Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Gourds In Glass...A Modern Fall Centerpiece

Have you ever had a project that took a totally different direction
than the one you first intended?  This Fall centerpiece for my 
dining room table seemed to have a mind of its own but I am 
enjoying the more modern look than I originally envisioned. 

In a recent magazine I saw an article about doing small vase
arrangements within larger vases.  That was my original idea
to copy (sorry I looked but can't find the article right now).

After the large vases and apothecary jars came out of the attic
and were waiting to be used on the dining room table, they 
got used on the carport floor as temporary holder/protectors
of some gourds from the farmer's market.  I really liked the 
look of the gourds in the vases.

The glass of the vases seemed to make the gourds more special
 and elevated their status almost into works of art. The look 
reminded me of how objects look more wonderful under a cloche. 

I had not intended on using this large pumpkin that was more
When one of the vases I had gotten down out of the attic 
seemed to mimic its shape almost exactly, it had to be used. 
I'm not thrilled with how this vase-within-a-vase turned out.
When it is time to replace these flowers I will use a lower
 interior vase so that the flowers can be seen better. 

Although my house is more in the traditional vein, I think 
these gourds and little pumpkins inside of the glass vases
would look wonderful in even more modern or contemporary
homes or even for decorations at Fall parties. 

These little flower arrangements got "bumped" from being inside
of a larger vase when the gourds took their spots.  

I love how these stems turned curly as they dried out.

The bottom of this glass bottle is metal and pops off to make
it easy to put objects inside. These flowers are kept fresh by 
having a small piece of oasis-type floral foam on the inside.

This table runner is one of several that were made for a Fall
after-rehearsal dinner several years ago. Table runners add so much
style and color to a table and yet are so easy and cheap to make. 

The backdrop for this Fall centerpiece is an antique hutch that
Paints.  It helped cut down on the amount of wood tones in
this small area that is almost like the foyer of the house. 
If you like the wreath made onto the chandelier, you can see the basic instructions in the post

This is probably the last Fall that the dining room chairs will
be sporting the gold and orange plaid cushions that they came
with. I hope to make flirty neutral-colored skirts for them in 
the coming year. The chairs might get painted too.

Even though I found out that the wooden buffet
 (pictured below) that is also in the dining room
 is not an antique (and is a reproduction from the 1950's
 probably)  I do love its wood and it will stay "as is".

Another plus to the gourds-in-glass-look is that it is that it
is super simple and quick to do while having a stylish look!
Happy Fall Y'all!

I'm sharing this post over at 
A Stroll Thru Life's Inspire Me Tuesday
Elizabeth & Co.'s Be Inspired Link Party
Savvy Southern Style's Wow Us Wednesday
French Country Cottage's Feathered Nest Friday

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Make Your Pumpkins Last Longer

Do you like to buy ornamental pumpkins and gourds to decorate
your home and yard for the Fall season?  Here are some tips to
help make those real and lovely pumpkins you invest in to go
the distance till Thanksgiving (hopefully). 

I could be the poster child for what NOT to do with pumpkins
and gourds that I purchased at my local farmer's market. 

Although I tried to check the pumpkins for flaws before I bought
them, either I missed a spot on this one or it got damaged on 
the way home in the car.  Also I left it outside in the carport for
several days thinking I would get around to using for decorating
in the house.  One day I was shocked to find the pumpkin sitting
in its own decay juice...a gross clean up AND $14 down the drain.

Another "no-no" I committed was to leave the cute little pumpkins
and gourds I purchased in the plastic bags the farmer put them in
for me at the curb market.  They also sat in the carport for several
days like that.  This is what happens when you commit that sin:

Clearly, I needed a pumpkin/gourd intervention.  I looked on the
internet for ways to keep these fruits of Fall last longer.

A couple of the best blog posts I found on this subject were
Embracing Homemaking.  Here is a compilation of those
tips plus a few (retrospective) ideas from me. 

Since I am a nurse, many of the suggestions on how to preserve
a pumpkin/gourd sounded like how to protect a human's skin
from getting an infection...there are many similarities. Think of 
the pumpkin/gourd's shell as its protective barrier much like a
human's skin (the largest organ of a human) is the protector of
our flesh and other organs and "holds everything together". 

In the following text I am going to write "pumpkin" but the same ideas relate to gourds too. 

First of all, when you are looking at pumpkins to purchase, be sure
to check for soft spots and small holes.  Soft spots could mean that
the pumpkin already has started rotting internally. 
Small holes might indicate that the pumpkin has (or has had) 
insect infestation. Stay away from these problems.  Either of 
these issues will mean that the pumpkin will not last very long. 

Also be aware of any nicks, fresh cuts or cracks in the pumpkin's
skin. Any break in the outer layer of the pumpkin is inviting mold
and/or bacteria growth which leads to an early demise. A person's
skin can recover from cuts but a pumpkin's cannot. 

Don't make the mistake (that I have) of after carefully selecting a
pumpkin to let it roll around in the car on the way home. The 
outer shell of the pumpkin can be damaged by YOU after 
it has made the trip from the field to the market unscathed.
Take along cushioning like beach towels, etc. to secure
the pumpkins  for their ride to your house for 
their moment of decorating glory. 

Here are the pumpkins/gourds I have left to work with after
cleaning up the rotten mess I allowed to happen:

The best way to keep a human's skin from getting an infection
holds true for a pumpkin's skin too...keep it clean. 

Wash the pumpkins with an all purpose and/or disinfectant cleaner.

You are removing bacteria and mold spores from the pumpkin's
skin which could cause problems in the future. This also allows
you to recheck the pumpkins for possible problems areas to watch.

Of course, you will be removing visible dirt from the field where
the pumpkin has been growing in this step and also preparing for 
the next important step in prolonging the life of your pumpkin.

      I never knew this before my research but soaking your pumpkins
in a water/bleach bath is very beneficial.  I think I might
 have used more bleach than recommended (an 8-second
 "pour"  of bleach into a water-filled storage container...
the recommended  ratio is 1 part bleach to 10 parts water)
 but it seems no harm done. 

This kills any hard cord bacteria or mold that was not destroyed
 by just wiping down the pumpkins with a cleaner. Soak the 
pumpkins about 30 minutes.  Most of my pumpkins floated so
I rotated them about 15 minutes each side (not exact but about).

For large pumpkins you may need to rotate and flip.

Pat the pumpkins dry when you take them out of the 
water/bleach solution.  Be sure to soak up the solution if it 
gathers/pools at the indentation of where the stem and 
pumpkin meet. Too much of the  water/bleach 
solution sitting on the pumpkin could be a negative.

After being such a bad pumpkin caretaker I tried to mend my 
ways by "babying" the remaining pumpkins.  I was careful not
to nick them with fingernails, I sat them down gently always and
 let them come in the house to dry out on a beach towel. 

Learn from my evil ways and never leave little gourds/pumpkins
in plastic bags. I'm surprized any of the little ones "lived" but 
they did.  Mold was the culprit in taking some of them.  Mold 
needs four things to propogate: mold spores, mold food, warm
temperatures and moisture...all of these were present in the 
plastic bags that I left them in.

  Most mold control strategies consist of a combination of 
reducing moisture and killing and removing active mold growth
colonies.  Keep that in mind in helping to preserve your gourds
and pumpkins and protect them from life-shortening mold. 

Here are the washed and bleached pumpkins "in action' in
my living room along the fireplace/bookcase wall" :

When I saw this unusual bromeliad plant at a nursery, I thought
that it embodied the colors of my Fall decorating this year.  

Lots of green (walls, sofa and Jarrahdale pumpkins) with
off whites (all trim/bookcases, chair/ottoman and white
 pumpkins) with splashes of orange (in rug, pillows, artwork
 and Cinderella pumpkin).
The "One Too Many" pumpkin also has a good mix of these
colors.  One grower of these pumpkins said that she did not 
know why they named it that...she thought there could never
be enough of these pumpkins.  Apparently she does not drink
and know what a blood-shot eyeball looks like the morning
 after one-too-many drinks...bless her heart. 

Above that pumpkin are more survivors.

Sometimes the top of the pumpkin is the most interesting part.
Try turning the pumpkin on its side so folks can see it. 

I love this orange and green Cinderella pumpkin.  It is mixed 
with two not-so-real pumpkins and vines from the woods.

The pumpkins in the chicken wire cages on the top shelf don't
have to worry about mold destroying them either. 

The top shelf of the other bookcase holds green pumpkins
 also on their sides along with a metal angel.

The natural design on the bottom of this peach-colored
 pumpkin was just too interesting to not display.

This multi-colored Cinderella-shaped pumpkin didn't have much
of a stem.  Through engineering and super glue it now has a 
wild and crazy stem/vine grafted onto it.  I didn't want to pierce
the stem even (and maybe allow infection to start) so I glued it on.

The glue was not drying very fast and I got impatient holding it.
I devised a twine holder to keep it steady while the glue dried.

It worked!

The artwork over the mantle is a print-made-to-look-like-painting
that I made last Autumn.  I needed smaller taller gourds to go on
the large candlesticks since the "painting" is large.

A chubbier gourd sits amoung the gathered deer antlers. 

I'm hoping that my clean and disinfected pumpkins (non-cut)
will last all the way through Thanksgiving inside the house. 

A lot of you will be carving real pumpkins.  Of course, this cuts
down on how long they will last dramatically.  I did find an
interesting blog post about making even carved pumpkins last
as long as possible.  They also dipped the carved pumpkin in a
water/bleach solution to inhibit mold with good results. 

The orange more traditional pumpkins that I have bought to use
outside in the yard only cost about $5 each at the grocery store.
I didn't know about the cleaning and bleaching trick when I put
them out.  They will just have to hope for the best. 

I tried growing real pumpkins in these beds but that did not
work out well.  Finally I just bought sweet potato vines to 
simulate pumpkin vines and added the store-bought pumpkins. 

I don't know if these non-coddled pumpkins will last till
Thanksgiving since they are in the heat and weather but they
look like they will make it to Halloween for sure. 

Hope these tips make your pumpkins go the distance too!

I am sharing this post over at 
French Country Cottage's Feathered Nest Friday
The Charm of Home's Home Sweet Home
AKA Design's Weekend Retreat Link Party
Design Dining Diapers' Inspiration Gallery 
Tater Tots and Jello's Link Party Palooza
The Girl Creative's DIY Inspired Link Party
Under The Table and Dreaming's Sunday Showcase
Boogieboard Cottage's Masterpiece Monday


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