How to Sugar Fruit for Decorations

I like to decorate with nature during the holidays. It can be surprisingly elegant!
Frosted fruit on a glass pedestal
surrounded by candles makes an
elegant dining table Christmas centerpiece
I like to frost fruit, evergreens and laurel leaves to place in garlands on my mantel and centerpieces in the dining room. It's very easy to do, and so beautiful. Here's how...

I like to add dried hydrangeas and votive candles in mercury glass holders among the sugared fruit. Try frosting the fruit on a wreath; I've done it after the fruit was on the wreath and it turned out great!

Sugared fruit ready for decorating
There is nothing as satisfying as making a homemade Christmas. From decor to food, it is from the heart and makes the holiday season memorable.
One of my  many feather trees placed throughout the home

From our family to yours,

Candy Cane Crafts

I love decorating my kitchen with Christmas sweets during the holidays; garlands of cutout cookies, mason jars lined up, filled with red and green candies, and bottle brush trees on the side board with foil candy kisses all around. There are also plenty of nostalgic candy canes to make their way into kitchen decorations and cups of hot chocolate. I found the following cute ways to use candy canes. My nieces and nephews will like some of these! 
(Click on the description to go to the links that tell how to make all of these goodies)
Candy Cane Reindeer
Candy cane sleighs

Candy cane white chocolate climbers
Candy cane, marshmallow and chocolate kiss snowmen
Candy cane theme decorations

Rice Crispy Cookie pops
Snowball pops
Candy Cane Cake
Yummy Cupcakes
Christmas dessert table by Amanda's Parties to Go

Quiet Days of Winter

"Snow Nancy" and "Snow Glen"
The first hard freeze is here this week, firmly closing the door on autumn and kick-starting winter. Last weekend I scurried to cover the root crops, ready the well house and mulch the perennials. Containers were placed into the protection of our porches and fountains were covered to keep ice at bay.
Our home covered in a blanket of snow
One night in the 20's and autumn was rushed off the stage. Now, the temps fight to reach above freezing during the day and are in the low teens at night. The wind chill places temps below zero...ouch! The pond is completely iced over and our walks are on forest floors that crunch from heaved, frozen ground.
icicles decorate our eaves
Today was our first snowfall of the season, so we made a huge pot of homemade chili and are ready to snuggle in the sunroom as we watch the flakes fall.
A winter wonderland just outside our door
The hustle of the holidays turns my attention away from gardening, but my love of all things garden-y make their way even into the decorating. Donning my winter garb, I have a hot drink in one hand and pruners in the other as Cotton (our yellow lab) and I stroll down our woodland paths. I cut berries, pines and sprigs of boxwood. How satisfying to walk with God in the crisp, clean air on such beautiful mornings!
Even my Christmas decorations are all
things "nature and garden-y"
Time for cutout cookies and hot cocoa. 
Happy holidaying!

Easy, Wonderfully Scented Cinnamon Cutouts

The Thanksgiving turkey hasn't been completely devoured, yet I'm ready for Christmas decorating! 

Forget fighting the crowds at the mall, I'm gathering holly, pines, dry hydrangea blossoms and rose hips from our woods to start putting the jolly into my holiday.
My favorite oldies-but-goodies carols are loaded on the iPod and I'm ready to make home smell as wonderful as it feels. I make these cinnamon ornaments every year. 
So many uses...add jute or a ribbon (I like torn fabric) and hang them on the tree or garland, put them in a wreath, add them to a gift bow or toss them in potpourri. Place them anywhere you want a homespun look with the smell of cinnamon.
You can paint them with white "puffy 3-d" paint from the craft store if you want them to look like gingerbread.
Have fun making these and enjoy the scent of the season for weeks!

Home Sweet Home

These last two months have been filled with trials and, yet, blessings through it all. My husband, with severe illness and that terrible disease everyone dreads...cancer... has been in the hospital more than he has been home. I've spent many nights on a cot next to his hospital bed. Then, when he is stable, I return home to take care of business and Cotton, our yellow lab.
Coming home is a luxury which neither of us will ever take for granted again. First, Cotton and I get to return home and then, in God's time, Glen returns home maybe a week or so later. Right now, many capable doctors and nurses are making Glen well enough to return home to us once again; and hopefully soon!
Meanwhile, life goes on around us. The trees on our property greet us in vivid color this year. 
We had ample rain (record rain, actually!) in September and sunny days in October that made the trees fluorescent orange, red and gold.
While hours of waiting during surgeries, tests and in hospital rooms, I decided to make another tea towel. This one says it all...

Here is the pattern, if you want to embroider one. 

Click on the picture above, print it and trace onto your towel. I used three strands of embroidery floss, with either an outline or stem stitch. It's great when you want to relax by the TV, with music or beside a loved one.

From Cotton and I, have a happy day, count your blessings and give a loved one a hug!

"Lots-of-Apples" Apple Cake

It's that apple time of year. We have six varieties of apples in our little orchard, and as you gardeners know, just one apple tree harvest is more than a small family can use. We collect apple recipes, with three requirements: tasty, somewhat healthy and uses a lot of apples. This recipe, borrowed from an employee at my favorite local nursery, "Al's of Sherwood," fits all three requirements. We have a fire in the wood stove  gentle music in the background, and apple scent throughout our home; what a wonderful way to celebrate fall and the end of a bountiful harvest!
Fresh Apple Cake

This cake uses fresh apples and is baked in a sugared pan. It has so much flavor it doesn't need frosting!


2 eggs (slightly beaten)
1 cup vegetable oil
½ cup apple sauce, (no sugar added)
3 cups chopped apples, (skins removed)
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 cups flour
The secret to making this cake really moist is not to over-mix the ingredients, just stir until blended.


Combine eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla.

In separate bowl whisk the dry ingredients: salt, soda, flour and cinnamon together (the whisk works like a sifter, but easier.)

Slowly add dry ingredients to egg mixture. Stir slightly until blended. Add chopped apples, and nuts if desired.

To sugar the pan pour a small spoonful of vegetable oil in 9 by 13 inch pan. Use a paper towel to spread oil around sides and bottom of pan to lightly coat. You don’t need much oil. Pour 1/8 cup sugar into pan and shake to coat pan lightly with sugar, (shake out what doesn’t stick to pan.)

Pour dough into pan and bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick comes out clean.

Happy Harvest From Our Garden to Yours

Welcome Fall!

Canadian Geese called out to us as they flew overhead Saturday, telling us that autumn has arrived. Our seasons here in the northwest corner of Oregon usually arrive right on the scheduled calendar day, and this fall is no exception. 
As much as I love gardening, I'm happy that the vegetable garden is waning. Our freezer and pantry is full. Not much is left to preserve except the apples, figs and persimmons. I think I'll can applesauce this weekend and, of course, make a delectable apple pie. 
We are still getting a lot of heirloom tomatoes!
We still are picking tomatoes, cucumbers and squash. We diligently pick the tomatoes before cool, damp evenings split them. 
Glen is learning to cook and made these delicious cinnamon zucchini breads on Sunday. The house smelled heavenly. I'm not going to mind sharing the kitchen with him at all!
Heavenly blue morning glory on one of our trellises.
Speaking of heavenly, the flowers have received renewed vitality with the cool showers. I'm enjoying every bloom before the frost chases them away, which is usually the first part of November for us. 

I'm painting for two calls for art this week...both for holiday. It's the perfect week to play some old timey music, burn the spiced pumpkin candle and paint Christmas joy. 

I hope that you, my dear reader and friend, will enjoy this first week of autumn, too.
Autumn Days are Here Again!

Hot Chocolate Fabric

I just received a nice delivery. My new fabric collection, "Hot Chocolate," just arrived on my doorstep and in shops across the country. Hot chocolate season will soon be here, so now is the time to make some fun items with this new fabric!
I see some nice quilt squares from this!
 I'm partial to this collection for a couple of reasons. 
First, I love hot chocolate; plain, with marshmallows, or gourmet with decadent flavorings...especially mint chocolate. 
Stick a candy cane in my cup of cocoa and I'm happy!
Borders . . with a vintage feel
 Second, the vintage labels have the names of some people close to me: Barbara Ann's Homemade Marshmallows (mom,) Grandma Mabel's Cocoa (grandma,) Mercedes German Hot Chocolate (my other grandma,) and the list goes on. 
 I plan to make a fun lap quilt and matching pillow for cuddling with a cup of hot chocolate by the fire this winter. 
The fabric, which has twelve coordinating designs and an apron panel to the collection, is by Wilmington Fabrics and sold in many independent quilt shops and also online. 
Here are a couple of links if you would like to purchase this fabric online:
Fat Quarter Shop
Hancocks of Paducah
Craft Town Fabrics
Sew. . . grab a cup of hot chocolate and quilt away!

End of Summer Getaway

Soon it will be "back to school time;" children dressed in colorful rain slicks waiting at the bus stop by our home, pumpkins on porches and crisp autumn leaves covering the woodland floor. I see signs of an early fall here.
The blueberry bushes and Japanese Maples already have a tinge of red and the pumpkins are ready for their debut.  
Pretty... but I love our summers and am always sad to see them go. 
Newport, Oregon
We decided that it was time to take a trip to the beach not far from where we live for one last summer getaway. It was just what the doctor ordered for hectic lives.

19 years of blessings

Headed out to sea near Newport, Oregon
We celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary deep sea fishing, and the rest of the time was spent on long walks and lingering gazes at the beauty of the sea.

Throwing the crab pots overboard.
Newport is Dungeness crab capitol of the world!
We are headed home with a cooler filled with fish and our minds and bodies refreshed.
And, as much as I don't want summer to end, I love autumn, too, and am looking forward to all that wonderful season will bring.

Back to painting pumpkins!