How To Clean Pine Cones

I don’t know if it was just my upbringing or everyone in the Midwest. But I remember while my my family and I were out camping in the summer months. My mom would tell my brother and I to go pick up as many pine cones as we could! I ended up turning it into a game! Maybe just for myself- I don’t know if my brother ever participated in my crazy schemes for finding the MOST perfect pine cone. And I remember my mom would decorate the house for Christmas with our prize wining pine cones we had found earlier in the year.

Now that I’m an adult myself- I still can’t help but look down when I’m out in the mountains during the warmer months.

Pine cones are a great filler for decorations! You can do anything you want! Make a garland, stick in garland on your mantle, put in a bowl, or you can go down a completely different route! You can- use them for crafts! The possibilities are endless!

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IMG_7835Any craft sell some amazing smelling pine cones this time of the year. But why spend the money when you can make them yourself? And more times than not- the pine cones you find while have fun out in the woods or park are better than the ones you buy!

However; that being the case- these little guys are of nature they are homes of little bugs and etc. You don’t want to spend all this time on a craft and then have little colonies of bugs ruining your Christmas decorations. Or your crafts not holding their glitter or paint because of the little bugs eating away.
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To clean them is super easy! All you need is a third of white distilled vinegar and water in a bowl. Then place your pine cones in the bowl. Once they are saturated run your hands over them to get the rest of the dirt off them. Leave them in the vinegar bath for 45 minutes you will now they are ready when all the pine cones are closed instead of open.

Helpful hint- if you might get sap on your hands. Soap doesn’t always get sap off. The best solution? Use cooking oil as soap and ta da- good bye sap!

Once your pine cones are free from dirt and little insects place on paper towels to dry rotating them every hour to make sure every side is dry. I left mine out for a day and by the next day they were completely dried.

I know waiting for them to dry can be hard- if you want to decorate or craft that day you can put them on a single baking sheet lined with aluminium foil and put them in the oven at 150 degrees for a half hour- but if you want to take that route you have really pay attention to them or else it can be flammable! The best approach? Just be patient and leave them out to dry.

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Once they are dried and clean they are free to be used for whatever you want to use them for weather for a craft or leave them all natural for a more realistic look to them.

Finally- if you pick up anything else on the ground outside such as sticks or conkers do the same thing not just pine cones. And save yourself a little extra cash this Holiday season!

 

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Drying Oranges

I have always seen the traditional dried oranges with pine cones and twine- very rustic and traditional smell and look for the holidays.  And I’ve always appreciated it from afar and always saying- I AM going to do it this year. And while every year it tends to go on the back burner.

However; this year I decide enough was enough I was going to buy oranges and dry them. Now that I’m familiar with how to do it and confident on not burning down my apartment- I can see now that this is going to become a holiday tradition of mine!

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And it’s rather simple to make! I just sliced up some oranges into thin slice, then place them onto some paper towels. And then take some more paper towels and sandwich the oranges and very carefully press your hand over the oranges to get out as much juice as possible.

After that- gentle press more paper towel onto the orange to get out as much juice as possible.

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After pre-drying them with paper towels I laid down parchment paper onto a cookie sheet. Make sure you set your oven for the lowest setting. You don’t want to create weird orange chips.

I will tell you though it does take a bit for the oranges to be completely dried. I stupidly did this around 7pm and I had to end up drying them throughout two days. So heads up- this will take a couple hours to completely dry.

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Once dried they are ready to be used for anything you would like! I have seen- garland, potpourri with cinnamon sticks and pine cones, garland for a tree, and mantle pieces. Get creative! The smell of your kitchen after you are done is amazing! That’s for sure.

I would love to hear- what would you do with dried oranges?

 

Twenty-Four Days of Kindness

Growing up my Mom just did Christmas really well. Every December I got so excited because from the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve was filled with something fun and just made it special.

Maybe that’s why I just get lost in the magic of Christmas. And I have a tendency to get carried away with Christmas. I remember growing up my Mom would make each day in December just as fun as the last. I think part of fun is actually the count down to Christmas!

I remember she would hang up a velvet green advent calendar on my bedroom door and every morning I would wake up and I would find either a piece of gum or a candy cane.

Now that I’m out on my own- I was inspired to create my own advent calendar for my roommates and I (because who said adults can’t have some Christmas magic too!) I stumbled upon a cheap but amazing idea here for what Christmas is all about for my roommates.

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Very easy to make and fun to do as well! You can create it anyway you would like! Ken Wingard created it with a picture frame. However; I didn’t have one laying around so I decided to create a “little” Christmas station for it to decorate a wall in the place. First I just hung up some twine parallel to each other.

For the clues I decided to get a little crafty. I just googled Christmas tree clip art and then used that as a stencil on red scrapbook paper. For the count down part of the calendar I picked these little gift tags at my local Jo Ann’s store in the discount stationary aisle (seriously- check it out they have some amazing things!) then just used gold and red paint markers to write out the days. For the clues I decided to write them up with metallic pens alternating between white, silver, and gold. To jazz it up a bit more I bought some bells and glued it on the gift tag.

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To finish it up and wrap it up with a pretty bow I suppose you could say I decided to tie on a mini Christmas ornament between the holes on the gift tag and Christmas tree to ensemble them all together and then just use some clothes pins to clip them onto the twine. And ta-da complete!

Once it was all hung up I realized it still looked a little bare I hung up my Believe banner that I picked up from Target last year. And hung some bells I’ve had my whole life on the end of the twine.

I was really amazed at how well it actually turned out. I’m a little obsessed! I can’t wait for this to become a tradition the older I get- and your clues don’t have to be elaborate or have to spend money on gifts. For this year I did small things that I knew we would love doing together to sit back together as a family and truly treasure the wonderful season we are in and to celebrate the reason for the season by paying it forward.

 

Pumpkin Picking

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One of my favorite Fall activities is the classic pumpkin patches. A couple weekends ago my friends and I decided to make the trip and  make a morning of going through a corn maze and pick pumpkins.

When we arrived we instantly were taken back by all the fun activities. A large hay slide, zip line, kid train rides, duck races, play ground, and a hay jump pit! That probably are designed for kids under the age of 7. Yet, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be like kids for a couple of hours.

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We loaded up our car on the last beautiful Fall day. In the low 60’s with a slight wind- what more could you ask for? At this corn maze every year they make a new design. This year it was Frankenstein! I was so proud- we conquered it in less than 20 minutes! What!?

I have so many amazing memories as a kid- once October comes along go to a Pumpkin Patch and picking up a pumpkin, going through mazes, and picking apples! As well as my mom would allow my brother and I to pick up a sweet treat! I remember our favorite were honey sticks!

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After we went down the slide and rode across the zip line we decided to start going through the pumpkin patch. It’s amazing how much fun it is to go through patch after patch trying to find just the most  PERFECT pumpkin! I always think it brings ownership over something when you go out and pick it out. I mean grabbing one at your local supermarket will work but I don’t think it is as much fun as the experience of picking one up at the pumpkin patch is.

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Whether you pack up your car and head to the pumpkin patch or head to your local supermarket. Pick up your pumpkins and let’s get the festivities going!

Do you like to carve or paint your pumpkins?

 

Season of Gratitude

“October is my favorite color”

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Something about this season brings out the best in people. A renewed sense of joy and a purpose in their daily life. Maybe with a change of season and seeing a fresh perspective in your daily life things change. Your attitude changes. Your mood changes. I know for me that is the case in my life. Once September 22nd comes every year- I know there is going to be something different coming. A new season. Something exciting.

Autumn it’s no surprise that it’s my favorite time of the year.  I get so excited that I don’t think my physical body can actually handle all my excitement. Everything about it. I love it! I love the smell of freshness in the air, the crunchy leaves, the warm colors, pumpkin everything, the chunky scarves… and my list could continue. Something changes in this season- yes, in the tradition of the sense something does change the nights get longer and the days get shorter. But the art of gratitude comes back. I don’t know if it’s because Christmas is right around the corner and people are trying their last ditch effort to get onto Santa’s nice list or if they are genuinely remind just how fast a year truly goes by.

During this season I want to slow down- I want to spend better quality time with my family and friends I want to bake pumpkin bars in my kitchen. I just want to spend that extra time with the people that I know are in my life for a deeper purpose. And the best way to say “thank you” is giving them my time, to let them know they are important to me that they matter. Yes, this should happen every season- but something about this season adds something different. People aren’t running every which direction aren’t always on the go or attending this or that. I find during this season people come together- around their dinner tables or loaded up in their cars chasing the peak of the perfect fall foliage.

We see the word “gratitude” or “thankful” a lot during this season.  And honestly I don’t think that’s a mistake. I do believe we need to carry those words as reminders all year long. Yet- I know it can be difficult to remember when it’s out of sight out of mind. And now is the perfect reminder.

As October is just beginning and the most magical time of the year is finally here. I start viewing things new and exciting. I am a home body by nature- I love being home. I love having that sense of security, calm, and relaxation. I have found that in a new season I have a sudden urge to de-clutter, renew, and update things. With the longer nights I tend to find more people become (seasonal) home body’s *don’t know if that’s a thing.. but just made it up.* the home becomes a hub of togetherness and warmth and a safety blanket.

Why not spruce it up a bit? Make it a place to wind down, entertain, and re-energize. I don’t think that’s why there is such a huge surplus for dinning sets and decorations this time of the year. I think that’s the case because this is what people are lacking.

It makes things new and exciting again. It’s like this time of a year is a jump start. More quiet nights at home cuddled under a blanket with a hot drink in hand deep in conversation or nestled around watching a movie. Or loading up the family in the car heading to the pumpkin patch.

Last week my friend Monica and I went on a quick little day trip to see the fall colors. Let me tell you- it’s amazing what you can find! It’s crazy what happens when you are a grown women but you see leaves on the ground you instantly want to kick or throw them up in the air.

Autumn is the season where changes are happening yet I am blindsided by the beauty around me that I almost forget that things are actually dying. Every year I reminded that Autumn is a season that reminds me that change can be beautiful. That it isn’t scary of the unknown. To slow down- enjoy the scenery.

Something about Autumn…

 

 

 

Be Still

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“Be still, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations.I will be exalted in the Earth.” – Psalms 46:10

Growing up I had ADD. You read that correctly had- past tense. How I got off my ADD medicine is a story in it’s self. And a whole lot of arguing and stubborn pride. It’s hard to stay silent and be still. Yet, it’s one of the most rewarding skills I have ever learned. We live in a society of the faster the better. We have fast cars, fast food, rewind buttons, email, instant messaging, and the list goes on. When did we become so in tuned to ourselves and what is best for- me, myself, and I that we lost what we stand for and the art of a community?

In my bible next to the verse I mentioned up above I wrote- “Stop!” and “Enough” Put down your phone, unplug, and enjoy the stillness. I don’t know about you but I swear my mind is always  full sprint- take no prisoner captive attitude. Yet we aren’t called that way. What I love about winter is that it’s perfect picture of this- calmness, still, and just a slower pace.

The question is- “how can I unplug and disengage?” Here are my 8 ways I shut down and be present and be still.

  1. Schedule: I know I know that almost sounds a little rehearsed. But I’m a firm believer in habits and creating a habit. If you don’t schedule time aside you will subconsciously “schedule” something into that time slot. I also find- if I write it down in my planner- be still. I will spend that time being still. If that means- going on a drive or laying in my bed.
  2. Prepare Your Heart: I know it’s hard to switch gears- going from going, going, going  to a complete stand still is hard. In this preparation time spend time in worship and journal. Journal what’s on your mind. What is your fears? What’s going through your mind?
  3. Undisturbed: If this means shutting off your phone and laptop do it! We all need that undisturbed time to sit, pray, reflect, and soak in the quietness. And refuel so that we can do what we need to do. It’s important to hit the gym or study for that big test. But it’s even more important to take care of your mental and spiritual life.
  4. Listen: In my experience God doesn’t have a huge megaphone yelling with a huge spotlight on Him with grand theatrical movements. If that was the case it would be easy to spot him and hear what he has to say. He whispers- if we aren’t in the right attitude or place to hear Him can we?
  5. Draw Closer: When your best friend is telling you a secret what do you do? You get closer to her don’t ya? You get closer to hear clearly what she has to say. I don’t know about you. But in those moments between God and myself I want to be closer than ever. I want to know more, I want to know what the bible says I want to hear all what God says. I don’t want to interrupt what God is telling me.
  6. Do Not Be Afraid: When I was a kid- I use to hate being in complete stillness or quietness. I always thought something bigger and worst is going to happen. In those minutes my overactive imagination got the worst of me. Enter into this moment with a clear mind and expect great things.
  7. Meditate: Mediating is a great way to begin closing off distractions and allowing God into the moment. There are some amazing guiding meditations that will help shut off the never ending to do lists in your mind. And help you be present.
  8. Give it to God- And Go To Sleep: When you are starting to feel anxious or panicked your palms are sweating, you are hyperventilating, and you are angry. Talk to God- give it to Him; give Him your fears, anxiety, the violent storm in your head. Talk to Him like you would talk to your best friend.

God is oh so good! To be honest God shows up to me in picture form. My favorite hobby is actually photography. God shows up to me while I have a camera in my hand. A couple days ago I had an itching to get behind the camera again. To go and explore and just get lost behind the camera for a while. While I’m out usually I have my headphones in and just shut the world out for a minute.

I’m a visual learner. I think this is how God communicates with me- And I can’t wait to share them with you!

Be Still: Photography Exhibit

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Hello 2017

“Commit to the Lord, whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” – Proverbs 16:3

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Just like that another year has come to a close. I’m amazed by how fast the year has whizzed by just like a movie on fast forward.  2016 has to be one of the best years of my life to date! Every month something new and exciting and last but not least something that would challenge and push me further out of my shell.

With that being said- I know 2016 was hard on people in the world with so many deaths, and the different crisis, and shootings giving people that element of fear and anxiety. I know it was almost nerve wrecking to wake up every morning and read a headline!

In my own little world- 2016 will always hold a special place in my heart. I remember when I was probably 10 or 11 I decided what I wanted to do with my life. I knew where I wanted to be at- where I wanted to attend college everything was mapped out. I was determined to get there. 2016 was the year that I had envisioned so many years ago come full circle.

I graduated from Black Hills State University. My childhood dream came true! After many late nights, anxiety attacks, and millions of cups of coffee- I had done it. I sat in the gymnasium in a cap and gown waiting for my name to be called. And before I knew it (even though it took way too long!) my name was called and I walked across the stage and just like that. The best four years of my life were now behind me. Don’t get me wrong I don’t miss the anxiety or the late nights of homework. The things I do miss is the things that I get to take with me everyday. The friendships and the lessons I learned- and the determination to chase after my dream whole heartily not caring what others might think.

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I’m a planner I love to plan things! Obviously if I knew where and what I wanted before I had even made it to high school! However; I’ve learned maybe there are things that are much better not planned to a “T”. Don’t get me wrong I still love a good plan and knowing what’s going to happen. While I was in college and a lot of my friends were getting their dream jobs and preparing to take the big leap into the career world. There was me- not sure where to turn or better yet how to even figure out- what is next. With an underlining fear of not doing anything my heart stopped. I was scared. What next? The unknown is very scary and let’s be honest no one likes not knowing what is going on.  I found maybe this unknown period of my life won’t be so bad after all. The perfect time to do a little traveling, no responsibilities, and finally learn who Emily is without being a student first.

I’m so excited and optimistic over what is to come in  2017. I’m not one for making big massive and elaborate new year resolutions. I love setting myself little manageable goals and then following through. However; this year I’ve decided to push myself a little bit more out of my shell. And focus on who Emily is and better yet what’s to come! 2016 has been an amazing start of figuring out what I like, what I don’t like where I want to go where I don’t want to go. And that’s the most fun about growing up.

However; it’s time to put that in action! Time to put myself out there and not allowing the fear to paralyze me from the expectation I had in my head over what I think it should have been to begin with.

In 2016 I graduated, moved back home, faced my fears and launched my blog, traveled, explored, laughed, and probably drank way too many cups of coffee.

Cheers 2016! Hello 2017- you are looking mighty good!

“Above all, try something” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid.

Courage means you don’t let your fear stop you” – Unknown