Thursday, October 16, 2014

Making a Pine Cone Wreath

My hydrangea's are dry.  I wrote about drying them a few weeks ago.

When they are dry, I usually remove the old flowers from the vases and replace them with the newly dried flowers.   Then I take the old ones outside to my grapevine wreath.  I just stick them in anywhere in the wreath to get a final use out of them during the fall season.  As fall draws to a close and winter sets in, I take them out of the wreath and put them in the compost pile.  One hydrangea blossom gets a lot of use.

This year as I was decorating for fall, I remembered one of my past projects.  When my daughters were young, we didn't have social media or computers or cell phones.  They didn't watch TV from morning to night.  They played with friends and used their imagination.  We often did projects together.  I remember a project we did in the fall with my friend Judy.  It was a fun activity.  We made pine cone wreaths.  To start with we would go on adventures to find the pine cones.  We liked looking for all different kinds and shapes of cones.  We would separate them into the different types.  It was an inexpensive activity.  The only thing we had to purchase was the wire ring and some wire on a spool.  I imagine I have a picture of one of those wreaths somewhere, but I have no idea where.  I decided to recreate one of those wreaths this year.  I didn't have my partners out in the woods collecting cones, but I had fun searching by myself.  I discovered I had every kind of cone I needed right on our own property.  I guess I knew I would make another wreath some day because I kept one wire ring.  I moved it to Princeton, and it has been sitting in the garage waiting for me for twelve years.

After sorting the pine cones into long, round, small, large and the ones that need to be thrown away, I started shoving them into the wire ring.  First all around the outside and then the inside.

When that is accomplished it is time to fill in the spaces.  I usually wire a cluster of two or three cones together and start anywhere on the wreath.  I put the wire through, pull it tight and secure it in the back.  I sometimes wrap the wire around some of the cones that are only held in by tension.  I shake the whole thing when I'm finished to make sure nothing falls out.  If it does, I just put it back and secure it better.

  I work my way around, filling in as I go.

Pine cones make pretty rosettes if they are cut apart.

It's starting to take shape. 

The last step in the process is to glue small cones, acorns, walnuts or chestnuts in all the gaps.  I use a glue gun.  It's fun to walk around the yard to find things.  I was very disappointed this year because it is an off year for the oak trees.  I couldn't find any acorns this year.  Some years we have so many that we can hear them bouncing off the roof.  I had to use what I had.   We brought back some gum tree pods from South Carolina.  I am going to glue some of those on this wreath.  When everything is in place, flatten all the wires in the back and tuck them in.  Attach another piece of wire to form a hanger.  Sometimes I spray the final wreath with clear varnish.  If it is going to hang outside, that is a good idea.  Otherwise, the rustic look works well too.  Now I have to find a place to hang this one.

Check out this blog for fun things to make.<p class=”alignnone” title=”Featured on”><a href=”” target=”_blank” rel=”attachment wp-att-26915″><img class=”aligncenter wp-image-26915″ title=”Featured on” src=”” alt=”Featured on” width=”200″ height=”200″ /></a></p>

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Different Technique For Browning Ground Beef

I'm not posting a recipe today.  Instead I want to talk about a technique I use for browning hamburger.  Years ago, whenever I would buy hamburger on sale, I would freeze it in one pound packages.  Then I would have to thaw the meat on the counter or thaw in the microwave which resulted in cooked meat on the outside with a frozen center.  If I wanted to make a recipe with browned hamburger in a hurry, this didn't work very well.  Soon I discovered that if you fry out the whole package of beef and freeze it, a meal can be made in minutes.  So many recipes use browned hamburger.  Frying in a frying pan works fine, but you have to stand by the stove and tend to it until it is ready.  If the heat is too high, the grease splatters and makes the stove a mess.  My daughter told me that she uses another technique.  I have been doing it every since.

The first thing you do is get out your slow cooker.   Put the raw ground beef into the cold cooker.   I also add a chopped onion.   I usually do three to ten pounds of meat at a time.  Turn the slow cooker on high and chop up the meat a little.  Put the cover on and go about your business.  No need to add any water.  Then about every hour give it a little chop and stir.  After about three or four hours, depending on the amount of meat, the meat is crumbly and perfect for any recipe.  I drain the meat in a colander to get out the excess water and fat.

When the meat is cooled and drained, I divide it into one or two cup containers and put the containers in the freezer.  Then if you get home late and need a quick meal, the meat is all ready.  It thaws very quickly.  I wrote about making meatballs and meatloaf ahead of time in a previous blog, but this method of browning the meat works very well.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Lovely Walk On The Trail

 Today was an awesome day in Wisconsin.  I usually don't like Sunday, but today had all the elements of a perfect day.  The weather was sunny and warm with a cool touch of fall in the air.  Those of us in Wisconsin love our Green Bay Packers, and they won their football game in the last few seconds.  We took a walk on a bike trail that used to be an old railroad bed.  It was so pretty.  Every now and then a runner or bicycle rider would pass by.  We even discovered that we were in an area of the trail where there were some geocaches that we hadn't found yet. 

The colors are past peak in this area but still pretty.  

The leaves have frozen off but the wild grapes remain on the stems.

I think these are chokecherries.  If they are, I'm surprised they are still there.

A couple catepillars including a wooly catepillar.

The only downside to the day was that we walked too far in one direction not thinking about the fact we had to walk back the same distance.  We hadn't brought water and we were hungry, but we remedied that situation as soon as we arrived home.  Now on to my next project.  I will blog about that in the next few days.