Fall Decorating the Natural Way

As I mentioned in a recent post, I’m wanting to move toward a simpler, less-cluttered life. And for the fall season, I’m thinking about how I can decorate and still keep things simple. Decorating with natural things is appealing to me because after you’re done decorating, you can recycle your natural decorations in a compost pile. Or you may be able to work it into your decorating for the next season (pinecones, for example, work great for both fall and Christmas decorating).

I made the centerpiece shown above with some small pumpkins and dried hydrangeas–they make such a pretty fall combination! I just placed the pumpkins in a shallow wire basket and filled in the empty spaces with the dried hydrangea flowers. This arrangement can work as a centerpiece. Or display it on a coffee table or sideboard.

As you’re doing your fall decorating, you may be doing a little cleaning, too, like cleaning your windows before the cold weather sets in or cleaning your floors. So here are some tips if you’re needing some nature-themed decorating inspiration and simple DIY natural cleaning ideas:

  • Create a welcoming home entrance by decorating your front door with a wreath made with colorful leaves and/or other fall foliage. Pinecones or gumballs from a sweet gum tree make a nice-looking wreath too.
  • You can also use items from nature (pinecones, branches of colorful leaves, gourds, pumpkins, or pots of autumn flowers) to add a natural touch to your decor throughout your home.
  • Display fresh fruit in a bowl or basket. Apples look great in wooden bowls and this makes a great fall table decoration or centerpiece.
  • Candles make everything cozy and beeswax candles are a good choice because they are long-lasting and burn clean. Soy candles are clean-burning, too.
  • Lanterns also add a cozy feel to your decor, whether you use real candles or the battery-powered ones.
  • Using seasonal pillows and throws on chairs and sofas is an easy way to add an autumn feel to the  furniture you already own. You can carry the “natural look” through by using pillows and other accessories made with natural fabrics like burlap, linen, and cotton.
  • Use a burlap or linen table runner in your dining room and decorate with displays of small pumpkins or gourds, or a “bouquet” of colorful branches of leaves.
  • Wicker baskets add a natural, rustic touch and are great for storing odds and ends or for displaying potted plants in.
  • Use fresh seasonal flowers in a vase or potted flowers throughout your home and on your porch for a punch of color.

  • Use dried herbs and fruits from your summer garden in an herbal potpourri mix to add natural fragrance to your home. In the potpourri shown above, I mixed dried orange slices with cinnamon sticks, fresh rosemary, and fresh oregano. I let the herbs dry right in the bowl, and they still have a great fragrance after they’re dried. You can also create a mix of dried citrus peel from oranges and grapefruit (cut in smaller pieces or strips), cinnamon sticks, and/or dried apple and orange slices. Or mix herbs like dried lavender and rosemary (and some eucalyptus if you have it) and display in a small bowl.
  • Another use for dried herbs–if you have a wood-burning fireplace, you can toss dried rosemary and lavender twigs into the fire to create a nice aroma.
  • Before you add any seasonal window decorations, clean the glass with a DIY vinegar and water mixture. Use 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water, or for dirtier windows, use equal parts vinegar and water. Put mixture in a spray bottle and shake to mix.
  • For a natural, light, general cleaner around the house (on things like countertops and tile floors), mix 2 Tablespoons of baking soda in 2 cups of warm water. Add in a few drops of your favorite essential oil for a soft fragrance.
  • Use a linen spray on your bed sheets to add a soft, relaxing fragrance to the bedroom. Just put 1 cup of water (you can use distilled water, too) in a spray bottle and add 10-15 drops of your favorite essential oil; shake to mix and then lightly spray on linens. Shake this mixture each time you use it (as you’re getting your home ready for fall, you may also want to turn your mattresses and vacuum both sides, just to keep things fresh).

Hope you are having fun decorating for fall! Do you have any natural decorating tips of your own?

Sharing at Happiness is HomemadeThursday Favorite Things,  Inspire Me Monday.

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Blueberry Cornbread Muffins

Cornbread and cornbread muffins remind me of fall. Maybe because chili reminds me of fall too–and chili and cornbread go together so well. It’s officially fall now, but I wanted to give a last nod to summer by adding a summery element to these cornbread muffins–fresh blueberries! The blueberries give this slightly-sweet cornbread a great flavor. And the corn kernels help make the muffins good and moist. These muffins are actually great any time of the year. Serve them for breakfast or for a snack later in the day!

BLUEBERRY CORNBREAD MUFFINS by NancyC

Makes 17 muffins

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen (and thawed) corn kernels
  • Optional: granulated or coarse sugar, for sprinkling on top of muffins

Preheat oven to 350″F. Line muffin tins with 17 paper muffin liners.

In large bowl, blend the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In medium size bowl, blend melted butter, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla extract. Stir this buttermilk/egg mixture into the flour mixture, mixing everything well. Fold in the blueberries and corn. Lightly sprinkle tops of muffins with sugar, if desired.

Fill each muffin liner 2/3 to 3/4 full and bake at 350˚F for 16 to 18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in muffin tin for about 5 minutes, then remove muffins and cool completely on wire rack.

Fall really came up fast for me this year, how about you? What types of goodies do you like to bake to welcome in the fall season?

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Creating Quiet

Simplify, simplify. A simpler, less busy life is what many of us long for. A life that’s uncluttered and downsized, with more time to relax and just enjoy being. I’m all about wanting to clear out the unimportant so I can focus on what’s really important. Are you wanting that too?

Clearing away the unimportant things, whether it’s a too-busy schedule or a cluttered room, helps create “quiet” in your life. The other day I read something that helps explain this mindset of simplifying things–this journey of creating a less crazy, more simplified life:

The journey of these years have been toward quiet–toward creating quiet around me, but more than that, toward creating quiet within me, which is much more difficult, and much more profound.

I’m amazed at how many things are ultimately connected: I like living in our home more when it’s less full of stuff. I find it easier to get dressed in the morning when I have fewer choices.

I’ve begun wandering through our house, gathering things up–less, less, less. And in my closet–less, less, less. I’m creating quiet in our home, on our walls, in my own closet, and that quiet gives me energy. The simplicity feels spacious, and inspiring, like I can draw a clean breath.

–Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect

I’ve read that having a lot of “stuff” is actually stressful. The more “stuff” you own, the more time you spend taking care of it, worrying about it, repairing it. It’s easier to focus on what’s important when you’re not surrounded with unnecessary clutter and distractions. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” We can miss out on quite a bit, especially hearing God speak to us, when we’re too busy to take the time to “be still.” Or too busy to take the time to rest. Mark 6:31 tells how Jesus invited His disciples to “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” We all need time to rest and recharge!

So I’m encouraged to keep on moving toward a simpler life–less clutter, less busy, more quiet, more rest. Are you on that journey too?

Sharing at Inspire Me Monday

Strawberry-Zucchini Bread

Have any of you grown zucchini in your garden this summer? Several friends of mine have shared their bounty of zucchini with me, and this Strawberry-Zucchini Bread is one of the yummy things I made with it! It’s a really good, moist bread with chopped fresh strawberries that give it a nice fruity flavor.

It’s a great bread for this time of year, as summer turns into fall. The summery strawberries mixed with shredded zucchini and favorite fall spices–cinnamon and nutmeg–make a tasty end-of-summer combination!

STRAWBERRY-ZUCCHINI BREAD by NancyC

Makes one 9×5″ loaf

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 Tablespoons light olive oil
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup coarsely-chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour a 9×5″ loaf pan; set aside.

In large bowl, blend together the flour, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

In medium-size bowl, beat eggs and add in the light olive oil, mixing well. Stir in the shredded zucchini, chopped strawberries, and chopped nuts.

Add the egg/oil mixture to the dry ingredients in the large bowl, stirring until everything is combined (batter will be thick!). Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan.

Bake at 350˚F for 43 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then cool completely on wire rack.

The weather here has been so nice these past few weeks. Warm but not-too-warm days and cooler evenings. Perfect for enjoying a slice of this quick bread with tea or coffee! What kinds of things do you like to bake this time of year?

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Blueberry Almond Pound Cake

I found some blueberries at a really good price at my local market, so it was the perfect time to make this Blueberry Almond Pound Cake! If you like blueberries, you will need to try this–it’s so moist, dense, and rich! You can also use frozen blueberries in this cake, but the baking time will be slightly longer. I prefer using fresh blueberries because the frozen berries tend to give the batter a blue-ish color. The almonds and almond extract give this pound cake a really nice flavor and the glaze adds a little extra sweetness. Serve it for dessert at dinner or at a brunch with coffee or tea.

BLUEBERRY ALMOND POUND CAKE by NancyC

Makes one 10″ bundt cake

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 (8-ounce) block of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup sliced or coarsely chopped almonds
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed

ALMOND GLAZE

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 to 4 Tablespoons Half & Half (light cream), depending on desired consistency
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 Tablespoons sliced or coarsely chopped almonds for garnish (you can lightly toast them if you prefer)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10″ bundt pan; set aside.

In large bowl, blend butter, cream cheese, almond extract, and sugar until mixture is creamy and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and blend well after each addition.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to creamy mixture and mix well.

Stir in sliced almonds, mixing to evenly distribute in batter and then gently fold in the blueberries and blend evenly into the batter. Spoon batter into prepared bundt pan. Bake 50 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or almost clean (do not overtake, or cake will be dry).

Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan onto a serving plate (you may need to loosen the edges of the cake from the pan a little with a knife). Let cake cool completely.

While cake is cooling, mix the glaze ingredients and after cake cools, drizzle glaze over the cake. Sprinkle the almonds on top. Makes about 8-10 servings.

Have you been enjoying fresh blueberries this summer too? What kind of blueberry baked goods have you been making lately?

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