Pine Cones

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On a recent trip up to Wisconsin I collected a large number of pine cones from the woods around the cottage.  Before bringing them inside the house a very important step to take is de-bugging the cones!  Pine cones are a nice home for little bugs that can then run wild in your home.  De-bugging your pine cones is easy and there are several ways to go about it.  I used a soaking method instead of baking them in the oven, I just imagined the gas oven catching the pine cones on fire and burning down the entire condo building…you’re welcome neighbors.

What you will need:

– 1 large bucket

– 2-3 gallons of warm water

– 1 cup of household ammonia (I’ve seen vinegar be used before, if you don’t want to use ammonia)

– Newspaper

– Large plastic bin to hold cones for drying

– Pine cones

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Directions:

1. Start by putting 1 cup of household ammonia into the large bucket and filling 1/2 way with at least 2 gallons of warm water.

2. Pull out needles and dirt as able before putting all the pine cones into the ammonia water, fill up as needed with warm water to cover the cones.

3. The cones will float, so make sure to mix up occasionally or use a heavy bucket on top to submerge cones as able.

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4. Allow the cones to soak for about an hour, then rinse well with water.

5. Next you want to lay the cones out in the large plastic bin lined with newspaper.  I brought the cones inside at this point to dry, otherwise I was afraid they would get new bugs in them while drying outside.

2013-10-07 18.50.11The cool thing about pine cones is that they close up when they are wet then open back up when they are dry.  So when you are picking pine cones don’t be afraid to grab the ones that aren’t open, they will open up once they are clean and dry.  I found a bunch of really little pine cones that I’m excited to use in a small centerpiece or two this winter.

Variations: 

-White Cones- you can soak in bleach water instead of ammonia water, you need to let them soak longer (like 8-10 hours) before rinsing.

– Shiney Cones- after de-bugging spraying with a clear polyurethane spray and let dry as recommended on spray can.

– Glitter Cones- after de-bugging you can decorate the cones with glue and glitter, a fun craft project for little kiddos!

Gourd Centerpiece

Entertaining is about more than just the company, just the food, or just the celebratory event itself.  As I get older and have friends over for dinner or host a party, I try to make it more of a special event rather than a last minute occasion.  To truly entertain I like to go above and beyond to pull everything together.  The drinks should enhance what you are serving, music and lighting can set the mood, appropriate serving ware and food presentations make everyone feel special.  Decor doesn’t need to be anything grandiose, a little bit can go a long way.  I like to have fresh flowers around the house to bring a little more to the table (literally), but come Fall flowers are not as vibrant as they were throughout the spring and summer.

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I saw a picture of a centerpiece consisting of a hurricane with 3 little pumpkins in it and I thought it was so cute and festive for Fall.   So I took it a step further and bought a basket full of gourds to fill up the tall flower vase on our buffet.  Picking out the gourds was the best part, there are so many shapes, colors, and sizes.  To give it more height I added some willow branches I got from the grocery store.  I think it turned out pretty nice and it could not have been easier.  As long as I don’t get bored with it, I plan to keep it out all the way through Thanksgiving!

2013-09-20 18.31.52As the weekend approaches, hopefully you will be inspired to add a little taste of fall to your home…even if it’s just for you to enjoy.