Author Archives: Jennifer Noonan

About Jennifer Noonan

Jennifer Noonan is a writer (and home improvement lover!) living in Delaware. Check her out on Google +!

Shopping for a New Chandelier? Here Are 4 Things to Consider

While style is an important consideration in choosing a new chandelier, don't overlook the finer points of scale, installation requirements, and, most important, how well the fixture will satisfy your lighting needs.

Spiral Chandelier

Maxim Lighting at Bellacor.com

Nothing epitomizes decorative lighting quite like a chandelier. A chandelier is the jewelry of a room, accenting the architecture, furnishings, and decor. With so many fixture choices available and so many possible applications within the home—in dining rooms, dens, and even bedrooms and bathrooms—choosing a chandelier can be overwhelming. But if you adhere to a few design rules and installation tips, you’ll be on your way to dressing your room right—and in the best decorative light.

Style
There are chandeliers available to suit any style and decor. Fixtures that have their lights directed up are more traditional; the most formal of these fixtures showcase bare candelabra bulbs. Adding glass or chandelier shades softens that formality, resulting in a slightly more casual attitude. For a more informal feeling, choose a chandelier on which the lights are directed downward. An additional benefit of this more casual design is that your decorative chandelier can also serve as task lighting—aiding cooking or homework duties. In general, metal finishes are more formal than painted ones.

Related: Which Lighting Where? 9 Pro Tips for Improved Illumination

Functionality
If your chandelier is serving a primarily decorative purpose, it can really be the focal point of the room, highlighting the beauty of your furnishings and decor. If, however, you require task lighting, find a fixture that also has a downlight, to illuminate the surface beneath it.   For either application, don’t miss out on the flexibility that you’ll get by installing a dimmer switch. Dialing the lights down can create a warm glow, similar to candlelight—perfect for evening entertaining.

Uptown-Lodge-Chandelier

Sea Gull Lighting at Bellacor.com

Size
Choosing the proper size chandelier is important.  A fixture that is too large will overwhelm a room, while one that is too small will disappear and lose its impact. Josie Jaspers, of the lighting and home furnishings online retailer Bellacor, advises: “Choose a chandelier that is 6 inches narrower on either side than the smallest width of the table.  If your table is 48″ x 72″, then the recommended width of the fixture is approximately 36 inches (6 + 6 minus 48).”

Installation
Jaspers also has tips for determining the correct hanging height. For a dining room, “the chandelier should hang approximately 30 inches above the tabletop in an 8-foot ceiling. For each additional foot of ceiling height, add one inch. In a 10-foot ceiling, the chandelier should hang approximately 32 inches above the table.” You should keep in mind that in rooms with lower ceilings (less than 9 feet), a chandelier may make the ceiling feel low. If you must hang a chandelier in a room with a low ceiling, be sure to hang it high enough so that it doesn’t become a hazard. If possible, mount it over a table to avoid bumped heads and to keep it from impeding foot traffic. If you’re putting a chandelier in a bathroom (Sure!—why not?!), the rule of thumb is to keep it 6 feet away from the shower or tub.  Moisture is the enemy of electrical wiring, so purchase a model that is rated for “wet” or “shower location” use.

With so many options available, you’re bound to find a fixture that suits both your practical needs and decor. With the right fixture, you can just dim the lights and turn up the style—a chandelier brings it all together.

 

This article is sponsored by Bellacor.com. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


How To: Make a Fresh Holiday Garland

The beauty and aroma of a fresh garland gracefully draped over a fence, banister, or deck railing are true hallmarks of the season. In a few simple steps, you can create your own festive garland to enjoy all through the holidays.

How to Make Garland - Complete

Photo: JNoonan

This year, as you dress up your house for the holidays, consider decking the halls with twinkling lights, festive ribbons—and, of course, boughs of holly, pine, cedar, or fir. The beauty and fragrance of a fresh garland cannot be matched by the store-bought, artificial evergreen facsimiles. If you have access to the right types of trees, the project costs next to nothing, and it’s neither difficult nor overly time-consuming. To make your own garland today, simply follow the steps detailed below.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Assortment of fresh greens
- 1/4″ hemp rope or similar
- Floral wire
- Pruning shears

DIRECTIONS

1. Collect Greens

How to Make Garland - Collect Greens

Photo: JNoonan

Pine, cedar, holly, and fir branches all work equally well for the purpose of making a garland. Either stick with a single type of foliage or mix a few types of greens into a pattern. As an accent, use pinecones or holly leaves—their red berries provide a beautiful contrast to the green boughs. From whatever types of evergreens you have access to, snip branches that are anywhere between 8 and 18 inches in length. Avoid cutting too many pieces from the same small tree, and try to snip branches that are touching the ground, the sides of a building, or the branches of neighboring trees; if you were pruning just for the tree’s benefit, these would be the best candidates for snipping anyway.

2. Get Started

How to Make Fresh Garland - Getting Started

Photo: JNoonan

Counterintuitively, the best place to begin is with a step that seems like it should come last: Tie a loop at the end of your rope, so you can hang your completed garland. Next, use floral wire to attach your first piece of greenery to the rope. Wrap the wire two or three times around the branch until you are confident that it’s securely in place. Be sure to position that first bough in such a way that it hides from view, but does not completely obstruct, the loop that you tied into the rope.

3. Add Greenery

How to Make Fresh Garland - Add Greenery

Photo: JNoonan

Lay a second piece of greenery so that it slightly overlaps the first, hiding the floral wire that binds it to the rope. Then tightly wrap additional wire two or three times around the second piece, just as you did for the first piece in Step 2. Continue adding greenery in this way, piece by piece, until your garland reaches the desired length.

4. Finish Up

How to Make Fresh Garland - Finishing

Photo: JNoonan

Cut the rope so that it’s two or three feet longer than your garland. That extra rope may come in handy as you set about hanging the completed garland. Tie a loop at this end of the rope to match the one you made in Step 1. Once the garland is hung, spot-check it for any bare sections, adding more boughs where necessary. If the garland is too long for the space in which you’re going to display it, simply snip it to length with pruning shears and use the excess elsewhere in your home.

Go fresh with garland, and you’ll never again be tempted by the artificial variety. There’s no better to start to the season. Happy Holidays!


5 Things to Do with… Doorknobs

Sure they help us get inside and out, but doorknobs—particularly salvaged and vintage varieties—can be used for multiple decorative purposes. Here are five doorknob DIY projects to get you inspired.

We interact with them daily and seldom think twice, but do-it-yourselfers have found plenty of reasons for us to focus more on doorknobs (especially the vintage ones often found in flea markets, thrift stores, and architectural salvage yards). With creativity, you can reuse doorknobs in ways that are quite distantly removed from their original purpose. Check out our five favorite doorknob DIY projects, and see these uncomplicated, utilitarian pieces of hardware like never before.

 

1. HOLD PICTURES

Doorknob DIY Projects - Picture Holder

Photo: etsy.com

Create a unique presentation for photographs, invitations, or other printed items of sentimental value. It’s a simple matter of threading metal wire around the base of a doorknob and into a coiled shape at the opposite end. So easy and affordable, you could complete a trio of these doorknob DIY projects within a single morning.

 

2. HANG TOWELS

Doorknob DIY Projects - Hangers

Photo: thebookofjimmy.com

Secure antique doorknobs to the wall in mudrooms or entryways as a handsome means of hanging coats, hats, and bags. (Alternatively, take this doorknob DIY project into the bathroom, using it for towels.) For a modern look, choose a uniform group of doorknobs; for an eclectic effect, opt for a mix of knob styles.

 

3. PAVE PATIOS

Doorknob DIY Projects - Patio

Photo: sfgate.com

Set your patio apart from others by paving with such miscellany as doorknobs and stovetop burners (like designer Matthew Levesque has done here). Once embedded in the ground, the vintage chrome and brass knobs not only look remarkable, but also provide a surprisingly stable surface on which to walk or stand.

 

4. TIE CURTAINS

Doorknob DIY Projects - Curtain Tie

Photo: spoonfulosugar.com

For an offbeat yet sophisticated addition to your window decor, mount an old doorknob where a curtain tieback would normally go. The knob—choose one that accentuates your treatment—works as satisfactorily as a traditional tieback, even while serving as the sort of small, thoughtful detail that makes a house a home.

 

5. CORK BOTTLES

Doorknob DIY Projects - Bottle Cork

Photo: etsy.com

Do you like to give wine as a hostess gift? Next time, complement the cabernet with a doorknob bottle stopper. To make one, simply drill a hole in a replacement cork (available at most kitchen stores). Next, sink in the screw from a doorknob, having first covered it with epoxy. If that screw is too long, you can shorten it with a hacksaw.


How To: Make a Gingerbread House From Scratch

Making a homemade gingerbread house really brings the holidays to life. And with this easy tutorial, you too can try your hand at some festive, luscious, small-scale new construction.

How to Make a Gingerbread House - Complete

Photo: JNoonan

The holiday season comes with so many traditions—cooking and baking, house decorating, caroling, and cocoa making—but few are as beloved as the gingerbread house. While some folks opt for the ease and convenience of a kit, I always think it’s worth it to make a gingerbread house the old-fashioned way—that is, from scratch. Follow these steps, and you can achieve results that are good enough to eat, whether it’s your first attempt or something that your family does every year.

Related: 12 Architectural & Appetizing Gingerbread Houses

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Gingerbread cookie dough
- Rolling pin
- Extra flour
- Cookie sheets
- Parchment paper
- Pizza wheel
- Gingerbread house template
- Scissors
- Royal icing
- Pastry bag, coupler, and piping tips
- Cardboard
- Shoebox and canned food (or glass tumblers) for support
- Assorted candy (optional)

DIRECTIONS

1. Choose a Template and Make Your Dough
You can easily find gingerbread recipes and gingerbread house templates on the Internet, free of charge. Select your favorite recipe and template, then set to work. Remember that gingerbread dough is very sticky, so it’s easiest to work with when it’s chilled. Keep lots of flour on hand for your rolling pin and work surfaces.

2. Roll, Cut, and Bake Your House Pieces
Larger pieces of dough will be difficult to transfer onto the cookie sheet, so I recommend rolling your dough onto a piece of floured parchment paper. Next, lay your gingerbread house template sections over the dough. Cut around the template with a pizza wheel, removing excess dough as you go. Continue until you have cut one piece of dough to correspond with each part of the house, as dictated by the template. Now transfer the parchment paper, with the cut dough on top, to the cookie sheet. Bake the gingerbread slightly longer than your chosen recipe recommends, as softer pieces are much harder to manipulate than well-done ones.

How to Make a Gingerbread House - Baking

Photo: JNoonan

3. Trim Your Pieces
Inevitably, your gingerbread is going to morph a bit during baking. That complicates matters, because your gingerbread house will not stand properly if the pieces do not conform more or less precisely to the dimensions specified by your template. Therefore, immediately after removing the gingerbread from the oven (don’t even waste 10 seconds), lay the appropriate template back over each piece so that you can trim each one to its correct size. Feel free to eat any of the excess—hey, you deserve a snack! Before continuing on to the next stage, allow the gingerbread to sit on wire cooling racks for several hours or overnight.

How to Make a Gingerbread House - Cooling

Photo: JNoonan

4. Make Royal Icing
Be sure to choose a recipe for royal icing that includes cream of tartar (it helps to keep the eggs from separating). Once you’ve finished making the icing, put it in a pastry bag fitted with a large piping tip. If there’s any icing left over, you can prevent it from drying out by keeping it in a bowl covered with a damp tea towel.

How to Make a Gingerbread House - Icing

Photo: JNoonan

5. Build the Walls
If the walls of your gingerbread house are meant to form a rectangle, I suggest using a shoebox or something similar as scaffolding to lend support while the icing dries. First, dry-fit the gingerbread pieces to test that they align as planned. Next, pipe a thick bead of icing at each right angle. Finally, connect the pieces. Slide your shoebox against the walls, and if further support seems necessary, use canned food or heavy glass tumblers. Let the icing dry for several hours or overnight.

6. Raise the Roof
Remove any items that you were using to support the gingerbread walls, then proceed to add the roof pieces, again using piped icing as a bond. To keep the roof pieces from sliding down, prop them up with as many cans or tumblers as necessary. Allow several hours for the icing to dry, by which point the roof should be firmly attached.

How to Make a Gingerbread House - Jig and Roof

Photo: JNoonan

7. Attach the House to a Base
Pipe icing onto the surface you have chosen to use as a base for your gingerbread house. Any stiff piece of cardboard will do the trick. (If you wish to dress it up, options include painting the cardboard, wrapping it in foil, or covering it with doilies). Carefully place the gingerbread onto the icing you’ve piped onto the base.

8. Decorate! 
There are as many ways to decorate a gingerbread house as you can imagine. Those experienced with a pastry bag may wish to use only royal icing to create a simple, gorgeous, economical, and delicious effect. Or use the icing (applied with a smaller piping tip) as “glue” for your favorite candies in your favorite colors.

How to Make a Gingerbread House - Decorating

Photo: JNoonan

It takes time and patience to make a gingerbread house from scratch, and although completing one yields a tremendous sense of accomplishment, you may not have the energy or the spare hours required. Fortunately, there are plenty of shortcuts:

- Use a kit that includes prebaked pieces and everything you need to decorate.

- Buy a gingerbread house mold (you push in your dough, then bake, and your pieces come out perfect every time).

- If you don’t care about the gingerbread house being 100 percent edible, you can use hot glue to connect your walls and roof pieces.

- Rather than making a gingerbread house that stands on its own, go easy on yourself by attaching your pieces to a shoebox or something similar.

- Almost any kid would be happy to make a gingerbread house out of graham crackers—no baking necessary, and the construction stage is more forgiving.

However you choose to make a gingerbread house, concentrate on having fun! That way, you’ll have a new family tradition to anticipate year in and year out.


Weekend Projects: 5 Classic Wood Games You Can Make Yourself

Even if you don't possess the skills of a master carpenter, you can easily create one of these DIY wood games with nothing more than some basic materials, tools, and know-how.

If you love to use tools and you love to play games, then you’re not alone: Scores of handymen and women have used wood to create their own personal versions of timeless amusements. Indeed, playing a DIY wood game that you’ve made yourself may be the only activity that is more fun than actually putting the game together!

 

1. DOMINOES

DIY Wood Games - Dominoes

Photo: aestheticoutburst.blogspot.com

Make a set of oversize dominoes out of commonly available 1 x 3 plywood boards. For each domino, cut a 5 1/2-inch piece away from the board (do this 28 times for a double-six set, 55 times for a double-nine set). Paint a line across the center of each domino, dabbing on the appropriate number of dots. Kids of all ages are sure to enjoy this DIY wood game, whose larger-than-normal pieces are ideal for playing on the floor, or in the driveway, even more than on a tabletop.

 

2. BLOCK PUZZLE

DIY Wood Games - Block Puzzle

Photo: makezine.com

With wooden blocks—whether you buy them at a crafts store or fashion them out of scrap wood—it’s easy to make a DIY wood game especially for a pint-size puzzle-lover. Onto each individual block, paint a small section of a larger figure, one that takes shape only when the blocks are correctly arranged. Another way of accomplishing the same goal is to cut a photograph into equal-size fragments, gluing each piece onto one face of a wooden block so that the complete photo emerges when the blocks are assembled properly.

 

3. GIANT JENGA

DIY Wood Games - Giant Jenga

Photo: amazon.com

Supersize the fun of Jenga: Construct a colossal version of this classic tower-building game, perfect for setup in the backyard. Start out with a trip to the lumberyard, where it should be easy to buy four 2 x 4 x 16 pieces of wood. Cut the pieces at intervals of 10 1/2 inches, and you should end up with 72 blocks total. Sand each one, buffing them all smooth, not only to reduce friction for the sake of gameplay, but also to prevent players young and old from getting any nasty splinters.

 

4. CHECKERS

DIY Wood Games - Checkers

Photo: alwayschasinglife.blogspot.com

Of all the DIY wood games discussed here, checkers may be the most widely enjoyed. If you love it, why not devise your own board, painting squares of alternating colors over a plywood surface? Choose the traditional black-and-white combination or opt for an alternative color scheme, one that involves your two favorite hues. For the pieces, either use a store-bought set or hand-make your own by painting wood circles in colors that match those that you chose for your board.

 

5. MEMORY

DIY Wood Games - Memory

Photo: dawanda.com

Divide 1 x 3 lengths of wood into pieces of equal length to create this adorable memory game, which is much sturdier than the playing card version. Once you’ve cut the pieces, glue on differently patterned wrapping paper or wallpaper, glossing them over with two or three layers of decoupage medium. Voilà! Let the games begin.


5 Things to Do with… Yardsticks

You can do so much more with a yardstick than just measure things! If you have a few old yardsticks lying around gathering dust, put them to creative use with one of these simple projects.

You may think of it only as a handy helper at the workbench or sewing table—a no-frills, low-tech instrument for measuring distances—but with imagination and a handsaw (and maybe a little wood stain or strong glue), you can easily elevate the lowly yardstick to trendy heights in home decor.

 

1. TOP A STOOL

Yardstick Projects - Stool

Photo: huntedinterior.com

Dress up the seat of a stool (or the top of a table or tray) with yardsticks, adding character to an otherwise purely functional household item. After cutting the yardsticks to the appropriate length, sand down their backs to give each an equal thickness, then glue or nail the pieces to the stool, one after another.

 

2. SHADE A LAMP

Yardstick Projects - Lamp Shade

Photo: abeautifulmessantiques.blogspot.com

If you’ve managed to collect a few dozen antique yardsticks from sidewalk sales and flea markets, try mounting them over the wire frame of a lamp shade. The effect is warm and folksy, making this the perfect accent for a saloon-style man cave, your basement woodworking shop, or a converted garage.

 

3. CREATE A CRATE

Yardstick Projects - Crates

Photo: cityfarmhouse.com

Knock together a basic crate with your stockpile of dusty old yardsticks. On the sides of the completed crates, drill holes for rope handles, which will make these simple yet charming boxes easier to move around. Put them to work in the garden to help transport plants, or keep a few in the trunk of your car and use them to carry groceries into the house.

 

4. INSTALL A BACKSPLASH

Yardstick Projects - Backsplash

Photo: dishfunctionaldesigns.blogspot.com

You can custom-design a standout backsplash for your hardworking kitchen. Here, old and new yardsticks are cut to equal length and sanded to equal thickness, then installed above the countertops. If you often find yourself entertaining guests while you’re cooking, think of this yardstick project as the ultimate conversation starter.

 

5. MAKE A COASTER SET

Yardstick Projects - Coasters

Photo: etsy.com

To make your own coasters, chop one or more yardsticks into four-inch segments, then glue the pieces over a tile or plywood backing. Consider attaching felt to the underside of the coasters for the practical benefits and a bit of design flair. Place your creations on the deck, porch, or patio, and grab a drink—you’ve earned it!


How To: Make Fire Logs from Newspaper

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! You can green-up your winter by recycling your old news into economical paper logs to fuel your fireplace or wood-burning stove.

How to Make Newspaper Logs

Photo: shutterstock.com

As winter approaches, many homeowners are eagerly anticipating the opportunity to use their fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. Preparation for the season typically involves chimney cleaning and, of course, securing firewood. Nothing else quite matches the scent of burning oak, maple, or fir, but if you’re looking to save a few bucks, it’s easy to make your own newspaper logs. There’s more than one method, but this is the simplest.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Newspapers
- Water
- Large basin or bucket
- Dish soap
- Dowel

How to Make Newspaper Logs - Fire

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 1
Separate the newspaper into sections; one or two will go into the creation of each log. (Use the whole newspaper if it’s a small publication—for example, a paper you pick up free at the grocery store.) Next, fill your wash basin with warm water and about a teaspoon of dish soap. Soak the newspaper, being certain to submerge it completely. Allow it to soak for at least one hour but no more than 18, because at that point the paper degrades to a degree that makes it difficult to manage in later steps.

STEP 2
Remove the newspaper from the wash basin and lay it on a flat surface. (This stage can get a little messy, so it’s wise to do it outside.) Place the dowel over the newspaper, then roll the paper onto the dowel, squeezing out the water as you go.

STEP 3
Gently remove the dowel from its position within the roll of newspaper. Place the paper log in a spot where it won’t be disturbed. Depending on the temperature and humidity in your area, it may take as little as three days or as long as two weeks for the log to dry out completely.

Once dry, the logs are ready to burn. If you’ve rolled them tightly, as you should do, they are going to be rather dense, and will initially require kindling to catch on fire. Compared with the genuine article, a newspaper log is likely to produce a greater quantity of ash, but its emissions are less harmful. So, in effect, you get to be green in two ways at once: by recycling your newspapers and by burning cleaner fuel.

Pass the marshmallows and throw another log on the fire!


How To: Choose the Right Rug

There's more than just color and pattern to choosing the right rug. Follow these basic tips to make certain the one you select will meet all of your needs.

How to Choose a Rug - Mohawk Tropical

Mohawk's "Home Strata Tropical Acres" area rug at Bellacor.com

Nothing can draw the elements of a room together quite like a rug. It can make a cold room cozy and inviting, define different functional spaces, add color and pattern where none existed before, and create comfort where it’s most welcome—underfoot. Whether your style is traditional, contemporary, funky, or ultramodern, you have endless possibilities to consider. If selecting the right rug has you feeling a bit overwhelmed, here are some basic guidelines to help you make the best choice.

Construction
A rug needs to be more than pretty—it needs to serve the function of the room and home. Think about your family’s lifestyle and the kind of traffic your rug is likely to endure. “If you’re placing the rug in a high-traffic area, woven rugs will perform best,” advises Jennifer Palmer, a rug specialist from one of Bellacor‘s best rug brands, Mohawk.  ”Likewise, if you have pets, you don’t want a looped construction, as dogs’ and cats’ nails tend to snag and pull tufted loops, so a cut-pile construction is the smarter choice.”

Of all rug types, hand-knotted construction is the most expensive, because of the intensive labor involved in the process. But hand-knotted rugs also offer the longest endurance. A good hand-knotted rug can last 10 to 25 years; a great one, over 100. Machine-made rugs, which can be manufactured quickly on power looms, sell for more reasonable prices. They generally have a lifespan of about 20 years, although a high-quality and well-maintained product can last much longer.

Composition
Rugs are constructed of either natural or synthetic materials. Natural fibers like wool or silk generally last longer and are better quality but can be costly. You might want to go for wool or silk if it’s important that your rug retain its value. Less costly natural fibers, like jute and cotton, are more affordable. Synthetics are the least expensive and come in an incredible range of colors and styles. Among synthetics, polyester and nylon have the greatest stain and soil resistance, with nylon holding its color best over time.

How to Choose a Rug - Surya Cosmopolitan

Surya's Cosmopolitan Green Round Rug at Bellacor.com

Size and Shape
Choosing the right size rug is key to making your space feel comfortable. You should use a rug to define the space rather than “float” in a room.  And don’t get a rug so large that it touches the baseboards. Consider a range of shapes, and don’t just limit yourself to rectangles. Square rugs complement a modern room, but they look equally good under a pub-style table. Ovals can be used in place of rectangles in a living room, and round and octagonal rugs work well under similarly shaped kitchen or dining tables.

Placement
The placement of a rug can make all the difference in the feeling of a room. Use your rug to complement the design of your space and furniture. An area rug should be approximately the same length and width as the furniture in the space. If you’re putting a rug under a coffee table, place it so it can accommodate all four legs. A rug in a dining room should extend to just beyond the chairs when they are pulled away from the table. In a bedroom, multiple smaller rugs may look better than a larger area rug that is mostly covered by the bed, so don’t forget to consider runners. In general, maintain an equal amount of floor space around a rug to give the room a sense of balance.

Design
A rug can be the focal point of a room or help to pull together an eclectic group of design elements. Think about the other details of the room design when selecting a rug. If you already have a busy patterned upholstery or wallpaper, choose a subtle rug, or one in a coordinating solid color, so it won’t compete. Conversely, if your room is more neutral and subdued, you can introduce some vibrancy by choosing a rug with a bold pattern. Overall, select a rug that complements your decor. The colors don’t necessarily need to match, but at least one color should coordinate.

Whatever rug you choose, proper care will ensure its lasting performance and beauty. Use a quality rug pad underneath to both reduce the wear on the rug and protect the floor beneath it. Vacuum it regularly to keep dirt from getting ground into the pile, and clean it when it is soiled. Different materials, construction methods, and fibers require different cleaning methods, so be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when it comes time to clean your rug. With the proper TLC, an area rug can keep your room cozy and vibrant for years to come. For more information on rug design, selection, care, and maintenance, visit Bellacor.

 

This article is sponsored by Bellacor. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


5 Things to Do with… Gourds

To mark the fall season, create a autumnal array of festive gourd crafts for your home.

For as long as people have been cultivating these relatives of pumpkins, squash, and cucumbers, they have been adapting gourds for both utilitarian and decorative purposes around the home. Gourd crafts remain popular today, especially in autumn. Here are five great uses for your extras.

 

1. HOUSE A BIRD

Gourd Crafts - Birdhouse

Photo: gonzalesmastergardeners.org

It’s fun and easy to make a birdhouse from a hollowed-out gourd. Here’s how: Drill an entrance hole into the side of the gourd, then scoop out the innards before sanitizing with a solution of bleach and water. Drill additional holes for drainage and hanging, and finish by painting your creation.

 

2. HANG A GARLAND

Gourd Crafts - Garland

Photo: asoftplace.net

You need little more than a drill and some twine to fashion this seasonal garland with simple farmhouse appeal. Start by drilling holes in several dried or artificial gourds and then, as you string the gourds together, apply a dab of hot glue to each hole or tie a knot on both sides of each gourd to secure the arrangement.

 

3. MAKE A LANTERN

Gourd Crafts - Lanterns

Photo: makezine.com

Once it has dried, the hard-shelled calabash gourd can be altered with hand or power tools. To form a lantern, cut off the base of the gourd, clear the inside, and drill holes in a pleasing pattern. Mineral oil rubbed on the exterior imparts a subtle shine, while battery-powered tea or string lights complete the effect.

 

4. CARVE A JACK-O’-LANTERN

Gourd Crafts - Jack o Lantern

Photo: southernliving.com

Carved pumpkins don’t last long, but gourd jack-o’-lanterns can be reused annually. First, cut a hole in the bottom and empty the gourd, then lightly pencil on a grimacing face. Next, saw your design into the gourd and tape colored tissue paper inside to filter the light from the LED bulb that you position within.

 

5. CRAFT A CANTEEN

Gourd Crafts - Canteen

Photo: stormdrane.blogspot.com

Want to craft a drinking gourd? Step one is to obtain a dried and appropriately sized gourd. Proceed to cut a small hole in the top, then clean it out with a coat hanger. Fill the gourd with small stones, shaking to loosen any remaining material, then swirl in melted beeswax to coat the inside. Now it’s ready to fill with water!


Raking Leaves for Dummies

Sure, raking leaves is a chore, but it will be less taxing if you learn how to do it efficiently and safely—and try to have some fun while you're at it.

Raking Leaves

Photo: shutterstock.com

Fall brings football, hot apple cider, pumpkin carving, and other seasonal delights. But for homeowners with deciduous trees on their property, autumn calls to mind one thing above all else: raking leaves. Those who dread this annual rite may take heart from the reminder that raking leaves isn’t only about looks. If neglected, a bed of fallen foliage can smother the grass you worked so hard to maintain over the summer. And while raking leaves may seem slightly intimidating to the uninitiated, some basic advice can help you take care of this chore in relatively short order so that you can return to your weekend plans.

1. Equipment: Use the right rake for the job
It’s worth investing in a good rake. For the purpose of raking leaves (as opposed to gravel, mulch, or planting soil), use a rake with a long handle and a wide spread of metal, plastic, or bamboo tines. This is known as a leaf rake, or sometimes a lawn rake. Conserve effort by using the full width of tines to maximize efficiency; by raking in this fashion, you are able to move more leaves with fewer extensions of the tool.

2. Timing: Wait for the last leaf to drop
As weeks pass and leaves collect, get-it-done-now homeowners may start to squirm, but it pays to have patience: There’s less work in raking lots of leaves one time than in doing smaller amounts on several different occasions. Sure, gather some leaves now for your compost bin, but postpone the bulk of the job until all the leaves have dropped. Remember also that dry leaves are much easier to move, so don’t tramp into the yard, rake in hand, the morning after a storm.

3. Execution: Take small bites
Imagine that your property is composed of different sections, then focus your attention on one area at a time, raking leaves onto a tarp (or failing that, a large sheet). From time to time, bring the corners of the tarp together and drag the leaves to your larger collection pile, whether that’s out on the curb or elsewhere. On a breezy day, let nature be your helper; position your tarp so you’re raking in the same direction that the wind is blowing.

4. Technique: Safety first
Raking leaves is physically taxing. Treat it like the athletic activity it is! Stretch out your hamstrings and hips before you start and after you finish. Protect your back by using short strokes—don’t reach so far that you bend at the waist. Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated, even if you’re working on a crisp, cool day.

Above all, the best way to approach the task of raking leaves is with a sense of fun. Get the kids involved, and when you’re finished, celebrate with some cider and toasted marshmallows! Along the way, you’ll create memories to last well into winter and beyond.