Fall Centerpiece: Pile of Pumpkins

Yesterday was the hottest day EVER. Literally. It was a record shattering 113 degrees in Los Angeles. It was the hottest day on record since they started taking records, way back in 1877! So, what am I thinking about in all of this blistering, record breaking heat? Pumpkins. Yup, still on that pumpkin kick.

In the floral section of the grocery store I spotted a display of fall decor - gourds, mums and perfect little pumpkins. I just had to take some home. I bought a few tiny pumpkins and a branch full of preserved fall leaves. I don't love the idea of fake foliage, but I knew I wouldn't come across any real fall leaves around here, so these would have to do. If you have real leaves at home that's even better -- and I'm really jealous  -- did I mention that it's 113 degrees here?!

Anyway, back to the pumpkins. These little guys were just begging to be displayed, but lining them up on the table felt tired, predictable. Instead, how about a pile of pumpkins? I grabbed a tall glass vase and dropped them in, alternating them with the fall leaves. Presto - pretty fall centerpiece for less than five dollars!


Pumpkin Brownies

Last week I was craving all things pumpkin, but I didn't want to go through the trouble of making a crust and baking a whole pie. I wanted an instant pumpkin fix. So, I searched the pantry and found a box of brownie mix. Mmmm.... rich chocolate, spicy pumpkin - this could be a match made in heaven. And, did I mention easy? This recipe comes together in no time, no baking skills needed.

Start with brownie mix, add pumpkin --  create fall euphoria.


Oh, hello Fall

first fall leaves, in Vermont

Yesterday was the official first day of Fall, although you wouldn't know it in Los Angeles. It's supposed to be 83 degrees today, but I ordered my Pumpkin Spice Latte hot, in defiance.

I love the fall. It's hands down my favorite season and, sadly, it's a season that could be completely overlooked in Los Angeles. There are no embankments of orange and red leaves to tromp through in boots. You will never wake up to the sweet, earthy-thick smell of damp leaves on a rainy morning. You won't look in the mirror and find your cheeks turned the perfect shade of cherry by the cold.
Fall in the North is vibrant, sharp, and clear --  here it's like a dull ache.

But, before I get too Fall-sick, here are a few things I will be doing to embrace the fall here in sunny Los Angeles:
* Eating pumpkin flavored anything -- recipes coming soon!
* Turning on the fireplace
yes, I said "turning on" -- it's a gas fireplace. I know, what can I say? This is LA.
* Cooking stewy, saucy, comfort foods
* Wearing boots, even in 80 degree weather.
* Buying tart, crisp apples at the farmers market
* Snuggling up with a good book
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, can't wait to dive in
* Fall crafting, because it makes me happy.


Frightful Felt Jack-O-Lantern

As a crafter I'm always trying to find new ways to re-purpose containers. Things like cans, cereal boxes and milk cartons could become a million different things with a little glue and craft paper. This becomes a problem when my craft closet starts to look like a recycling station, but I hate to let useful things go to waste. 

I had been eyeing an empty mixed-nuts container for a week or two. It's a great shape, perfect size, nice and sturdy. I knew I could do something with it. Finally, a bit of Halloween inspiration hit and here it is -- my mixed-nut container turned felt Jack-O-Lantern.

This no-carve Jack-O-Lantern could be made out of any cylinder container you have lying around - an oatmeal tub or coffee can would work just fine. Store the felt features inside and change your Jack-O-Lantern's expression to suit your mood. 


U-Pick Apples

One of my favorite fall activities is apple picking. When I lived in Western Massachusetts there seemed to be a U-pick sign at every intersection. They're a little harder to find now that I live in Los Angeles. So, instead of heading to the orchard, I decided to bring the apple picking fun home.

This magnet game is adorable and easy to make, and it even has baskets for hauling your load. It's not quite the same as a day at the farm, but it's a fun fall activity for a rainy day.

Craft how-to and apple picking game instructions after the jump.


Preschool Art: Fall Fingerprint Tree

Here's a bit of fall fun for the preschool crowd. This handprint tree with thumbprint leaves is simple for preschoolers to make themselves. It can get a bit messy, but that's part of the fun. Follow the photo tutorial to create your own fall foliage.


Framed Cupcake Felt Board

This project is just too sweet to pass up. Use an old photo frame to create a felt board and let little "bakers" get creative designing their own cupcake creations. The fun with felt boards is that you can remove the felt pieces and rebuild your cupcakes over and over again. Make clouds of pastel frosting, cheerful cherry toppers and colorful cupcake liners from felt scraps.
An artful cupcake would make great bedroom decor. Just stand the frame on a shelf and admire your sweet design.

Here's what you'll need to make a Felty Framed Cupcake:


Classic Cheese Balls

Over the weekend we had friends over for dinner. I love planning a menu, but I felt like I was stuck in an appetizer rut. My go-to party food is a cheese plate, but how could I make it a bit more interesting?

I decided to replace my usual wedge of Brie with an all-American classic -- cheese balls. Yes, cheese balls - those softball sized masses of creamy, cheesy who-knows-what that grandma serves at Christmas.
And, guess what? They were delicious. So yummy in fact that I may have to kick that boring old block of cheddar to the curb.

Thanks to the queen of entertaining herself Martha Stewart, I have a recipe for a great cheese ball base that's very easily adaptable. I made a few tweaks of my own, used some really fresh ingredients, and I'm officially a cheese ball fan.

The best part of this recipe is that it's so easy for kids to help prepare. Forming the cheese into a ball and rolling it in the toppings is a perfect activity for preschool chefs. Plus, kids are more likely to taste the foods that they help make - so grab the kids and get rolling.


Game Day Banner

Football season kicks off this week, and for football fans, that's huge. For me, it's just another sign of the fall. I'm not a huge sports fan, but for some reason I'm feeling in the spirit this season and thought I would try my hand at some football crafting. Football crafting...hmmm... is that an oxymoron?

This banner is a fun decoration if you're hosting a football party, or cute bedroom decor for a little football fan. Swap the red and blue for your team's colors and customize it with your team's name.


First Day Ribbons

I have a really vivid memory of starting the 3rd grade. It was a BIG deal. On the first day of school I was excited to be one of the "old" kids at my k-3rd elementary school. I was going to have class on the 3rd floor - the top floor, and I was wearing my brand new (very cool) neon green and aqua blue culotte* outfit.

* If you don't know what culottes are, chances are you weren't a child of the 80's. Or, maybe, you actually managed to dodge that fashion bullet. If you want a mental picture think baggy knee-length shorts that look something like a skirt. In a word - awesome.

Point is -- going back to school is a big deal, and every new year is a milestone that deserves some recognition. These first day ribbons are a fun way to celebrate. Pin one on for first day pictures or sneak one into your child's backpack to let her know how proud you are. Paper, glue and ribbon, simple -- now go make some!