What Can You Do with a Pumpkin Besides Carve It?

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Have you ever wondered what you can do with your pumpkin besides carve it, paint it or leave it on your porch until after Thanksgiving? Here are some fun uses for pumpkins that don’t require a lot of money or effort but do provide some unique fall decorations, healthy snacking choices and even beauty and wellness options.

Create clever fall decorations.

Carve the perfect fall vase. Cut off the top of your pumpkin, carve out the center and then place a container filled with water inside. You can choose a short pumpkin, tall pumpkin or something in between, based on the size of your glass container. Add your favorite bouquet. Or float fall candles.

Make pumpkin fries. Use a potato peeler to remove the pumpkin’s skin, then cut the squash into fry-like strips. Coat them with the spice of your choice, arrange on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and then bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes. Serve with a spicy aioli or another dipping sauce.

Create a fall candle holder. Take a small or miniature pumpkin and remove the stem. You can snap it off or cut it off, but make sure that the top is smooth or evenly indented. Place a votive candle where the stem used to be. You can leave the display as is, or add a glass hurricane shade over it. Try grouping several together or spreading them across the center of your table to create the illusion of a glowing runner.

Let your pumpkin pack a punch by doubling as a punch bowl. Get a short, round/fat pumpkin. Cut off the top and remove the pumpkin pulp from the inside. Place a short glass bowl into the pumpkin and pour in your favorite punch. Add a ladle and you’re good to go with this fall party table decoration.

Make a pumpkin drink dispenser. This item may be used during Halloween, or for other fall-themed events, such as Thanksgiving. This project may be of interest to those who enjoy arts and crafts, entertaining, or even those who want to undertake a fun project with other family members. Click here for easy instructions for this family craft.

Get spicy and creative with the seeds.

Stay classic and bake the seeds. Bake the seeds with your favorite spices at 350 F until they are toasted, about 20-30 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes. Make sure you rinse the seeds and let them dry before bake them. Or use them in granola. Add the seeds to oats, dried cranberries or other favorite snacks for a great granola blend.

Spice up your guacamole. Use pumpkin seeds to liven up your favorite guacamole. Bake the seeds with chili powder and mix them into your
traditional snack for a little healthy fall fun.

Add pumpkin to your health and beauty regime.

Scrub away with your pumpkin with a pumpkin exfoliant. For a full body treatment, you can use purée pumpkin and brown sugar (oatmeal is another great exfoliant). Put the exfoliant on a damp loofah or cloth and scrub onto skin in circular motions. This helps to drain toxins from the body. Finish with a nice warm shower.

Add shine to your hair. Restore shine and moisture to dry and damaged strands with a homemade pumpkin hair mask. Combine one cup of pumpkin (you can purée chunks in a food processor or use the canned version), a half cup of plain yogurt and two tablespoons of honey into a bowl. Mix well, and then apply to hair from root to tip. Cover head with a plastic shower cap and sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Wash treatment out and
follow up with a thorough cleansing using a shampoo and conditioner.

We’ve answered some questions about pumpkins. We’d be glad to answer questions about home mortgages, too.

Top Tips for Keeping Produce Fresh Longer

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No one likes to throw food away. Groceries are expensive and when you can keep your food fresh longer, you can save a lot of cash. Here are some tips for keeping your fresh food fresher longer.

Keep your refrigerator clean. Leftover residue or mold spores can increase the spoilage of all your food in the refrigerator.

Click here for some tips to easily clean your refrigerator and keep it clean longer.

Don’t store fruits and vegetables near a gas stove. Natural gas has been shown to increase ripening. In addition, don’t store fruits or vegetable in areas that have smoke or heat, like the stove or toaster oven. The exhaust and heat from these can increase the amount of Ethylene gas that is produced and speed up the ripening process.

Store produce in special storage bags that you can buy from your grocer.

Don’t cut your fruits and vegetables until you will be using them. Cut fruit will spoil faster.

If you do cut your fruit or veggies sprinkle them with a little lemon juice to keep them fresh and cover them with plastic wrap.

Place fresh herbs and leafy greens in a jar or vase of water, just like you would a bouquet of flowers. They’ll last longer and you’ll have a beautiful, green arrangement.

Store dried green onions or chives after you chop them up in a plastic water bottle in the freezer. When you’re ready to use some, just pull this out and sprinkle.

Store potatoes with apples to keep the potatoes from sprouting, and keep them away from your onions. Onions will make apples go bad faster.

Keep your greens in the refrigerator in a bowl with a paper towel, and cover with plastic wrap. The paper towel will absorb the excess moisture and keep them fresh.

Clean berries, fruits, and greens in a mixture of 10 parts water and 1 part white vinegar. This will remove dirt and even pesticides, and help them last longer by preventing mold.

Bad apple in the bunch? Remove it immediately. The old saying “One bad apple will spoil the bunch,” is true.

Store fruit in the middle of the refrigerator or in the drawers to keep temperatures consistent.

Keep bananas away from your other produce, as they produce some of the highest amounts of Ethylene gas. Place plastic wrap around the crown of your banana bunch to keep them lasting longer. If you want them to ripen super fast, place them in a closed plastic bag. Since they emit so much Ethylene gas, they’ll ripen quickly when the gas is trapped by the bag.

Keep tomatoes at room temperature and away from sunlight. If you grow your own tomatoes, pick them as soon as they are ripe. Do not to store your tomatoes in plastic; this will trap moisture and increase the likelihood of spoilage.

Store nuts in the freezer or in a food safe jar to protect them from moisture and air.

It’s no fun to throw food away, and it’s always fun to eat fresh! Try a few of these tips and see if you’re not saving and using more food than you ever have before! 

Make Fall Yard Work Easy and Pain-Free

 

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Autumn yard work can be both time consuming and hand-blistering. But what if it doesn’t have to be? We want to share some tips with you to help you make a full weekend of yard work turn into just a couple of hours, so you can spend your time hiking in the autumn colors or being the armchair quarterback you are meant to be.

Use Your Lawnmower: Cut your grass a little shorter in the fall. Short grass gives leaves less to get caught on as they drift around the neighborhood. It also means the mower will destroy a light coating of leaves that has fallen so you don’t even have to rake. If you have a mulching lawn mower, that’s even better, but not necessary.

Use Work Gloves: Don’t delay in putting on a pair of work gloves to get started. These will keep you from getting blisters. If you’re like a lot of people, you don’t put them on until the blisters start to form. That’s too late! Start with them and end with them. And remember a long sleeve shirt, as well, to keep the leaves and pine needles from pricking your arms.

Use Your Leaf Blower: If you aren’t looking for a tranquil, quiet afternoon, a leaf blower is your friend. Let the power of the blower pile up your leaves for you. But be smart and wear earplugs to protect your hearing, and be a good neighbor. Don’t start the blower too early or run it too late.

Use Your Rake and Your Snow Shovel: You’re not going get away from raking all together. Use a hearty, sturdy rake to get the leaves into piles that you can push onto snow shovel and dump into your leaf bags. You’re going to save yourself a lot of bending if you use the shovel method, rather than trying to pick up piles and piles of leaves by hand and arm.

Use Your Kids: Leaf pickup is an ideal chore for the young kids and teenagers alike. Start them with rakes — and quality, good work gloves — and let them learn the old fashioned way. There is no age that is too young. They love playing in the leaves. And if you make it a game early enough on in their lives, they may be more willing to get out of bed and help out when they are older!

Autumn really is a beautiful season. Don’t let raking leaves be a chore that takes all of the fun out of your season.

It’s Time: Prepare Your Garden for Autumn

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The kids are back in school, the nights are getting darker earlier, and the cool morning air reminds you that summer is coming to an end. It’s time to plan for a day in the garden soon, so you can prepare it for the fall. Taking a little time earlier in autumn will save you precious time in the spring when you’re ready to bring your flowers and vegetables to life again. Here are a few simple tips for making the most of a weekend in the yard and garden at the end of summer.

Prepare your lawn. Your lawn may be the most resilient part of your yard, and a little fall fertilizing will help it come back even better in the spring. Fertilize your lawn while it is still green, and as long as it remains green, continue to mow it to about a 3-inch height. Never cut your lawn too short while it’s green. Continue to water your lawn while it is green and then water it once a month in the winter if there is little snow or rain.

Pull up old vines and vegetable plants. Insects often feed on these plants in the summer and then lay eggs in the fall. Raking and pulling up old vines and leaves will prevent the insects from surviving the winter and hatching in the spring. Insect pests that feed on these plants during summer and fall often lay eggs on the old plants. If the vines are left on the soil surface, insect eggs will survive the winter and hatch in the spring.

Add some organic material to the soil of your vegetables. You can add manure, compost, peat and/or leaves in the fall and then mix this into the soil really well.

Leave some vegetables alone. Your vegetables – carrots, beets, parsnips – will do well after the ground has cooled. Put a straw mulch cover over these vegetables and let them live on. Parsnips turn even sweeter in the cooler ground.

Harvest the fall vegetables with the first light frost. Bring in your winter squash and pumpkins before the first heavy frost damages them. Cut them from the vines, leaving 3 to 4 inches of stem on the vegetable.

Pull your annuals. Fall means it’s time to say goodbye to the summer annuals. Pull your annuals and compost them if you choose. If your plants are diseased in any way, discard them in the trash so they don’t ruin your soil.

Do one more round of weed pulling. Pull your weeds in the fall or spot-spray on some of the green perennial weeds. Perennial weeds, such as dandelion or thistle are easier killed by fall spraying than summer spraying.

Keep watering trees and shrubs. Water your trees and shrubs into the winter. If there is little moisture during the winter water them every few weeks. Dry soil can kill the roots and stress the trees and shrubs. Water early in the day so the water can be absorbed before it freezes at night.

Cut back your perennials to within 1 to 2 inches of the ground and dispose of the cuttings. They may carry diseases that will survive the winter. When the weather gets colder add mulch to the soil of the perennials to keep them warmer and to ensure they don’t get stressed in thawing and cooling weather.

Anticipating our summer gardens is something a lot of us do in the winter. Make sure your ready to go when the weather warms up by taking a few steps as the weather cools down.