Pods

 

Seeds grow new plants that look like the parent plant. Remember learning that in second-grade science? A coconut is the seed of a palm tree. It is only dispersed by a floating river. They are too heavy for animals’ furs to transport, and I doubt there is any creature that would eat one whole and thus disperse it through the digestive system. (Which is what birds do when they sometimes miss and hit your windshield). Hickory nuts, black walnuts, pecans, and chestnuts are abundant in the Southeastern United States. Once again, I did not try to match and identify. I found a lot of seeds and pods that are eye-catching.

More Seeds and Seed Pods

5673397_f260

Various holly trees and bushes produce berries (seeds) of brilliant orange and red. I found that magnolias can produce some interesting seed pods. Some shiny red seeds inside have popped out and can be used in my creation. Some of the pods didn’t make it to maturity to produce seeds. They have fallen none-the-less, and will add variety to my collection. Many of the larger pods still have some seeds in them, giving them a festive look.

Painful but Pretty

5673977_f260

Sweetgum balls and the hulls of chestnuts could add great texture to my display.They can be painful to touch but are pretty to look at.They remind me of porcupines. I suppose that is the way they protect themselves from too many squirrels and chipmunks.I wanted to add chestnuts to my growing collection. I noticed they are much more scarce than the empty seed pods. Where ever you live, just walk and think about how you can display any seed and seed pods that you find in an arrangement.

Pine Cones for Fall and Winter Holidays

Conifers are evergreen trees that produce seeds in a cone-shaped seed pod. Hemlock, cedar, and different pine varieties produce cones in different shapes and sizes.Pine cones have long been used in holiday decorations. Folks wrap them up prettily in bags along with long matches for gifts. Small pine cones, nut shells, small nuts and dried berries provide a natural filler for potpourri making.

Fall and Winter Holidays wouldn’t quite be the same without some nice large pine cones. The kids turn them into turkeys, and the parents use them to stoke a fire. Pine cones provide us with plenty of free,sustainable material to create some lovely and inexpensive holiday decorations.

They can be displayed in baskets ,glass containers, or as surrounding a candle. Use them naturally or spray with gold or silver spray paint. Dab essential oil on them to add aroma.

Displaying My Finds

5673985_f520

I decided the best way to show off my collection of acorns, seeds, seed pods and pine cones was to put them all in a glass container. I was pleased with the arrangement. All the shapes, sizes, and textures worked together to create a rustic looking arrangement. I added a plaid ribbon at the bottom (sans a bow) to add a touch of class. I am thinking about using it as my Thanksgiving Holiday table arrangement paired with autumn candles in miniature pumpkins or perhaps long white tapers in glass candlesticks for a more elegant look. Then after dinner, I will scatter them around outdoors so those squirrels can continue to stock up for winter. I will forgive them for the tomatoes and pecans. Besides, there are still plenty of pine cones left to start using for my Country Christmas decorating!

 

 

 

Use A Real Pumpkin As A Planter For Fall Flowers

The Season of the Pumpkin

Pumpkins are a big part of fall and the end-of-the-year holidays from jack-o-lanterns to pumpkin pies. All around town this time of year, you can find pumpkin-flavored coffee, pumpkin ice cream and all sorts of pumpkin treats. You see them stacked by scarecrows and hay bales on lawns.

Here’s a cool idea for using pumpkins. Make a pumpkin planter for some of your fall flowers such as pansies, violas, mums and ornamental kale and cabbages. Hollow out a large pumpkin just as you would for making a jack-o-lantern. Drill a few holes in the bottom for drainage. Fill will a good potting soil mixture and plant your fall plants.

Now you can enjoy your chilly weather-loving plants on the patio table or on your doorstep throughout the season. Then, depending on the growing zone you live in, plant the whole thing in the winter container garden or elsewhere. The pumpkin will then decompose, making rich soil.

How to Turn a Pumpkin into a Planter

 

  1. Choose a medium to large pumpkin.
  2. Decide what plants to use.
  3. Cut the top off the pumpkin, a little wider than for a jack-o-lantern
  4. Scrape the insides out thoroughly.
  5. Drill a few holes in the bottom for drainage.
  6. Fill it about three-quarters full with a good soil mix.
  7. Arrange plants and plant them.
  8. Fill in around them with more soil.
  9. Water sparingly.

You can personalize your pumpkin planter by choosing white or green pumpkins. Use a combination of plants or simply plant a pot of mums in a large pumpkin.

Tip: If you want your pumpkin planter to last longer, scrape it out very thoroughly and coat the inside of it with petroleum jelly. Break up some charcoal briquettes and add an inch to the bottom. This way, the pumpkin will last a couple of weeks.

Plants for your Pumpkin Planter

Here are a few suggestions for what to add to your pumpkin planter. These plants can thrive outdoors and withstand frost.

  • Ornamental pepper
  • Purple Kale
  • Green Kale
  • Pansies
  • Variegated vinca
  • Black-eyed susan
  • Ornamental cabbages
  • Violas
  • Swiss Chard

Some Popular Choices for Fall Flower Gardens

Pansies

8464703_f496

Pansies are colorful annuals that are great for the garden all year in zones 4 to 8. They come in a lot of different colors. They like full sun. Pansies can be started in the spring from seeds. Start them indoors 6 to 8 weeks before they can be planted outdoors. Water them regularly and use an all purpose fertilizer on them.

Mums

8464704_f496

Mums, or chrysanthemums as they are sometimes called come in a variety of colors and sizes. These plants are perennials in zones 5-9. Fall mums sold as annuals are very inexpensive and worth the price even though they won’t bloom again next year. They come in pretty rustic colors like deep gold and burgundy. You can also get white, pink, yellow and lavender ones. They like at least 5 hours of full sun. Water and fertilize regularly.

Ornamental Cabbages and Kale

8464708_f496

Ornamental cabbages and kale go great in the fall garden alongside mums and pansies. They can withstand temperature drops to 15 to 20 degrees, making them excellent choices for zones 5 to 7. If you are going to experience 20 degree nights for more than a day or so, they will need to be covered with perhaps a sheet.

Can you eat ornamental cabbages and kale? Yes, but they are not very tender and they are not as tasty as the others.

Swiss Chard

8464711_f496

Swiss chard is grown more for its tasty health benefits for salads more than it is for ornamental purposes. But its green and purple curly leaves make it attractive to use in flower gardens. For the prettiest and freshest Swiss chard, grow your own starting in spring. Then you will have Swiss chard for salads and gourmet cooking until a hard freeze. Not to mention green and purple beauty for your fall flower garden.

Other Possible Pumpkin Planter

There are so many cool ways to use pumpkin planters. I want to do a green pumpkin with burgundy-colored mums. I also want to do a gourmet cooking one with peppers and Swiss chard. Think up your own cool pumpkin planter idea this fall! This project was a lot of fun!

DIY Rustic Flower Vase

Rustic Flower Arrangements

All of those lovely wildflowers we find in the woods and wastelands, spring, summer, and fall make delightful (and free) arrangements to enjoy for entertaining, weddings, and any special event. They are also nice to have around in the house or out on the porch or patio.

A DIY rustic flower vase compliments those wildflowers nicely. And the best part is, they are fun to make, not to mention a good way to reuse and recycle.

Wine bottles, mason jars, baskets, and other containers are popular items to use for DIY wildflower arrangements .

Here is another idea for a rustic DIY flower vase. It’s pretty, easy to do, and totally rustic. All you need is a big empty coffee can, hot glue, acrylic paint, and a raffia or burlap ribbon.

DIY Rustic Flower Vase

Gather twigs and prune them roughly to  the size of the coffee can.

013

Paint the coffee can brown with spray paint. 

014

When the paint drys, glue the twigs around the can.

020

Add a burlap or raffia bow, and you have a classy looking rustic DIY vase!

007

DIY Arrangements Using Fall Wildflowers

 

Simple Beautiful Wildflower Arrangments

6968205_f520

A stroll through a park, meadow or forest is a wonderful way to unwind and get in touch with the cycle of life. Blue skies and vibrant colors on an autumn will inspire you to spice up your traditional decor this year with your imagination and what you find on your walks.

The daily grind of life often smothers our creative thinking process. Creativity is often defined as using resources available to you to produce original material and ideas. While it is resourceful to use other people’s ideas, you can gain self-satisfaction from seeing your own ideas come to life.

If you live in an area with a variety of deciduous trees that change color, collect some pretty ones and take a close-up look. You will see that most are spotted, two-toned or have a “tie-dyed” look. Take a bag with you so you can pick up the best specimens. I’ll bet you can come up with a creative way to display them. Just remember that if you are going to use them in an arrangement they will dry and crumble in a day or two so be prepared to show your display right away.

Goldenrod is a prevalent wild lower across North America that showcases in the Fall. There are several varieties, and they take the rap for aggravating allergies when it is actually ragweed that is the bad guy.

<  

Using Goldenrod in Arrangements

7215170_f520

A big bouquet of goldenrod alone in a glass container makes a tasteful centerpiece. Add a ribbon of Autumn colors or designs if desired. Depending on the region where you live, the fields are rich with an assortment of Fall wildflowers. Finding and identifying them can be a fun activity as well.

Be creative as you look around your particular region. I found that leftover blackberries dried on a fading vine added interest to my bouquets along with some yellowing wild grapevine. Learn to include what is indigenous to your region.

After your walk, look around your home for glass vases, old watering cans, and other containers to creatively display your finds. Acorns seed pods, red berries, small pine cones and other natural objects can be placed in glass jars to display.

Fall Art Projects

7333911_f520

When I was a child we pressed our leaves between sheets of wax paper with a warm iron to help preserve them. Nowadays we can take this process a step further with clear Contact brand plastic sheeting. A great project to do with kids is to create leaf place mats for Thanksgiving.

 

Other ideas for preserved leaves include mobiles or sun catchers. Follow directions for making a mobile and use your leaf cut-outs. Purchase small suction cups at a craft store and glue to your leaf cut-outs for some unique suncatchers. How impressed your guests will be to see real leaves as sun catchers in a sunny window!

8034663_f520

Be Creative,Be Green

7258316_f496

What I have attempted to relate by sharing my projects is that by opening up to the natural resources around us we can help our creative juices flow. I have often found it satisfying to use others’ ideas as a springboard to come up with personalized projects.My projects will not look exactly like theirs because I have used my own resources. And unlike plastic decorations, natural items are mostly free and always a sustainable choice. Being a good steward to Earth is one more thing to feel good about. Happy Autumn!

You may also like this idea for a simple, sustainable wreath.

 

What To Do With Tomatoes: Sliced Diced Stewed And Dried

 

What to do with all those tomatoes

Summer in the south just wouldn’t be the same without juicy, vine-ripened tomatoes. They are quite possibly the most versatile fruit from the garden. (Yes, they are a fruit, not a vegetable). Growing your own tomatoes is a great way to stretch your food budget both summer and winter. Enjoy them fresh all summer all the way until fall’s first frost.

Savor the flavor of a BLT sandwich made with fresh sliced tomatoes and a tall glass of sweet iced tea.

Dice them along with other veggies for a delightful garden salad,or cold pasta salad.

Slice green ones for a platter of fried green tomatoes, a southern delicacy that inspired a Hollywood hit movie.

Can stewed tomatoes in jars for delicious soups and sauces next winter.

Learn to make sun dried tomatoes that will add a gourmet touch to recipes.

Canned or frozen tomatoes can be used in many dishes all winter. An added bonus is the nutritional value in tomatoes. They are a truly nutritious food. Loaded with vitamin C, and the antioxidants lycopene and zeaxanthin, tomatoes help fight skin cancer and eye disease.

Growing tomatoes can be challenging at times, but fairly easy if you follow a few tricks and tips. Try using the tips on growing tomatoes at the end of this article for growing your next crop. Chances are, you too will be wondering what to do with all those tomatoes!

What to do with sliced tomatoes

6918532_f260

One of my favorite ways of using sliced tomatoes is making fried green tomatoes, a dish that has risen from country simplicity to gourmet goodness. Use tomatoes that are green in color upon ripeness, or true green, unripe ones. Slice them about a quarter of an inch thick. Spread the slices out on paper towels and salt them down with kosher salt. Let them sit for about half an hour. This helps remove the water from the tomato slices.

Meanwhile, beat a couple of eggs with a dollop of milk, in a bowl with a fork. Set up a breading station near the stove with a bowl of flour and cornmeal in separate bowls. Add some cayenne pepper to the cornmeal. Heat an eighth of an inch of oil with a pat of butter on medium heat. Right when the butter begins to sizzle, dip each tomato slice in flour first, then the egg mixture, and finally the cornmeal. Use a fork to do this. Fry the slices until golden brown, turning once. Serve these tangy tomato slices with a sauce made of mayonnaise, pickle relish, and hot sauce. This is a delicious appetizer!

What to do with diced tomatoes

6922027_f520

 

Create a classic tossed side salad for a main meal with diced tomatoes, lettuce, and other Summer garden veggies. Make a huge one when grilling out. It’s the only side dish you will need! Learn to grow a few varieties of lettuces, or pick heads of lettuce up cheaply at a produce stand.

Diced tomatoes can be used in cold pasta salads and quick, hot stir-fries. Toss tuna or chicken with pasta, diced tomatoes, squashes and cucumbers, peppers, and whatever other fresh goodies you might have with salad dressing, and make a unique pasta salad for dinner. A little olive oil, a saute pan or wok, chicken or beef strips, diced tomatoes and other Summer veggies is an inexpensive stir-fry for another night!

6924509_f260

Make bruschetta, another great appetizer or party food with finely diced tomatoes, garlic, onions and fresh chopped basil. I use Roma and Golden Boy tomatoes for greater color. If you have leftover hot dog or hamburger buns, use those to save money. Slice the buns at a slant for visual interest. Otherwise used sliced Italian bread. Top the slices with olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and a mixture of the tomatoes and herbs. I like sprinkling the tops with more Parmesan cheese and toasting in a low broiler for 15-20 minutes. This gives the ingredients a chance to weld together. Watch out that it doesn’t burn!. This is an easy and inexpensive appetizer.

Preserving tomatoes for winter cooking

6922096_f260

Tomatoes can be preserved for Wwnter cooking, saving dollars off of your grocery bill. There are methods for freezing, canning and drying tomatoes.

Freezing is the messiest, but fairly easy, and well worth being able to avoid paying high prices for less flavorful hothouse tomatoes all winter.  The freezing of tomatoes involves blanching them to easily remove the skins and cores. Tomatoes are dropped into hot, boiling water for just seconds. Take care not to begin a cooking process. That is the tricky part. The hot tomatoes are dropped immediately into cold water, causing the skins to split open for easy removal. The core is removed with a knife, and the tomato flesh is then vacuum sealed in Ziplock bags.

Unless you have a lot of freezer space, such as a stand-alone chest-type freezer, canning or drying tomatoes may be the best option.  See this article describing canning stewed tomatoes  How To Can Stewed Tomatoes-Recipe. Again, the tomatoes are blanched and the peeled, cored tomatoes are processed in jars sterilized in the dishwasher.

Tomatoes can be dried in the sun or in a food dehydrator. Sun dried tomatoes are popular in gourmet dishes. They can also be reconstituted for use in sauces by covering them with boiling water and letting them sit for 30 minutes. The water can also be used in the sauces.

Dry tomatoes in the sun by covering with metal screens or cheese cloth. Bring them in at night, and with a few days in the sun, you can have real sun dried tomatoes. Store them for reconstitution or for use in recipes. A food dehydrator is a better way to go if you have one. It is less trouble and faster. Slice tomatoes about one-quarter inch thick. Sprinkle each layer for the food dehydrator with kosher salt. Leave the dehydrator plugged in for about 10 hours.

Recipes using sun dried tomatoes

6933773_f520

Add a gourmet touch to cooking with sun dried tomatoes or tomatoes dried in a food hydra-tor. Pricey at the supermarket, dried homegrown tomatoes can save money. Make a Greek pizza by topping pizza crust with tomato sauce, feta cheese, dried tomatoes and black olives. Or try the angel hair pasta with sun-dried tomatoes recipe.

 

Ingredients
  • 8 ounces dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta, cooked
  • 1teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon parsley, fresh (chopped) or dried
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add the chopped dried tomatoes, parsley and garlic. Saute quickly.
  3. Top hot pasta with the dried tomato, herb and olive oil mixture and sprinkle on Parmesan cheese generously.

Tips for growing tomatoes

6925390_f260

  • start seeds indoors for early tomatoes
  • plant seeds or seedlings after a frost-free date
  • get seedlings from a local nursery to get the best for your area
  • get varieties that mature at different times, early Summer to late Fall.
  • mulch and fertilize with 10-10-10 fertilizer after planting
  • use soil that has been “worked”
  • plant where the tomatoes can get at least 6 hours of sun
  • make sure the tomatoes stay watered
  • fertilizer every 3-4 weeks with household plant food
  • provide a stake or cage for support

 

How To Use Seashells In Home Decor

Using Seashells in Home Decor

Are you looking for some new and different home decorating ideas? Try incorporating seashells into your decor. Seashells are natural sustainable decorating items and will add a nautical touch to your home. A trip to the beach is not necessary to get seashells. Order them online.

Sea shells are of course free from the beach and inexpensive elsewhere. I like to mix the common ones that I find at the beach with  more exotic ones sold in specialty shops. Hot glue guns and glue sticks work very well when “shelling” mirrors that you perhaps bought at a yard sale or thrift shop. Glass containers, fill-able glass lamps and baskets will help display shells.Below are some ideas to get you started on crafts with seashells. Incorporate nautical beachside creations into your home decor.

Please remember the less is best rule when applying any theme in decorating. Let your shell creations be a part of a nautical decor or simply have your shell decor blend into a bigger scheme of things.

Make a Shell Garden

5938099_f260

For a lovely shell garden simply choose a tall glass container and arrange shells. Start with smaller shells at the bottom and then alternate with small and larger shells. Play around with them until you achieve the look you like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make a Seashell Lamp

5933697_f260

Purchase a fill-able glass based lamp and follow the same procedure as with the shell garden.Then add the shade and Voila! You have a lovely nautical table lamp.

 

 

 

 

Seashell Mirrors

5933742_f520

 

Oval Shelled Mirror

 

This shelled mirror looks much harder to make than it actually is. Just be sure to plan it out before gluing the shells with the hot glue. Use smaller shells to fill in gaps around the bigger shells. Plan for a special grouping for the top and the bottom. Here a starfish is the “star” attraction.

Go here for step-by-step instructions on shelling a mirror.

You may wish to make a smaller one like the one below to gain some experience first in shelling a mirror. The rectangular mirror on the smaller one is 30 inches x 22 inches.

Rectangular Shelled Mirror

5938137_f520

Make your first shelled mirror project with a smaller mirror. Notice the grouping in the top middle (oysters shells) and the spiral shells in the corners.

The idea is to create a focal grouping on the top and bottom of the mirror and then follow a sort of pattern down the sides.

Other Seashell Decor Ideas

5933767_f520

Add a nautical look to a window sill or shelf with large scallop shells, starfish, and a sand dollar. Fish figurines complete the nautical look for this bathroom window.

5938206_f260

 

Make a garland of shells and starfish to string across a window. Use twine such as that used for wrapping packages. Most shells have a “natural hole” in them to help you with your stringing.Or if necessary use a Dremel tool for boring a small hole. From southernliving.com

5938254_f260

Anchor a pretty peachy pink candle in a glass container with lots of small and medium shells. Lots of cowry shells are included in this cluster. Use any small to medium shells for grouping. From Do It Yourself.com