Fall Decorating: A Feast for the Senses

Fall is a feast for the senses. It evokes all the sensations of warmth, welcome, comfort, and nostalgia that surrounds this time of year. Many of life’s most cherished rituals take place in September and October: school starting, football season beginning, celebrating homecoming. For those old enough to remember, there is the visceral smell of burning leaves, or chimney smoke, beckoning one home to a hot Sunday dinner, of chili, hearty stews, squash with brown sugar and butter, homemade desserts of apple pie and pumpkin bars.

As daylight savings time ends and night falls quickly, deliciously scented candles, with enticing apple pie, caramel, and mocha scents, brighten rooms and fill them with comfort.  Making our homes cozy, feathering the nest, is a tradition that many of us look forward to the moment the calendar page turns to September.

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I made the trip last week to the Junk Bonanza, an annual fall mecca of vintage and repurposed treasures. Everywhere I looked there were wonderfully imaginative displays, featuring vintage and repurposed decor, and fun flea market finds.  It was the ideal place to spot some of fall’s biggest decorating trends in vintage home style.

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An Abundance of Arrangements Perhaps no other occasion but Christmas rivals fall for decorating with fantastic floral arrangements. The opportunities to create autumnal wreaths, centerpieces, garlands, elaborate pots and swags are endless, as are the vehicles for containing them.

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At the Junk Bonanza I found this fabulous antique canister, (originally used for twine in corn harvesting, I’m told) that was perfect for the tall dried flowers I harvested from my perennial garden. Before tossing the remnants of your garden or pots, harvest what you can for  arrangements. Dried cornstalks, cattails, ornamental grasses, withered stems of brown-eyed susans, and sepia-toned hydrangea heads are perfect for tall canisters. I have a pot of ornamental peppers, in maroon and gold sitting beside the canister, which complements it nicely.

Pillows & Throws Throw pillows made of old feed sacks, bedspreads, and old flannels are all the rage this season in earthy, muted tones of cheese cloth and burlap. The Pendleton blanket is having a huge moment this fall, which is wonderful to see. Pendleton is a family-owned company, started in the early 1900s, known for its heavy wool blankets inspired by Native American designs. They are prized for their vivid colors and intricate patterns. Like many vintage pieces, Pendleton blankets have come to symbolize American heritage, authenticity, and craftsmanship.

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Found Items from Nature A huge trend that I’m seeing everywhere from blogs to magazines to store windows are naturally shed antlers and faux taxidermy. For instance, I have a pink plaster unicorn head mounted on the wall in my bedroom. I’ve seen amazing trophy deer crafted from sweaters.  You can even find a mounted stag head at Target, and antler decor, as well. Another popular item theme is integrating craft store tail feathers of pheasant and grouse to your decor, bringing that cozy hunting lodge feel to your home. Pine cones, acorns, vibrantly colored leaves, gourds, pumpkins, indian corn, dried sunflowers, artichokes, small heads of flowering kale, all can be used to make charming autumn vignettes. 14468682_1549844185041747_6543987827821308043_o

Mixed Materials  I saw so many fabulous pieces of barn wood made into everything from mantels to dining tables. Metals, woods, tin art, architectural objects, scrollwork, doorknobs, drawer pulls, hand tools, old troughs, all of it rusted, repainted, embellished, or as is. Jumping on the monogram trend, letters in every conceivable material were available to make reclaimed items even more meaningful. A lot of the more utilitarian objects were softened by adding repurposed decor, such as pumpkins made with wool sweaters, chenille, velveteen, and lace, which made a lovely juxtaposition.

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Nostalgia The season of Halloween brings out the kid in us. It’s hard to tell who actually enjoys dressing up more these days, children or adults.  I know that I’m am not immune to the joys of decorating with witches and black cats. But over the years, I’ve evolved from paper and plastic ghosts and goblins, to a more primitive, hand-crafted Halloween look that incorporates retro style with recycled and vintage materials. Again, each of these pieces is evocative of simple delights, whimsy, Americana, and the pleasure of hand-crafted items that many of us enjoy.

The great thing about decorating for the season, rather than the holiday, is that you won’t have to rush on November 1st to take everything down. That means more time to nestle up under a cozy Pendleton throw and bask in the glow of your charming fall home.

Smart Perks Blogger Melanie Bisson, is always a sucker for a kitschy vase. For more fall decorating ideas, check out the Smart Perks Pinterest page, Fall Decor Inside and Out.

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 The next Junk Bonanza will take place in Portland, October 14-15th.

Check out https://www.instagram.com/purplepincushion/ for some great hand-crafted and repurposed items.

 

 

Savory Spring Sides

When it comes to holiday dinners, the main course tends to take center stage. This season it’s usually glazed ham, pork roast or leg of lamb.  But it’s time to put the spotlight on the supporting players – side dishes. They not only complete your feast, they make it more satisfying. Even if your kids, or in some cases your spouse, turn up their noses at anything that’s green, orange, or yellow and grown in a garden, we all know your meal would be pretty bland (and not nearly as nutritious) without these colorful edibles.

It’s customary in our family to have two kinds of vegetables, along with a salad and potatoes with the glazed ham for Easter dinner. When considering the menu for the upcoming holiday, I got to thinking about different side dishes we could add to mix things up this year. After searching for recipes, I found a few that I’m anxious to try (hopefully they’ll impress the relatives!).

Good tasting, Good-For-You Veggies

I adore asparagus (it’s my vegetable du jour for spring and summer) and I’m always looking for new ways to serve these delightful green spears. I came across this easy, but enticing recipe in the April edition of Food Network Magazine.

dill mushroom asparagus

Asparagus AND mushrooms – can’t wait to dive into this one!

Dill Mushrooms and Asparagus

  • 4 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • Olive oil
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into thirds
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 2 tbsp. chopped dill
  • 3/4 tsp. lemon zest

Directions: brown sliced mushrooms in olive oil for 5 minutes. Add asparagus and water; season with salt & pepper. Cook and stir, until crisp-tender, about 7 minutes. Toss with chopped dill and lemon zest.

If you don’t care for mushrooms, you’ll find dozens of other asparagus recipes at tasteofhome.com.

Here’s a simple recipe for Glazed Carrots that has just the right amount of sweetness to appeal to kids… anything to get them to eat their vegetables, right?

baby carrot salad

So buttery & sweet – even kids like these cooked carrots!

Glazed Baby Carrots

  • 1 lb. fresh, frozen or canned whole baby carrots (fresh is best)
  • Water
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

Directions: Cook carrots in a small amount of water until tender. Drain. In a saucepan, combine butter and brown sugar; heat until sugar dissolves. Add carrots and toss to coat. Heat through. Yield: 4 servings – double or triple ingredient amounts for a bigger crowd.
Recipe from tasteofhome.com.

Tired of the same old tossed salad? Add more flavor and texture to your greens with mandarin oranges, pecans and a tangy dressing!

Mandarin Orange and Pecan Salad

  • 2 heads romaine lettuce (washed and torn into bite size pieces)
  • 1 cup pecan halves or slivered almonds (toasted)
  • 1 (8 oz.) can mandarin oranges

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Dressing

  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 2 tbsp. water

Directions: Place lettuce, pecans (or almonds) and oranges in salad bowl. Combine dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until well mixed. Make ahead and refrigerate until ready to toss with salad. Recipe courtesy of food.com.

 Stupendous Spuds

Potato Latkes are a traditional dish served on Passover and Hanukkah – they refer to them as potato pancakes, but really they’re more like hash browns. Anyway, you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy them. I found this recipe for classic Potato Latkes on realsimple.com.

Homemade potato pancakes served with sour cream and brown sugar

Potato Latkes (potato pancakes) may be served on Jewish holidays, but you can enjoy them anytime!

Potato Latkes

  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 lbs. (5 medium) peeled medium-starch potatoes, such as Yukon gold
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped (3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Applesauce and sour cream, for serving

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 450° F. Brush 2 baking sheets with 1 tablespoon of the oil and set aside.
  2. Using a box grater or a food processor fitted with a shredding blade, coarsely grate the potatoes. Place the grated potatoes in a large bowl with the onion, flour, salt, pepper, eggs, and the remaining tablespoon of oil. Toss to mix well.
  3. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets and press lightly to make patties. Bake 10 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom. Turn the latkes with a metal spatula and rotate the baking sheets. Bake another 5 minutes or until golden.
  4. Transfer to a platter and serve with the applesauce and sour cream.

Even though I plan to modify our Easter menu with a few of these scrumptious side dishes, I still have to include a family favorite – Cheesy Potatoes. My aunt gave me this recipe several years ago and it’s been a hit ever since.

cheesy plateCheesy Potatoes

  • 1 2-lb. package frozen hash browns (thawed)
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 16-oz. carton sour cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 large package shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 stick melted butter
  • 1-1/2 cups crushed corn flakes

Directions: combine first 6 ingredients except for 1/4 stick butter. Spread in a large casserole dish. Coat corn flakes in remaining melted butter and sprinkle on top. Bake at 350º for 1 hour.

See more mouthwatering cheesy potato recipes on pinterest.com!
Find all kinds of sensational side dish recipes at simplyrecipes.com!

Have a Happy Easter, Passover or whatever you’re celebrating this spring!

Smart Perks Blogger Catherine B. tricks the kids and sometimes even her husband into eating vegetables by disguising them under mounds of melted cheese.  

Fall’s Here! How Do You Like Them Apples?

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Photo courtesy of Billie Jo Bylund, http://www.buffaloplaidstudio.com

“There’s something about autumn that wakes up our senses and reminds us to live.”  -unknown

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Photo courtesy of Billie Jo Bylund, http://www.buffaloplaidstudio.com

I know some of you may be mourning the end of summer, but I’m one of those people who actually looks forward to fall. It’s probably my favorite time of the year. In this part of the country, the air is crisp and cool (we call it sweater weather) and the leaves turn to brilliant hues of red, yellow and orange. We even take short road trips just to view the spectacular fall colors. I also like the sound of fallen leaves crunching under my shoes when I go hiking in the woods. And, as crazy as it sounds, I even like to rake them when they pile up in my yard! It’s one way to get outside and burn some calories at the same time! Another great thing about this season… football! I’m a huge fan of the sport and every year I keep hoping our team will finally come through for us. Go Vikings!

Cart full of apples after picking in orchard

Cart full of apples after picking in orchard

But, I must say one of my favorite fall pastimes is picking apples. Over the last 20 or so years, we’ve set aside one Saturday every September to visit the local orchard. It’s evolved into a family tradition of sorts. I’m not sure what I like best about the whole experience – the wagon rides, watching the kids yank fresh apples off the trees, or seeing how many Honeycrisps, Haralsons and Firesides we can cram into 3 or 4 bags. Of course, we have to stop at the gift shop on the way out to sample apple cider and purchase some homemade preserves, apple butter and caramel dip. Suffice it to say we make quite a haul on these apple picking excursions!

The fact is we always end up with way too many apples to fit in our fridge. And, because one can only consume so much fruit in a day, I try to find recipes for anything with apples in them… apple pie, apple crisp, apple fritters, apple strudel, apple cake, apple bars, apple sauce… I’m beginning to sound like that shrimp obsessed character in Forrest Gump!
I’ve included some of my favorite apple recipes here. Give them a shot and I guarantee you and your family will love every bite!

Easy Apple Pie (Makes one 9-inch pie)
Ingredients:
2 Prepared 9-inch pastry shells (one for the top, one for the bottom)
6-7 crisp, tart apples – cored, peeled and thinly sliced
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. flour
Directions: Preheat oven to 450ºF. In a large bowl, combine sugar, spices and flour with apple slices. Arrange apple slices in center of pastry-lined pie pan; dot with butter. Cover with other pastry shell, press edges together to seal and flute. Cut even slits on top crust to let steam escape. Place pie on the lowest rack in oven and bake at 450ºF for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350ºF and bake for 35-40 minutes longer or until apples are tender and crust is golden brown. Top each slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or serve with a slice of cheddar cheese, if desired.

Dutch Apple Crisp
Ingredients:
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup melted butter
4 apples, cored, peeled and sliced
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp. corn starch
Directions: Preheat oven to 350ºF. In a large bowl, mix first 5 ingredients together with a pastry cutter or fork until crumbly. Set aside 1 cup for topping and spread the rest in the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ pan. Arrange apple slices over crumb mixture. In a small saucepan, bring water, sugar and corn starch to a boil and pour over apples. Top with remaining crumb mixture. Bake at 350 ºF for 55 minutes. Serve warm with a dollop of whipped topping or vanilla ice cream.

Check out this awesome recipe for Apple Pie Moonshine, courtesy of my friend Billie Jo. As the name suggests, it tastes just like apple pie! But, I must warn you this stuff really packs a punch! I’m guessing that’s why they call it “moonshine”?

Apple Pie Moonshine
Ingredients:
1-gallon apple cider
1-gallon apple juice
1-1/2 cups white sugar
2-1/2 cups brown sugar
8 cinnamon sticks
1-liter 190-proof grain alcohol.
Directions: Combine juice, cider, sugar and cinnamon and bring to a boil. Let the mixture cool and add the high proof liquor. Makes 9 quarts.

Click here for more fabulous apple recipes.

Here’s to a fun and flavorful fall!
Catherine B.

As much as blogger Cathy B, a Smart Perks employee, enjoys a nice fall apple-picking excursion, she prefers a trip to the winery even more!