Fork, Knife, Spoon Table!

IMG_1193 IMG_1194OK, since all the election ads made it seem shameless self-promotion is not only allowed but encouraged, here I go.

My dear friend Nette gave me this paper runner on a roll after she spotted it at a little shop. She can’t remember WHAT shop, so sorry I can’t share that info with you, but I loved that she found a “fork, knife, spoon” thing and bought it for me! (My sister Judy also jumped on the band wagon, and sent me some mini utensils dangling from earrings, but those were too small to photograph well, so just use your imagination.) 

No recipe to share, just these pics of my table with my blog-themed runner! I paired it with dark gray bandanas from Walmart for napkins. (When I bought these, they were $1.99 a piece…) The napkin rings are pewter tea pots I got from Good Things in White Bear Lake many moons ago. The plates are rimmed in navy with a cream center. Simple, but clean and classic. Enjoy.

Fall Display Pots

FullSizeRenderKale, swiss chard, and Jerusalem cherries make an interesting combo for fall pots—these happen to greet guests at my front door. The summer lime green sweet potato ivy was getting a little leggy, and the coleus had grown gargantuan, so it was time to refresh my entryway buckets with plants that love it cool and crisp. I ripped most of the plants out and put in this grouping, leaving only the green spikey thing (can’t remember what it’s called…) in the middle.

The feathery golden ornamental grass at the back adds a nice texture, something understated needed with everything else being so showy and attention-seeking. In the past, I’ve put in one tall spike or grass, and filled the rest of the bucket with different kinds of kale. But they didn’t have the variety in colors and textures I wanted this year, so I tried something new, proving you can teach an old dog new tricks. (FYI, these plants are all from Bachman’s—the nursery with the most selection close to my home.) While the rainbow Swiss chard IS edible, many signs warned the Jerusalem cherries are NOT. Apparently they’re quite poisonous to pets and kids! So I’m not sure if that will affect the Swiss chard growing in the same soil or not, if we wanted to chop some up for dinner. I know my husband Rich is just dying to try the chard…again, NOT. 

Paper Bag Leaves

IMG_1070Here’s a way to use up extra paper grocery bags AND decorate for fall at the same time. This might even be considered “up-cycling”—the new trend in the “reduce, reuse, recycle” movement. How hip is that? Since most of us have cupboards or closets brimming over with used paper bags, you’ve got most of the supplies you need for this craft already! You might need to pop out to Michael’s or Jo-Ann’s for the paint and brushes, and maybe for some Aleene’s tacky glue or a hot glue gun as well. But these supplies are pretty cheap, so this isn’t a break-the-bank project, even if you didn’t have everything on hand already. Here’s the supply list:

  • Craft paper bags, preferably with twisted raffia handles
  • Twisted raffia cord in natural, if your bags don’t have raffia handles*
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Sponge paint brush
  • 2-ounce bottles of metallic acrylic craft paint (in fall colors)
  • Fall leaves to trace—maple, oak, birch, aspen
  • Hot glue gun or Aleene’s tacky glue (not pictured)



First step: Take a walk and look for good leaves to use as your patterns. If you want to use these as a grouping on your table, mantle, or whatever surface needs a touch of fall whimsy, try grabbing leaves from a variety of trees. Heck, you could even offer to rake your neighbor’s yard to find some choice specimens!

Once you have your leaves in hand, you’re ready to begin. Cut the paper bag down one side, and cut off bottom. Discard bottom of bag, as the folds and double-thickness make it not usable for this project. (If you think of another use for the bottoms of the bags, please let me know! If I think of a project using bag-bottoms, I’ll be sure to let YOU know.)

IMG_1101Remove handles from bag. (I’ve got a Chipotle bag pictured here, but a lot of places use bags with the twisted raffia cord handles. I suppose this would work with white bags as well as the brown. Would need more paint to cover, probably…) Cut each handle into 4 pieces, for a total of 8. If you’re using purchased twisted raffia, cut pieces 3-4 inches long for leaf stems. (*NOTE: I could not find the twisted raffia cord at Michael’s, Jo-Ann’s, Hobby Lobby, or Walmart, places where I’ve found it in the past. But I did find it online at Set aside.


Trace leaf shapes onto printed side of bag with a pencil. Trace as many as you want! The bag pictured here would yield you about 8 leaves, perfect for the number of leaf stems you get from cutting up the handles. Making a bunch at a time is easy, and then you’ll have more to work with when decorating later on.



Next, tear out the leaves along the pencil line. This works best if you use both hands, and keep your thumbs and index fingers tight to the pencil line—that way you will be able to control the tear best, and keep your leaf shape in tact. The leaves look the most natural if you squiggle as you tear. So don’t aim for perfection.


Glue your stem to the printed side of the leaf, which will be the back side. If you use a hot glue gun to adhere, you can continue on with the project right away, perfect for the impatient crafter. If you use Aleene’s tacky glue, let stems dry for 30-60 minutes before continuing. Aleene’s tacky glue is MUCH preferred over Elmer’s school glue, which takes forever to dry, and makes paper soggy.

FullSizeRender-2Here comes the fun part. Fold your leaf along where the main veins of a leaf would be, and then crumple it. Doesn’t that make it look like a real leaf? Well, you’re getting there. Some paint will help…




Paint front side of leaf with metallic acrylic craft paint, let dry a bit, and then flip and paint back side and stem. Once dry, flip and give front a second coat, if needed. I’m using purple paint in this tutorial so it shows up against the craft paper, but for my leaf grouping, I used gold, bronze, copper, rust, burgundy, and dark green. (See final picture.)


Once, your leaves are dry, you will need to crease at veins and crumple again.

Place all your leaves in a grouping in your fall display, and enjoy! And when it’s time to put these away and pull out the Christmas decorations, throw these in a Ziplock bag or a box, and they will be ready for service next fall. I’ve had the leaves you see (pictured last) for about 15 years now. I came up with this project when we needed a cheap fall craft for kids ages 6-12 at my kid’s school one year, and it was a hit. But there’s no reason to let the elementary crowd have all the fun! Make your own batch and enjoy fall colors indefinitely.


FullSizeRenderAnyone heard “I’m boooooorrrrr-ed!” from a kid this summer? Here’s an activity that’ll keep kids occupied for hours on end. You can buy Gak (Nickelodeon’s name for it) at Toys “R” Us, but making your own Slime or goop—or whatever you want to call it—is way more fun. What magic powder turns simple glue into goo? Borax. It hooks the glue’s molecules together, making it into a polymer instead of a liquid. (Actually, according to my Physics/Chemistry major son, it is now a non-Newtonian fluid.)

Kid’s of all ages (like smarty-pants college-age Mitch—those aren’t pre-school arms pictured above…) love the tactile sensation of Slime, and you may have trouble prying it away from adults to let the kids have at it. Just be warned that Slime and fabric are disastrous together, so keep it clear of your favorite tablecloth, jeans, barbie outfits, etc. It should be played with on a hard surface, with plastic or wood utensils or toys. And that’s the end of my disclaimer, so don’t come crying to me when you’ve got Slime stuck in your sleeping bags. (Been there, done that.)

Aside from pulling out this science experiment for bored kids in the summer, I also used to keep an “I’m Bored Jar” on the kitchen counter. Whenever my offspring uttered that dreaded phrase, they had to pick a piece of paper from the jar. They might get a fun activity like making Play-Doh or a marshmallow gun, or they might get a chore like picking up Legos or cleaning mirrors. After vacuuming Mom’s van (kidding…sort of), they learned to entertain themselves.

Makes 1 cup

4 or 7.62 ounce bottle of Elmer’s school glue
(Size of bottle doesn’t make a difference in outcome, but little kids will have an easier time managing the Slime made with 4 ounce bottle.)
2 cups distilled water, divided
10 + drops of food coloring
1 teaspoon Borax powder

1. Pour glue into small bowl. Fill the empty glue bottle with distilled water, leaving a little extra room at top. Add food coloring. (To get a lime green, add yellow food coloring to your water first, plus a few drops of green.) Put cap back on bottle and shake vigorously.

2. Pour colored water into bowl with glue and stir with wooden spoon.

3. In separate bowl, combine 1 cup distilled water and the Borax.

4. Slowly pour the colored glue into the Borax water and slowly stir. You will see globs and strings begin to form. Lift the globs out of the bowl with your hands and knead out water until smooth. Add extra strings of glue as you can, and combine.

5. Store in Ziplock back or plastic container with tight-fitting lid.