A Chestnut Wreath

fall tree

Autumn is very late this year – the trees are just starting their annual decorating.   I remember gazing out at this tree when I was in grade eight, as my desk was close to the window.   While the teacher would be droning on about some uninteresting subject, I would be rejoicing in the glorious fall colors.   We used to play soccer in the field after school, kicking the ball around under a canopy of orange and gold.   It is still standing, although the other trees are gone, made way for a parking lot.    I still get the pleasure of looking at it when I walk, I think of it as my tree, even though we are both a bit the worse for wear after forty plus years.   

Chestnut trees are also a fall favorite of mine.   My grandmother’s farm had chestnut trees in one of the fields and every Thanksgiving (Canadian, so mid-October), my little brother and I, brave but ready to run at the first sign of a big dumb cow, would gather them up and then use them to build fields for his barn set  – what fun we had lining them up as fences for his toy animals.  As a young girl who was horse-crazy, their glossy finish always reminded me of a chestnut mare or the sleek racehorses we would see at the fall fair.    We have two giant chestnut trees in front of our library so when you go inside to pick up your books, you’d better beware lest you be boinked on the head by a falling chestnut.    Last year one of the librarians displayed a chestnut wreath she had made on the checkout desk.  She emailed me the instructions, but I was too late, so this year I was prepared and gathered up several baskets after the first windstorm. 

chestnuts

 First I shellacked them with a coat of  acrylic varnish to maintain the shine, as they will dry out quickly.    I raided my mothers art cupboard and used a spray can, which was quick and easy but you might get a more even application by painting it on.   I did this a few days ahead of time to let it dry.  

acrylic finish

straw wreath

Next I took a ten inch straw wreath, (but any size would do, I started small to experiment, but hers was quite large and impressive), and wrapped it tightly with some nice decorating tape.   Make sure any loose ends are secured with straight pins, as you don’t want it unraveling after the glue is on. 

wreath supplies

Then using the trusty old glue gun, attach the chestnuts in any pattern you wish.  I must admit my first attempt was not perfect, as I have too much spacing between some of them.   When collecting it is better to find chestnuts of different sizes and some with flat bottoms for odd spaces.   The librarian had filled in the holes in between with Spanish moss, but after googling I found others have used small acorns to fill up the spaces.    I prefer mine having the pretty decorating tape showing through.   

chestnut wreath

It could be hung up with wire, but is fairly heavy so a table wreath with a candle in the middle is a nice option.   I decided to place mine on a wicker tray and added some bows in the corner and some fairy lights.  

chestnut wreath

You could use this for a centerpiece for American Thanksgiving, and then swap out the bows for something Christmasy.    These are not the kinds of chestnuts you roast on an open fire however, as these are horse chestnuts, which are toxic to humans and animals.   (The difference is in the shells, smoother vs spikier and the point). 

horse chestnuts

horse chestnuts

Total cost – around $10 – $4 for the straw wreath, $4 for the ribbon (with Michael’s coupon), glue sticks, chestnuts free for the taking.   All told it took me less than two hours to make, so this would be a nice idea for hosting a tea/craft afternoon.  

Since the weather is cooler now and more conductive to baking, I made Date Nut Loaf, using the recipe from my farm cooking bible. 

date nut loaf

This is a quick and nutritious tea bread – buy the bite sized dates to save time.

If you are interested in more fall decorating on the cheap, check out last years (unpublished) blog, Autumn Decor, for some dollar store finds. 

Book of the Day:

For more decorating ideas and recipes, see the Susan Branch book – Autumn from the Heart of the Home (published in 2004), for typical New England (Martha’s Vineyard) fare, or check out her website and sign up for her free monthly newsletters….they are always a cheerful read.  

Autumn from the Heart of the HomeAutumn from the Heart of the Home by Susan Branch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a big fan of anything Susan Branch, this book one of my favorites. I re-read it every year to get in the mood for the season, for the inspiration, the decorating tips and the yummy recipes.   Let the leaves fall….it’s time to get cozy.

 

Autumn Decor

October Trees - AMc -2014

October Trees – 2014

Mother Nature is starting to decorate for fall.  Despite the warm days, the tips of the maple trees are starting to turn red and gold.   I love to decorate for fall inside too, mostly with dollar store finds, but you can get very creative with dollar store finds if you weed out the tacky ones, the plastic pumpkins and fake looking wreaths.    Every year I haul out the same things from the basement storage area and spend an enjoyable hour or two making the house look cozy for the cooler days ahead.  I put away the seashells and the starfish from the fireplace hearth, string the mantel with fairy lights, and switch out the floral pillows for plaid.   The days are getting shorter and soon it will be dark at five pm and time to hibernate inside, because as lovely as autumn is, winter isn’t far behind.  Enjoy it while you can.   In the words of Anne Shirley, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” (Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery)

I put two $4 swags from the dollar store around the lantern on my dining room table and strung fairy lights underneath ($11 at winner’s with a 40% coupon) for a romantic fall centrepiece.

A $3 garland of fall leaves lines the mantel, with small bittersweet wreaths decorating the candles at both ends.

Add some fairy lights – and it’s magic!  

More fairy lights in urns on the side, and a bowl of apples on the hearth.

I bought this bunch of Indian corn at the grocery store last year, and the bouquet of autumn leaves is another dollar store bargain.

More bittersweet wreaths around the candles…(you can see I still have wallpaper….it is an old house and I have not finished renovating it inside, but I kind of like it….it’s very B&Bish)

Even the cat gets into the act….

Now it looks as colorful inside as it does outside.   Happy Thanksgiving! 

Tom Turkey - AMc- 2013

Tom Turkey – 2013

 

Farewell to Summer Song:   Chad and Jeremy – click here for music link