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Wednesday
Oct292014

Holiday floral arrangement: pomegranates, orchids and berries

In the weeks closer to Thanksgiving, it might be challenging to find pomegranates without scarring and suitable for placement in a lovely centerpiece arrangement.

A solution is to keep an eye out now for the best-looking specimens. The website Ehow has instructions for drying pomegranates which we have not tested, but UC Davis in California recommends waxing as a commercial solution. Pomegranates are susceptible to water loss through their skin, and will shrivel with dehydration.

Try coating them with a craft store finish such as glossy ModPodge to add sheen and keep them plump. 

The Golden Harvest centerpiece was made from a project by POM Wonderful, which supplies fresh pomegranates as well as pomegranate arils and juices to area supermarkets and gourmet food stores.   Area florists sometimes stock cymbidium orchids around the holidays, and they can also order them.

Fresh materials: 9 pomegranates, 8 gold cymbidium orchids, 10 stems hypericum berries, 20 magnolia leaves

Supplies and tools: 10-inch by 4-inch cylinder-style glass vase, 2 blocks of floral foam, 8 water tubes, 18 food-safe wood picks (6-inch size, from a florist or found online), 2-1/2 yards double-sided
tape, knife, floral shears, floral tape.

1. Wrap two parallel rows of tape, covered side facing out, horizontally around the very clean vase. Keep the tops of the leaves somewhat even, trim off the leaf bottoms. Remove paper and press leaves around the outside of the vase with the underside facing out, forming an even line at the vase’s base.

2. Submerse foam blocks in water until saturated (about an hour); don’t force down. Cut the blocks with a knife to fit the vase, allowing the foam’s top to extend about a half inch above the rim. Secure with floral tape.

3. Insert two wood picks into each pomegranate and insert evenly around the foam. Tuck the cut hypericum berry clusters between pomegranates.

4. Trim each orchid stem, place in a water tube and tuck into the arrangement.

Note: Lilies, roses, alstroemeria and mums can be used in place of orchids. Omit water tubes for those flowers, which be pushed directly into the moist floral foam.

Wednesday
Oct222014

Easy three-ingredient soup recipe: Creamy kabocha squash and peanut butter

Easy soup recipe: three-ingredient kabocha squash and peanut butter soup 

We could not wait to make the year's first batch of the unbelieveably easy soup made with kabocha squash, a pumpkin with mottled green flesh, and, typically, a small patch of orange. It makes the creamiest, slightly sweet fall soup, and our recipe has only three ingredients: peanut butter, kabocha squash and water. Try it and I guarantee you will become addicted to the ease, the velvety texture and the rich flavor. It's great in a cup for lunch, but also elegant enough to hold its own in a soup tureen on the Thanksgiving buffet table.  

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Thursday
Oct092014

Halloween ideas: Minion painted pumpkins inspired by 'Despicable Me'  

Courtesy David Williams/WilliamsNursery.com

Painted pumpkins become Minions for Halloween with Mason jar lids for their large round eyes in a fun project from Williams Nursery in Westfiled. 

 

Cute pumpkin ideas are always in order for those whose trick-or-treat displays are geared toward younger Halloween visitors.  Best of all, these don't require carving or templates.

 

To make them, the pumpkins get a yellow coat of glossy spray paint. The details can be brushed on with high gloss paint in blue and black, or use tape and paper to cover the areas that will stay yellow and then use spray paint for the detailing, too.

 

The large, round eyes of Mason jar lids are really what make the minions, and the WilliamsNursery.com project guide uses roofing nails to attach them. Simply hammer a pilot hole into the center of the flat removable part of the lid. Push the assembly into the  pumpkin with the labeling of the Mason jar lids turned to the inside.

 

Jab a few black pipe cleaners into the pumpkin top near the stem and the minion pumpkin is ready for outdoor display on the porch or inside on a table or stand. 

 

See instruction shots by David Williams, along with his gorgeous flower photography on the regularly updated nursery blog. Minion pumpkins in various sizes are also on sale for $10 to $25 each at Williams Nursery, 524 Springfield Ave., Westfield. Starter kits with the Mason jar lid eyes and pipe cleaners also are available.

On Monday, the nursery is offering hayrides, pony rides and more fun. The rides and activities also are scheduled for weekends through Oct. 26. There's a costume contest on Oct. 25. For more information, call (908) 232-4076.

Monday
Oct062014

Hungry kids to clean up grounds at Reeves-Reed Arboretum 

Goats will be arriving at Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit later this month to eat away unwanted vegetation.It's time to get the landscape ready for winter, and if you're feeling exhausted at the mere thought of pulling weeds and removing spent plants from your garden beds, you might wish for a back-saving alternative.

Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit is bringing in hungry kids to do the dirty work.

Don't go calling the authorities about child labor violations, these youngsters are the four-legged type. 

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Thursday
Sep182014

Fall decorations: Scarecrows always draw crowds to Cranford 

Selfiecrow was among the favorites at last year's Scarecrow Stroll in CranfordCranford is gearing up for its 7th annual Scarecrow Stroll.

 

From Oct. 23 through 31, residents and visitors will see fun and creative scarecrows decorating street lamps and many other areas downtown.  Families, school groups and business owners will all be competing this year to have their scarecrow voted a favorite.

 

There will be several special activities at this year’s event, according to organizers at the Cranford Downtown Business & Economic Development Office. Mommies 24/7, a women's group with members from Cranford, Westfield and other nearby towns, will run a Scarecrow Scavenger Hunt.  Trick or Treat Day downtown will be held Friday, Oct. 31.

 

Visitors can expect to find wild and crazy creations on every street and in store windows, according to  organizers. First, second and third place prizes will be awarded in the following categories: 12 and under, 13 and over, and business owner.

 

“We look forward to seeing what people come up with, and every year we are impressed,” Downtown Director Kathleen Miller Prunty said in a written statement about the event. “Of course, the best part is seeing people walking throughout the downtown enjoying the scarecrows and voting for their favorites. Every year, we count thousands of votes.”

 

Need ideas for your own fall decorating at home? See some of the Cranford scarecrows from previous years on the Scarecrow Stroll Facebook page.  

 

 Cranford residents and business owners can register by Oct. 4 and get entry guidelines at Cranford.com.