Put down that knife! Creating pumpkin and gourd creatures without the mess.

  • Written by Teresa Grimm, Dr. Maze’s Farm

As the calendar draws closer to Halloween, our thoughts turn to decorating with pumpkins and gourds.

For some, cutting, cleaning out, and carving creative faces on a Jack O’ Lantern pumpkin is a treasured fall tradition.

For others, cutting and cleaning out a pumpkin is just not on their list of fun things to do.

For anyone looking for scary, beautiful and unique fall decorations, gather the family and try your hand at decorating the outside of pumpkins and gourds.  No knives and no mess!

The kids here at Dr. Maze’s Farm have been making gourd creatures and have found lots of materials to use for creating their own crazy creatures.

Using your own cleverness and readily-available materials, you can create a porch full of your own ghoulish family. Look through your stash of craft supplies for foam shapes, pipe cleaners, glitter, feathers or fake fur and googly eyes.  Use materials such as candy, licorice wheels for eyes, long green licorice for hair, old-fashioned marshmallow peanuts for a nose, and black and white jelly beans for the teeth. Use fall foliage from your yard like leaves, sticks and stems or pine needles for hair. For the larger pumpkins use mini pumpkins and gourds for eyes and noses.  Or, paint your gourd or pumpkin all white and spray with glitter. Once, dry you can add eyes and paint on a face for a ghostly effect.

A hot glue gun will work for most projects but could be dangerous for little ones.  Kid-friendly craft glue works just fine, allow time to dry.  Use small nails or dowels to attach the mini pumpkins or small gourds to your pumpkin.

To show off your masterpieces, place them on a pedestal such as a cake platter, atop a large jar filled with colored marbles and twinkling lights, or on your favorite plant stand.  A family of creatures in assorted sizes, shapes and heights will get a lot of attention in your neighborhood.

College dorms taking on a new (and better) look

  • Written by ARA

13837_B12_rgbThirty years ago, life in a college residence hall was appreciated by students for what it didn’t have: parents.

The rooms then were nothing to write home about: the size of a shoe box featuring hard mattresses beat-up desks and immovable dressers.

Showers took place in flip-flops in the communal lavatory down the hall; dining was military-style in the nondescript cafeteria downstairs.

But today’s college students expect and get much more.

They get dorm rooms double the size of the rooms of old.

Suites that feature 9-inch-thick pillow-top mattresses, flat-screen TVs, DVD players, custom study nooks, barbecue grills, in-room snack bars and card-swipe security.

One example is found on the campus of Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. There, the five-story, 500-bed Prescott Hall is opening this fall with 736-square-foot suites that include two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a common area for the suite’s four residents.

It’s part of a trend sweeping across college campuses from coast to coast.

But that’s not all there is to Prescott Hall. Each floor contains two mid-corridor study rooms, two laundry rooms and two lobbies. These inviting spaces — some of them with spectacular views of campus and beyond — are some of the extras that are fast becoming the standard in campus living across the country.

Architects don’t even like to call these places "dormitories" anymore. The modern residence hall more closely resembles an upscale urban condo building or a well-appointed hotel. It’s what students of the 21st century — many of whom are not used to sharing a bathroom, let alone a bedroom — have come to expect.

"People are blown away," says James Rogers, one of Prescott Hall’s two resident directors. "For us, it’s more opportunity to create community. The new things are great visually, but they also facilitate community."

The current trend in residence halls is designed to blur the line between living and learning, intentionally replacing the old (which emphasized durability and efficiency) with the new (flexibility, technology and a balance of community and privacy).

The 21st Century Project, an initiative of the Association of College and University Housing Officers, champions this living-and-learning movement, even convening a summit conference, hosting design competitions and publishing books on the subject of cutting-edge campus housing.

"It is no longer enough to provide students with four walls and a bed," the ACUHO says on its website. "Current and future students demand more from their residential experience. And administrators have realized that (this) can attract and retain students."

Even the exteriors of today’s dorms are designed with both form and function in mind, incorporating space for offices, group gatherings and small concerts.

Residential facilities ranked second in importance during pre-enrollment visits, behind only facilities related to specific majors, in a recent survey of college students by the Center for Facilities Research of the APPA.

The many conveniences do make old-school dormies wonder: Is it possible for a residence hall to be too nice, inhibiting the social interaction that naturally comes from being out and about on campus? Will students just hole up?

"There is some tension between students’ desire for personal space and amenities and their desire and need to meet others and interact," says Emily Glenn of ACUHO.

However, as universities across the country continue to build bigger and better residence halls, it seems the new era of swank college living is here to stay.

Herb Harvest: Delicious ways to use up every last sprig

  • Written by from Molbak’s
Fresh homegrown herbs — they’re wonderful ingredients to have on hand. Scatter them over fresh salads. Toss them in sauces, soups and marinades. Grind them into mouthwatering pestos. But what if — despite your culinary creativity — you’re still left with an overabundance of herbs in your garden? Never fear. Here are a few delicious ways to put your herb harvest to use so that none of the flavor goes to waste.

Drink Up: Give your cocktail recipes an unexpected twist by incorporating delicate herbs like mint, coriander, pineapple sage or lemon balm into the mix. You can also use branches of woody herbs such as rosemary as garnish — they’ll double as swizzle sticks and add a little zip to every sip.

Thrill & Grill: Not only is it a great swizzle stick, a sturdy branch of rosemary makes a fantastic skewer for your grilled kebabs. While you’re at it, toss a few dampened bundles of thyme, sage or rosemary directly on hot coals. The oils will mingle with the smoke and impart an irresistible smoky-herbal flavor on everything being grilled.

Make a Splash: Creating your own herb-infused vinegars is a great way to turn something ordinary into something extraordinary. Start by buying some good quality vinegars — red or white wine or cider — not balsamic, then add your herbs making sure they are completely covered by the liquid and let the concoction rest for a couple weeks. Down the road, when you use your flavored vinegars in your salad dressings recipes, you’ll be reminded of the freshness of summer.

Sweeten the Deal: Basil, lavender, rose and edible flowers such as scented geranium are excellent flavorings for all kinds of desserts from delicate sorbets to fragrant fruit muffins. For something unusual, combine sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Take it off the heat and add chopped mint, basil or tarragon. Allow it to cool, strain, discard the leaves and you’re left with a delightful syrup you can drizzle over anything that needs a hint of sugar and spice.

Capture the Flavor: While some herbs are best eaten fresh, many others do a wonderful job at preserving their flavor when dried or frozen. There are plenty of good ways to dry herbs — dehydrators, ovens, air-drying. Freezing is simple too. Try chopping up basil or cilantro and combine with just enough olive oil to form a ball. Freeze the herb balls on a cookie sheet, then bag them and store them in the freezer. Or fill an ice cube tray with herbs and water, then store the cubes in a freezer bag. They’ll be ready to pull out at a moment’s notice to lend delicious flavor to your soups and sauces.

Share Your Bounty: Another fabulous way to make good use of fresh herbs is to share them with others. If you have extra homegrown herbs, fruits and veggies, drop them off at Molbak’s on any Saturday through September 24 and Hopelink will distribute them to its local food banks. Visit for details.


For more tips on how to harvest and preserve the most popular culinary herbs, visit or the National Center for Home Food Preservation site at

Discover the Many Uses of Lavender

  • Written by Sue Goetz, Molbak’s, guest writer
 The July garden features blooms of many colors but none more vivid and inspiring than lavender growing in the sun. Lavender is one of the most prized and fragrant summer herbs. The release of its essential oils in the air is natural aromatherapy at its best. Lavender is popular because it can be used in many diverse and interesting ways. Long favored for its perfume qualities it can also used as an earthy, herbal sweetener in desserts, teas and lemonade. As herbal medicine it has a reputation for healing skin, relieving migraines and is mildly sedative. The flower buds hold fragrance well after drying and can be used in sachets, potpourri and fragrant crafting.

Over 20 genuses of lavender and hundreds of named varieties exist, but only a few are commonly harvested for their useful purposes. The true lavenders (Lavandula angustifolia) known as the English lavenders like ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’ are among the most popular. The large and abundant ‘Grosso’ and ‘Provence’ have become popular for their heavy oil and flower production. Once a gardener grows lavender, the next discovery becomes all the creative ways to use it.

Harvesting lavender

The essential oil that gives lavender its fragrance and flavor can be found in all parts of the plant but is most concentrated in the tiny purple flower buds. On the stem most lavender flower buds have a gray appearance before the flowers open. When the color becomes more purple but the petals are not yet open, then it’s time for harvest. Harvest on a dry day in the morning, after the dew dries, but before the hot sun begins release precious oils. Cut the full length of the flower stems. Bundle stems into a 2 inch diameter bunch, bind with a rubber band and hang to dry. When the buds dry and start to drop off, tie a grocery-type paper bag over the bundle and shake the stems until all the buds fall into the bottom of the bag. Store completely dried buds in a clean glass jar.

Favorite uses for lavender buds

Fill fabric bags with dried lavender and place in clothing drawers and closets for a natural air freshener and to help repel moths.

Chocolate and lavender make flavorful companions; add fresh "Hidcote" lavender buds to brownies or chocolate frosting to infuse an earthy perfumed sweetness.

Tuck small envelopes of dried lavender buds in book pages to keep away musty smells.

Promote relaxing sleep by tucking sachets of dried lavender in pillowcases.

Use as a carpet freshener. Place dried buds on carpet, allow to sit for at least 15 minutes then vacuum up.

Freeze fresh lavender buds and chopped spearmint into ice cubes; use to chill down lemonade or iced tea.

Add fresh buds to shortbread cookie recipes to infuse a perfumed sweetness.

Want to learn more? Join me for a free seminar, "In Love with Lavender" at Molbak’s Garden+Home on Saturday, July 30 from 10-11 a.m.

Sue Goetz CPH, is a garden coach, designer, speaker and writer from Gig Harbor. She is also the author of a series of garden booklets, including "In Love with Lavender." Visit her website at for more information.

Tiny tweaks yield big results in bathroom remodeling

  • Written by ARA

(ARA) — Bored with your bath? While remodeling high-profile items, such as flooring, a vanity and the tub/shower, will make a big visual update ... these projects also come with a hefty budget. And, if you’re like most homeowners, you may not have the time, knowledge or budget for a major overhaul.

Luckily, in a small space, "remodeling lite," or making tiny tweaks, can make a big difference in the style and functionality of your bath. Here are a few ideas that anyone can do within a few hours (or even minutes) — and with minimal budget — that will make the space more usable and stylish.


Unique accessories

If your bathroom is like most, you have builder-basic, chrome towel bars. To start your update, add new accessories.

"For less than $100 and an hour’s time, you can refresh your bath with new accessories," says Tim Bitterman, group marketing manager at Creative Specialties International, the bath accessories division of Moen. "And, today’s accessories add flair to function, allowing you to also alleviate some of the most common bathroom pet peeves while you’re remodeling."

Not replacing the toilet paper is the No. 1 pet peeve among men and women, according to a poll conducted by Moen. Why not make everyone happy in the bath by eliminating this pet peeve with Moen’s pivoting paper holder? This innovative, "why didn’t anyone think of this before" holder enables users to change the roll by simply lifting the bar — no unwieldy spring needed. And if you’re seeking a specific style, look no further than the Bradshaw, Vale or Iso collections to coordinate with your decor.


Mirror makeover

Mirrors tend to take up the majority of real estate in the bathroom ... yet they’re often unattractive and plain. Uniquely shaped, decorative mirrors are an ideal solution, however they may involve a bit of wall touch-up from the removal of your current mirror. Another option is to add a decorative frame around your current plate-glass mirror. You can measure and create a frame yourself, or simply purchase a kit, such as Mirrorscapes Mirror Frames. This unique system, which is available in five different styles and a variety of metallic and wood-tone finishes, features a unique installation system that is quick, easy and secure ... even for a novice do-it-yourselfer.


Simplify storage

The bathroom is host to many activities, which means it also needs to store a lot of "stuff." Adding simple storage solutions, such as hooks, shelves and decorative jars can add some sanity and style to your bath ... and luckily many solutions are extremely inexpensive.

Both men and women ranked leaving clothes or towels on the floor as their second biggest pet peeve in the Moen survey, and this percentage increases when the bathroom is also shared with children.

Hooks are an ideal solution to keep items, from towels to robes, close at hand, yet off the floor. Most accessory collections offer matching robe hooks, or for a tool-free installation, try a new towel bar or shower rod hook, an S-shaped hook that fits right onto your current towel bar or shower rod.

And, since 20 percent of men think that leaving toiletries on the counter is an annoyance, adding a shelf near the sink can be helpful to keep the vanity neat and clean. To also maintain a stylish look, use decorative jars on the shelf to conceal items ranging from cotton balls to toothbrushes.

Green with envy

When tackling your remodeling project, follow the lead of the experts at the National Kitchen and Bath Association. Their most recent report states that green tones are the new hottest trend, increasing in popularity from 14 to 24 percent of bathroom remodels in the last year. So, whether you add a splash of green to your walls or a hint with bath towels — your new stylish bath will surely be the envy of your guests.

With minimal investment - both time and money - you’ll have a bath with maximum style and functionality. For more information on Moen accessories, visit