Autumn Leaf Placemats

Here’s a quick little project that I made yesterday for the two youngest loves of my life for the Thanksgiving table. I’m not sure if they’ll last more than a week, but these placemats are fun, festive and wipeable, made with just a few materials.

Here’s what I used:

  • a variety of leaves
  • glue
  • poster board, cut to size
  • clear Contact paper

Directions:

I gathered leaves from the yard, cut one piece of poster board into two, penciled in the names of my grandchildren, and then glued on leaves over the writing.IMG_6706IMG_6708IMG_6707I set them aside and let them completely dry for the day as I got busy with cleaning and cooking. That evening I cut two pieces of clear Contact paper about two inches bigger than the poster board on each side. I peeled the backing off the Contact paper, and carefully adhered it to the poster board, rubbing to smooth as many of the bubbles out as I could.IMG_6711IMG_6713The finish on the poster board allows you to lift the Contact paper a number of times to get it fairly smooth. IMG_6710Once you get the front of the placemat smooth, fold the extra inch or so that is on each side over and secure it to the back side.IMG_6714And here are the finished placemats.IMG_6717IMG_6716It’s a fun and quick project to make for a special event. I can envision different types of conifer needles to make Christmas themed placemats and flower petals would make pretty ones any time of the year, as well.

Hoping your day was filled with loved ones, delicious food, happiness and gratitude.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park

“To the free mountaineer all the woods are accessible alike from the firs that girdle Shasta to the giant forests of the Tule; but the…timebound must follow ways and means, and I know of none better than those of Calaveras… a flowery glade in the very heart of the woods, forming a fine center for the student, and a delicious resting place for the weary.”

~John Muir

Three miles north of Arnold off Highway 4 stands the grandeur of Calaveras Big Trees State Park. This is the place where in the early 1850s the world first came to know about the Giant Sequoias, the largest trees on earth and native only to the western slope of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains.IMG_6556There are many trails to hike within the park, but on this beautiful but chilly day in mid November, we took the North Grove Trail, only about 1.5 miles long. We found the trail was covered with a blanket of snow and was even iced over in some locations.IMG_6489The largest trees here could be anywhere from 800 to 3,000 years old and can reach a height of 325 feet and a diameter of 33 feet. It truly is amazing to think of all that these trees have experienced in their years!IMG_6482IMG_6522 In addition to the Giant Sequoias in the park, Sugar Pine, White Fir, Incense Cedar and Ponderosa Pines exist alongside each other in the splendor of this mixed conifer forest.IMG_6517IMG_6477IMG_6479

Inspired by REI’s decision to close on Black Friday, Save the Redwoods League is sponsoring free admission to 49 participating California redwood state parks on November 27th. They invite everyone to experience the joy, renewal and inspiration found among the natural wonders of the ancient giant redwoods. To find out which state parks are participating and to download a free pass, check out the website above.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all and happy hiking on Friday.

 

Autumn Wreath for the Little Ones to Make

This is a simple and fun activity that my grandchildren, ages 18 months and two and a half years, and I made last week.

Gather leaves, flower petals, seed pods, acorns and small pinecones with the children. Some of the nature items from our collection came from my yard and some from theirs.

IMG_6693Ready to begin, we covered the table with our trusty vinyl tablecloth, and while I cut out the circles on two Chinet brand paper plates, the toddlers got to work choosing which treasures to glue on. IMG_6559They each enjoyed squeezing the glue out and pressing leaves on. We chatted about the different colors, smells, and shapes of the leavesIMG_6560IMG_6561Once the creations were dry, I tied a bit of twine in the back to hang and added a twine bow in the front. So easy. Such fun!

One for Mama and Daddy’s house and one for Grandma and Grandpa’s.IMG_6567 (1)A perfect added touch to welcome Thanksgiving guests.

Sweet November

It’s true, I have always had a love affair with autumn, but have you ever seen one as beautiful as this year’s? Who can resist the brilliant shades of red, gold, and orange that the trees and gardens are wearing this time of year?

Come with me, won’t you, on a tour of some of my favorite areas on our property.

Here we are at the pergola sitting area.IMG_6444And this is across the lawn looking toward that area with the pergola.IMG_6455The Eastern Redbud’s heart leaves are a favorite of mine.IMG_6258Ornamental grass, Miscanthus is in the foreground near the seasonal creek bed with birch leaves just starting to change to yellow, and maples putting on a fiery show.IMG_6578This old wheel barrow is planted with Coral Bell’s, Violas, Euonymus Sunny Delight, and Evergold Carex.IMG_6398I love the lawn covered in these beauties.IMG_6062I had been on the hunt for two child sized adirondack chairs and found them last weekend in Sutter Creek at a favorite shop called Antique Gardener. I had envisioned them in white, but I love how these look right now with the terra cotta pots in the background and the reds of the maples in that area.
IMG_6587And now let’s head over to the front porch. This sweet old yellow chair greets us with some of autumn’s vibrant bounty as we walk up the sidewalk. Purple Love Grass is in the pot behind the two pumpkins to the left of the chair.IMG_6221IMG_6589IMG_6588IMG_6590IMG_6557 (1)Sweet November, indeed.

Autumn, Glorious Autumn

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“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.”

~Lauren De Stefano

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“The heart of autumn must have broken here, and poured its treasures out upon the leaves.”

~Charlotte Flake Bates

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“Winter is an watching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn, a mosaic of them all.”

~Stanley HorowitzIMG_6338

“Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.”

~Emily Bronte

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“Autumn carries more gold in its pocket then all the other seasons.”

~Jim Bishop

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Saturday Morning Birding

I consider myself a novice bird watcher, having long enjoyed watching birds in our yard and identifying them using a field guide. When I’m not able to identify a species on my own, I contact my brother, Jim and send him a photo text. Nine times out of ten, he knows what the mystery bird is immediately. I love watching the antics of our Hummingbirds, Robins, Towhees, Juncos, Bluejays, Finches, Chickadees, Woodpeckers, and others. On our property is an old snag that my husband would like to take down for aesthetic reasons, but I rally to keep it because of all the wonderful bird action happening in and around  it.

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of attending a birding class through Cameron Park Community Service District. Our knowledgeable instructor was Joseph Munizich, who has been a bird watcher for 40 years. The instructor and all of us participating met and chatted about identifying birds through listening, watching, and observing flight and colors. Then, armed with our field guides and binoculars, we set out on our walk around the lake, noticing all of the Mallards, American Coots, Drakes, Canadian Geese, and White Geese along the way. IMG_6411My ADD kicked in and an intricate spider web caught my eye on this bridge.IMG_6400And this nest in the tree. The instructor thought perhaps it was a Crow’s nest.IMG_6403 I am the first to admit that my trusty iPhone 6 camera is not ideal for bird watching photos, but it’s all I had. It’s hard to tell that there is a snowy egret in the next photo. I wish the photo showed its small gold feet!IMG_6409This was a sweet bird condo we admired in a backyard along the way. IMG_6410Right about here, we identified a Killdeer, a Black Phoebe, Crows, California Towhees, Pie billed Grebe, and both Ladder back and Acorn Woodpeckers.
IMG_6413Shown here are two white swans. And not pictured, were a Brewer’s Blackbird, a Nuthatch, a Northern Flicker, Red shouldered Hawks, Red tailed Hawks, a Turkey Vulture, White crown Sparrows, and European Starlings all in this vicinity.IMG_6419It’s hard to see that on this floating log are two turtles sunning themselves!
IMG_6414More birds for our viewing pleasure included Western Bluebirds, Red winged Blackbirds, a Belted Kingfisher, Western Finch, Lesser Finch and both male and female Anna’s Hummingbirds. Now I can differentiate between the males and females on my feeders at home.

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I greatly enjoyed this experience and can honestly share that I’ve caught the birding bug. Come say hello if you see me out with my binoculars along the local nature trails, parks and preserves!

Secret Cove

On a cool November morning, just hours before a storm, we discovered Secret Cove. It’s a secluded off-the-beaten-path stretch of beach several miles south of Incline Village, in Nevada. Steep trails took us down to a well marked winding path which then led us to views that took our breath away.IMG_6281IMG_6323IMG_6322Under dark, dramatic skies, the pristine beach felt peaceful and had a sacred quality to it.IMG_6288IMG_6294IMG_6292IMG_6296Aside from one other hiker high above us on a trail, we had the entire beach to ourselves.IMG_6299Just Hubby, our dog, Gemma and me. Exploring. Soaking up the sights.
IMG_6298IMG_6300IMG_6319IMG_6316IMG_6320And marveling all the while at the sheer resplendence of Mother Nature.

Harvest Loaf

About twenty years ago, my sister introduced me to this delicious autumn-y bread and it quickly became a family favorite. The semi sweet chips add a touch of chocolate goodness to the pumpkin and spice bread. Choose to add a glaze or not before serving. I’m so happy to share it with you.IMG_6274

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Ingredients:

1 3/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

3/4 cup pumpkin puree

3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Use cooking spray to grease a 9×5 loaf pan.

Combine flour, baking soda, and spices in a bowl and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat well.

Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the pumpkin. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips. Add the mixture to the loaf pan and smooth top.

Bake 65 – 75 minutes, depending on your oven.

Let cool on baking rack.

Optional: When cool, drizzle with glaze.

Glaze:

Combine 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 – 2 Tablespoons cream.

Makes one loaf, but I suggest doubling the recipe and making two. Freeze one to have on hand for a cozy treat when friends and family drop by during the holiday season!