Friday, October 31, 2008

More Good Things to Make with Autumn Leaves

Framed Botanical

I just love this one! It's one of the favorite projects that I told you I would be posting. I haven't even finished the one that I expect to be my favorite, but it is begun. I think maybe tomorrow, I have to cut a sheet of glass. In the meantime, back to the framed botanical, I am very happy with the distressed frame (from Target). I think it gives the completed project the perfect aged look. The "scientific label" is a tea stained and ironed index card, cut down and outlined with a sepia felt tip pen. I think the photo corners are entirely optional, don't you?

My Grandma just giggles at the things she's caught me ironing this week.

Gift Tag

Scientific/Botanical Tray

I saw this method on a Martha Stewart program. The leaf is ironed onto the white stock, which is...believe it or not, a cardboard milk carton. Wash the empty (naturally) carton out, and dry it. This would look great if you cut it with scalloped scissors like she did. You will place your pressed leaf or flower on the waxed card (the inside of the carton, where there is no printing), cover it with a cotton, silk or linen fabric, and iron it for 10 to 20 seconds with a hot, dry iron; then carefully peel the fabric away while the item is still very warm. The weave of the fabric may be slightly noticeable, so you may want to make note of that and line the weave up squarely. This is really optional. You will want to affix your newly mounted leaf onto another card. Double-stick adhesive tape works wonderfully. Then embellish as you like! This is the same process that I used for the bookmark in another post. You probably wouldn't want to leave it long term in a valuable tome because of pH issues, but it is sooo lovely for a reading copy!

Go out and make wonderful memories! The world is your oyster!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Oatmeal Cookies

Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
(from the Quaker Oats package)

1/2 pound (2 sticks) margarine, or butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar*
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
3 cups Quaker Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1 cup raisins

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees (F).
2. Beat together margarine and sugars until creamy.
3. Add eggs and vanilla, beat well.
4. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well.
5. Stir in oats and raisins; mix well.
6. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.
7. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.
8. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet; remove to wire rack.
Makes about 4 dozen cookies

*In place of brown/white sugar, I used 1-1/2 cups white sugar, and 1/8 cup molasses. It seems to require another 1/2 cup of oats, but you know how real cream ice cream feels on your tongue? That's how smooth it is with the molasses. Go ahead! Try! NOW, it's officially Autumn! Love!

My "Limberlost"

Well, I live in California, so it's technically along the Stanislaus River, but anyone who has ever read Freckles, by Gene Stratton Porter, knows how I can imagine this is the path that Freckles took.

Lovely Things to Make with Autumn Leaves

Collage for framing

Greeting Card


Scrapbook page

I'm having trouble getting a good photo of that card...I'll keep trying, and two of my favorite projects still need tweaking. . . more later! Love!

How to Preserve Autumn Leaves

I searched the web for hours and found only one site that gave similar instructions. I knew this procedure existed so, as I am usually inclined, I dove in. My thought was that leaves are easily replaceable....if I ruin them, there are more! First I tried Liquid Amber leaves, from my neighbors yard, just in case. Even in California these trees have the most beautiful Fall colors, and it worked. First try! So here you go. These photos though, are wild grape leaves.

Collect fresh fallen leaves that are still soft and supple. I snipped off thick stems.

Place between two paper towels, on top of a pad of newspaper, on an ironing surface. You won't want the leaves to overlap.
Heat iron to it's highest setting, and turn the steam off. You want a hot and dry iron.

Press (on top of the paper towel) from about a minute to five minutes, checking occasionally to test for dryness. When you feel that they are almost right, flip them over, and iron the other side.

Next, pull of a sheet of regular kitchen waxed paper, twice the length that you need. Fold it in half and crease it down the center. Place it on top of a paper towel, place the leaves inside, fold the top half of the sheet over the leaves, add another paper towel, and press for 20 or 30 seconds. Turn the whole assemblage over, and press for 10 or 20 seconds, (we're just trying to get the wax onto the leaves, here). Pull the waxed paper apart while it's still warm, and remove the leaves. I repeated this step twice, because in my Internet search, several people mentioned that waxed paper isn't as heavily waxed as it used to be.

Voila! You have preserved Autumn Leaves for decorating!
I don't know how long they'll last, I only did it yesterday, but I know that this is a time honored practice. I have spoken to a few people (specifically, my 98 year old Grandmother) who remember that this was done. Grandma says, people used to do a lot of things like this. They didn't have any money, and beautification projects like this were free. The discussion included yo-yo quilts, and a paper decoration called a wasp's nest, which I am going to have her demonstrate for me again this week, and maybe I can show you. (crossed fingers, here) She says that her Mama always made wasp's nests out of wrapping paper, which, I think means, from the grocer, so think craft paper, tissue paper, or maybe butcher paper. . . maybe all three!
In a couple of days, I hope to show you the uses I found for my collection of incredible colored leaves, in spite of our climate!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wondrous Sights

I brought a feather home from my walk today. I pressed it between the pages of my notebook. I took a notebook because everyday I want to write things down. I want to remember exact directions to the sandbar where the mammals feed and leave evidence, for Zach so his little scientist can examine the "scientific". Here are those notes:

"I saw an Antlion clearing his sand trap, but he finished quickly before I could pinpoint this miniature scene in the viewfinder. I had really wanted a video. I'll try again tomorrow." Then I took a picture of the tree where they lay in wait to make it easier for Zach to find the spot.

"While shooting a picture of grapevines overhead, growing across the path, forming a natural arbor, a little Goldfinch stopped by to taste the dried grapes. He didn't seem to mind that I was taking his picture! In fact, he almost appeared to pose for me!"

"Today, I can barely walk a few yards without golden leaves fluttering to the ground, swirling all around me. And the acorns. . . there are places on the path that I have to step carefully lest the sheer number of them cause me to slip!"

I found a nest! Somebody told me once. . . about a walk in the woods where she repeatedly happened upon the most wondrous sights! She said, "It was like God was taking his little girl for a walk. He said, 'Look over here now, I have something wonderful for you to see.' "

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Preserving Moments

A lot of years ago, visiting a friend, I was very interested, okay, I was as excited as a little child, that she had decorated her home with the most beautifully colored, preserved Autumn leaves. It seems that she had a precious Grandmother, living in Boston, who sent her a fresh collection every year! Can you imagine receiving an envelope overflowing with freshly preserved Autumn leaves? How sweet!

Living in California's Central Valley, we're not accustomed to a lot of Fall color. Our climate is too temperate, our trees, well, suffice it to say that tourists aren't making treks here to view the Fall Colors. Spring blossoms in our agricultural community, now that's another thing, altogether!

My friend (Jacqueline) explained to me that her Grandmother had ironed the leaves between sheets of waxed paper to preserve them. . . for the season at least, I suppose.

Yesterday, while enjoying an article about decorating with Autumn leaves in my November issue of Country Living Magazine, I recalled that visit from so many years ago. I haven't seen Jacqueline in years, she married and moved away, I miss those visits. But. . . anyway, her Grandmother must have been a kindred spirit ~ she collected beautiful leaves~ preserved them, and then she mailed them across the country to her beloved Granddaughter, so that Jacqueline might enjoy Boston's Autumn Bounty. I just can't get over that. It is so precious, and sweet. . . . . so thoughtful and gentle. Do you know what I mean? I have been thinking about this for years since that day at Jacqueline's house and wanting to do it, preserve the leaves. It's a simple enough idea, but you know how we forget sometimes to do those little things that aren't important at all, but after we do them, it seems that they were awfully important after all for all the pleasure they bring. I'm pretty sure that I'm on a mission to bring those things back into my life. I have gotten to be rather practical, and those who know me, know that isn't me at all!

. . . so I closed my magazine, gathered supplies, and drove to the river where I thought I would have the best chance of collecting beautifully colored leaves. I packed Grandma's antique picnic basket and a camera. I hiked along the river for about a mile or so. As I walked, I collected bits and scraps...beautiful leaves, acorns for the boys, and especially lots of acorn caps . . .and a feather or two. (I can't help myself!) There weren't a lot of leaves on the ground yet, I suppose it's too early, but I managed to fill the basket with green and gold oak leaves, yellow cottonwood leaves, and the most beautiful red wild grape leaves. I want to pick up more of those, they preserved so beautifully!

That evening, while searching for instructions for this type of preservation, I pressed the leaves in a sketch book lest they dry and crumple up overnight. I felt really good about this. I stopped at the grocery on my way home, and bought two children's sketch pads, for this use. The paper was somewhat similar to blotter paper that would be used for flower or leaf pressing, and it was very available, and even inexpensive! And it worked. . .besides that it pre-pressed the leaves for me, the paper wicked a lot of the moisture from them. . . . maybe this should be considered an integral part of the process. . . hmmm.

Most of the instructions that I was able to find, meant for the leaves to stay between the sheets of waxed paper, a common children's craft. Do you remember when we made construction paper frames for these little masterpieces and proudly carried them home to Mother? She would hang them in the window at Thanksgiving. (long pause, while I take a moment to become a child again, and smell them Autumn on my way home from school. . . and picture the artworks hung in the front picture window. . .sigh. . .)

I hoped to preserve individual leaves for, well, for whatever use I pleased! So I undertook to figure out how it was done. Tomorrow I hope to post pictures and instructions of the process. Then, maybe later in the week, I can show you what I have done with them. I am very happy with the outcome!

Right now, I'm off to take a walk along the river. It will be my third day in a row. It is so lovely, and it smells so nice, and there are no dogs barking at me through the fences, a few birds complaining, maybe, as I invade their territory and maybe they'll accept me as a guest after a few more days. We will have Winter weather soon enough, so I want to take my walks while the weather is pleasant and mild. . . .and I can enjoy this very, very pleasant tranquility that I have found. . . for a few more days.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Favorite Materials

I bought a few unusual little trinkets from cOveTableCuriOsitiEs, on etsy. I received a lot more than I paid for when I viewed the seller's profile. On etsy, you see, most items offered for sale are handmade art, or the materials for such. A member has the opportunity to state their favorite materials in their profile. Her's read as follows:

Favorite Materials: imagination, determination, serenity, optimism, awe.

Isn't that just about perfect? I had never before thought to put into words the way that I try to approach my life, and now there is no longer even a need to try. Funny, isn't it? Why don't we ever think of it? I mean, I have a lot of words that I try to live by, and somehow, this succinctly encompasses most. I don't know whether she originally meant it to mean so much as it does to me. Probably, though. I know a little more about her now. We have corresponded a few times and she seems a thoroughly thoughtful and charming person. I told her I was making something unique for my Grandsons, something for them to just happen upon, like finding small treasures. She wrote back to tell me about her special Grandmothers, both gone now, and how wonderful were their impressions on her life. She had several suggestions for me, as she recalled her lovely Grandmothers and the way they touched her life. They were truly wonderful, and she knew she was loved. Isn't that the way we want our loved ones to feel after we're gone? Her suggestions were especially about memory making, and she's right, you know. No matter how much we live in the moment and cherish this very minute, we sometimes only exist and we forget for even just a moment that everything we say and do has the opportunity to really mean something, something unusually special and wonderful.

My hope in writing this is that my newfound words will mean something to you and will somehow enrich your daily walk, your relationships, your art, your life.... too.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I'm having a moment

A picture through the window screen.

I am enjoying a cup of tea . . . it's late morning and I have a hundred things to do. . . important things that must be accomplished today! But. . .

There are little house finches dining at my bird feeder. It is so still and quiet here this morning that, through the open window I can hear their contented little chirps. I can hear the rustle of their feathers as they fly to and fro. I can hear the seeds pop in their strong little beaks. Teenie, tiny, soft little pops.

Isn't that the sweetest thing?

How long, do you suppose, I can nurse this cup of tea?