Fall into fun seasonal projects


Published Oct 12, 2010 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

The arrival of autumn is a good thing on its own, but these clever ideas make celebrating the season even better.

Broom care tips

1. Moisture can be good for brooms with bristles made of plant fibers (such as corn). Periodically sweeping dewy grass (or rain or snow off steps) will clean the fibers and keep them supple.

2. To maintain the shape of your broom, hang it on a wall or store it upside down.

3. If the bristles become splayed, submerge them in warm water for 30 seconds. Then wrap a rubber band around the bottom and hang the broom for a day or two. When you remove the band, the bristles’ form will be restored.

4. Add a rubber tip, such as a cane tip, to the handle of the broomstick. It will protect your walls from marks and help keep the broom in place between sweeps.

5. Clean the bristles by running them over a stiff edge, such as a deck stair or a front stoop.

Mulch, the easy way

Rather than bag fallen leaves for a sanitation truck to haul away, do yourself — and your garden — a favor by turning them into mulch. Rake the leaves into long rows and then run over them with a lawn mower to chop them up. Spread the mulch around flower beds, trees and plants to enrich the soil, minimize weeds and reduce watering frequency.

Spice it up

Use pumpkin pie spice to add a kick to more than just the traditional dessert.

Give drinks, dessert or breakfast a seasonal spin with this classic spice blend. It’s easy to make your own spice mix with just a few pantry staples: 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger and 1⁄2 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Add 2 tablespoons sugar for a sweetened version. The sweetened spice mix is delicious sprinkled on buttered toast or French toast. You can also make spiced whipped cream (add 2 teaspoons of the mix to 1⁄2 cup heavy cream before whipping) as a topping for hot coffee, Irish coffee, pie or cake.

Gourds go glamorous

Dried gourds are lovely on their own, but a glossy finish turns them into works of art. Choose gourds in different shapes and sizes, and pick a palette of autumnal colors that work with your decor.

For an easy centerpiece or other sculptural display, cover a work surface with kraft paper. Clean gourds with a damp cloth and sand off imperfections using fine-grit sandpaper. Paint the gourds with white primer and let dry overnight.

Spray sections of each gourd with glossy paint or enamel. Let dry for three hours. Turn gourds to spray unpainted areas. Let dry overnight. Repeat if necessary.

Pie crust bonus

When baking for the holidays, don’t toss out dough scraps, which can be used to make delectable hors d’oeuvres or cookies. Shape scraps into a disk and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to 1⁄4-inch thickness and cut with a cookie cutter. Place cutouts on parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes. Top with grated cheddar or Gruyere cheese; or brush with cream and sprinkle with poppy seeds or paprika. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer on parchment to a wire rack. Let cool slightly before serving. For a sweet version, dust the cutouts with cinnamon sugar, instead of the cheese or spice, before baking.

Winterizing plants

The freeze-and-thaw cycle that root balls face this time of year can damage plants. If your planters are too heavy to move indoors, wrap the pots in cushioned packaging material for insulation. To hide the plastic, cover with burlap (available at hardware stores and garden centers).

Seasonal splendor

Autumn is harvest season for hazelnuts, pecans and walnuts. But there’s no need to squirrel them away for winter. Celebrate their abundance by fashioning them into a welcoming wreath.

Use any hard-shelled nuts, including acorns you gather from your own backyard. To make a wreath, you’ll need a 24-inch flat wooden wreath form, 2 pounds of walnuts and 1 pound of pecans in the shell, and 1 pound each of almonds and hazelnuts. Hot-glue walnuts to a 5-inch-long segment of one side of the wreath form, varying direction of nuts. Fill spaces between walnuts with the other nuts, gluing them to the form and the walnuts as you work.

Repeat, working in sections, to cover the wreath form completely. Be sure to adhere nuts to inner and outer edges of wreath form to conceal it entirely. Tie a wide ribbon around wreath.