Thursday, October 30, 2014

Happy Halloween

                         Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Now that we’re well into autumn, Halloween and fall decorations are never far from people’s minds. With fall’s beautiful colors and the easy availability of pumpkins and gourds, fall décor is something that anyone can get into, and The Big Basket is no exception!  We decided to bring some of the festivity of fall inside to liven up our office space – and what better way to do so than with some pumpkins?

To really kick things up a notch, we decided our pumpkins needed to be embellished, but the iconic carved pumpkin isn’t exactly office friendly (who really wants to deal with that mess and smell inside, anyway?).  So, as an alternative, we dug through Pinterest and used our imaginations to come up with some less messy, indoor-appropriate ways to take our pumpkins to the next level!  And with several different people decorating these pumpkins, you can be sure that there are some techniques in here that even the least crafty person can conquer.  So read on for step-by-step directions on how you can create your own pumpkin masterpieces to add to your fall centerpieces!

 Tack Pumpkin

100 or more metal thumb tacks
Dry erase marker (optional)

This first pumpkin decorating technique is really pretty simple.  All it requires is creating a design out of thumb tacks!  One tool you might choose to use to aid you in creating your design is a dry erase marker.  As long as your pumpkin is clean and dry, a dry erase marker will wipe right off of most pumpkins.  This is really helpful if you are unsure of what you want to do with your design, because it allows you to change what it looks like without putting extra holes in your pumpkin.   Extra holes should be avoided, if possible, because any holes you create that are not covered by a tack will eventually turn brown and will be noticeable on your final creation.

Once you have your design drawn on your pumpkin, or at least in your mind, begin pushing thumb tacks into your pumpkin to create your design.  Keep in mind that the edges of your tacks will stick out past where you push the point in, so unless you want the tacks to overlap, keep them spaced out.  If any of your dry erase design shows once you have finished pushing in your pins, erase what is visible, and your pumpkin is finished!

Literary Pumpkin

Pumpkin (the smoother the surface, the better)
Rubber alphabet stamps
Ink pad
Phrase or quote

The first step in creating this pumpkin is to choose a phrase to stamp onto your pumpkin (this example uses the first stanza of the poem “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe).  While you are choosing, keep in mind that the size of your pumpkin and your stamps will affect how much text you can fit onto your pumpkin.  Once you have chosen what you are going to stamp, create a template to work from.  You can either do this by writing out your phrase by hand in letters roughly similar to your stamps, or you can change the font size on your computer to be similar to your stamps (tip: if you are copying and pasting text into a word document and don’t want to have to retype everything by hand to make it all capital letters, highlight your text and press “Shift” and “F3” at the same time to toggle through different capitalization styles)

Once you have your template, fold it in half perpendicular to your text.  This will create a center line from which you will work to stamp out your phrase.  Then choose a crease on your pumpkin that runs all the way from top to bottom and is fairly straight (the crease that was used for this example is indicated with black dots on the picture below).  This crease will correspond to the fold that you created in your template paper and will help you keep your text lined up properly.

Now, begin stamping the letters onto your pumpkin, starting with a letter that is centered on the fold or lies just to the right of it, and work your way right.  After you have completed the right half of the line, stamp the left half, working from that center line and out to the left (you will be spelling your words backwards here, so be careful to pay close attention to your template).  If you have a long phrase, this will take quite some time.  You may find it helpful to arrange your stamps alphabetically to help you find them as you go along.  If any of your letters do not come out cleanly and have gaps in them because of creases in the pumpkin, instead of trying to re-stamp them, you can dip just the corner of the stamp into your ink and fill in any gaps manually.

Glittered Chevron Pumpkin

Masking or painter’s tape
X-Acto blade
Spray adhesive

To create this glittery pumpkin, first take your tape and tape off any areas where you do not want the glitter to stick.  This is the hardest part of this decorating method because it can be difficult to get the lines to match up just right.  One trick that you can use to make this easier is to take a dry erase marker and draw equally-spaced dots at an equal height all around the pumpkin.  These will be the top points of your chevron stripe, so make sure there is plenty of room between them.  Then, take your dry erase marker and draw a second row of dots an inch or two below the first row, with each dot centered between the two above it.  If you then connect those two rows of dots, you will have your first row of taping complete.  You can then use the creases on the pumpkin to help serve as a guide for where to put the points of your next row by keeping the points of your chevron the same distance from the crease as the point directly above it.  To make your points nice and sharp, trim any overhanging ends of tape with your X-Acto blade.

After the areas where you do not want the glitter to stick are completely covered with tape, place a large piece of paper below it to catch any stray glitter.  Then take your spray adhesive and spray the untaped areas on one side of the pumpkin.  Sprinkle glitter over the untaped areas until they are well covered.  Then, rotate your pumpkin and repeat the process on the other sides until all of the untaped areas are covered with glitter.  When you are finished, find an end of your tape and peel it all away, revealing your chevron-striped pumpkin!

Crayon Pumpkin

Hot glue
Hair dryer
Scotch tape (optional)
Glitter (optional)

This colorful pumpkin is a lot of fun to create, but can get a bit messy, so be sure to first protect your work area with some newspaper or scrap computer paper.  Then you will want to select your crayons (for a medium sized pumpkin, you’ll need about a dozen full sized crayons).  Later on as you melt the wax onto the pumpkin, the colors of the crayons will mix together, so be sure to select crayons that will blend well together and won’t end up making strange shades of brown or grey.  The easiest way to make sure you don’t get any not-so-pretty colors is to arrange your crayons in rainbow order, without skipping any of the primary colors.

Then, take your crayons and peel off the wrappers.  After you have the wrappers peeled off, you’ll want to break them in half so that the wax stops dripping about half-way down your pumpkin.  Then, heat up your glue gun and glue all of your crayon halves to the top of your pumpkin.  It may be difficult to get the crayons to stick to the hot glue (only a few of our actually stuck well, possibly because they were a different brand), but this is not difficult to fix.  If your crayons will not stick with hot glue alone, you can use the hot glue to create a “cradle” for the crayons, and then use a few long pieces of tape to secure the back ends of the crayons to each other.  The tape will be removed later, so don’t worry about how it looks.

Once your crayons are secure, take your hair dryer and turn it onto low speed but high heat.  Then begin to heat your crayons.  Be patient and hold the hair dryer in one place and let a few crayons begin to melt at a time.  As your crayons melt, you can remove the any tape you may have used to help hold them in place.  If you feel like you need more crayons in any one place, you can just stick the new pieces into the melted wax.  Once you have finished melting all of your crayons, you can then add some glitter to the melted wax to bring a little bit of sparkle to your pumpkin!

Now that you’ve got a whole colletion of decorated pumpkins, be sure to show them off around your house or office (and, if you didn’t know, upturned baskets make wonderful pumpkin pedestals! Just make sure to add a layer of protection, such as some plastic wrap, between your pumpkin and basket, in case the pumpkin begins rotting).  


Remember how we said that dry erase markers work really well on pumpkins?  Well, why not make a Halloween countdown pumpkin using a dry erase marker and some fancy writing?  Happy Halloween everyone!


Thursday, October 9, 2014

How to: Throw a Wine Tasting

How to: Throw a Wine Tasting


From The Big Basket Blog                               

A wine tasting offers a lot of variation to match your own unique style. Whether you’re looking for a casual party with friends or an elegant soiree, a wine tasting will give your next party the fun you’ve been looking for! Wine tastings are fun and classy ways to entertain friends and learn something new, but most of us are not wine experts. Here are some tips and tricks to help you throw your own successful wine tasting party:
Party Theme: Your first decision is what kind of wine tasting you would like to throw. You could focus on white or red wines, wines from a particular region, or wines from a particular winemaker. Whatever you choose, having a theme will help concentrate your wine choices, making your party decisions easier.
Wine Pairings: The best part of a tasting is the tasty appetizers that go together with the wine. How could you go wrong serving delicious cheeses, fruits, and desserts? Once you have your wine selection picked out, you can decide which mouth-watering pairings you’d like to serve. Check out this chart to see which cheeses and appetizers pair nicely with particular wines:
Mash Up
Mash Up 2
The Tasting: Want your guests to think you’re a pro? Just remember these five steps to tasting wine:
  1. See- Observe both the color and clarity of the wine by holding up the glass in a well-lighted room. White wines gain color as they age, while red wines lose color and start to turn brown.
  2. Swirl- By swirling your wine in the glass, you expose it to a larger surface area which helps to bring out the flavors.
  3. Smell- The common aromas of wine include fruits, flowers, spices, and herbs. There are hundreds of different smells in wine- see which ones your nose can detect!
  4. Sip- (Finally, the best part!) Roll the wine across all of your taste buds. Since your tongue is designed to taste different things, rolling it around will help you to taste all of the flavors your wine has to offer.
  5. Swallow- Make sure to note the aftertaste of the wine. Good wines tend to have finishes that last longer.
*Make sure you and your guests take notes on the different wines they taste so that they remember what they liked or what they didn’t.product.24274FAB.large
A Fun Twist: For a little more entertainment at your party, try hiding the names of wine or cheeses from your guests and have them guess the types of wine based on their tasting. You can even turn it into a contest with prizes for added fun!
With a little creativity, you’ll have everyone thinking you’re a wine professional and a terrific entertainer!
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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fall Bucket List

10 Things for Your Fall Bucket List

  Borrowed from The Big Basket Blog                             

Fall is my most favorite time of year. The leaves are changing, the air becomes crisp, and there are tons of amazing things to do with your friends, family and even perfect strangers. Don’t let the beginning of the cold air start to bring you down – have fun and do some things that you may have never done before! Here are ten things you don’t want to miss doing this fall!
#1 Go Camping in the Backyard
This may seem crazy – but I promise you will have so much fun. I looked forward to this when I was a kid! You only need a few things: a tent, pillows and blankets, flashlights, and good storytelling. Get away from your TV and cell phone and enjoy the good old outdoors. Also, if you forget anything or become uncomfortable, the comforts of home are only a few steps away!
*Tip: Make sure your sprinkler system is off and the weather isn’t calling for rain—this really puts a damper on camping if you forget :)
#2 Go Apple Picking
I loved going apple picking with my mom when I was a little girl – and still look forward to going to the fruit farm every year with her. We always take our Market basket and enjoy an hour or two together picking apples at the orchard. You can follow up this activity with apple pie baking, or use them in bobbing for apples at a party.
4 x 4 and 4 x 8 apples
#3 Make S’mores by the Bonfire
It isn’t fall if you haven’t had a s’more yet. Bonfires are a must in the fall- and what is a bonfire without a s’more! You don’t need a fancy firepit or a lot of time – just some space in the backyard, firewood, and your favorite s’mores ingredients!
 #4 Collect Your Favorite Colored Leaves and Create a Scrapbook
This is a fun and easy craft to do with kids (or leaf-lovers of all ages!). Make a day of it by going outside and having everyone pick their favorite leaves, and then sit around together to put your new scrapbook together. It’s a memory you can keep, or a great gift for the grandparents!
#5 Rake a Huge Pile of Leaves and Jump in Them!
Trust me, you’re never too old to enjoy this classic fall tradition. You can even make it a family competition and see who can make up the biggest pile of leaves!
#6 Go for a Fall Hike
We used to love going to Hocking Hills in Ohio to walk through the woods and trees as the leaves fell and changed color. Go to a nearby park or take a walk in your neighborhood with friends or family. Leave your cell phones in the car… unless you want to take pictures!
 #7 Football Games and Tailgating
Go to your favorite team’s game! Even if you don’t have a ticket, walk around and try going to a tailgate. Have some good food and enjoy hot cider or a beverage of your choice. This is such a fun way to spend a Friday night or Saturday morning with friends!
#8 Learn How to Make Pumpkin Pie
There’s nothing like the smell of pumpkin pie filling your home with the delightful atmosphere of fall. Choose your favorite pie crust and then just whip up this delicious filling to wrap up your home with a taste of autumn:
You Will Need:
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
Directions: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In large bowl, beat eggs slightly with wire whisk or hand beater. Beat in 1/2 cup sugar, the cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, ginger, cloves, pumpkin and milk. To prevent spilling, place your pie plate with the crust on oven rack before adding filling. Carefully pour pumpkin filling into pie plate. Bake 15 minutes. Next, reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake about 45 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Place pie on cooling rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours.
New Picture
#9 Make White Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Ghosts
These fun and scary treats are perfect for a Halloween party or as a delicious snack for around the house. Check out the recipe here.
And last but not least…
#10 Go Pick your own Pumpkin
I LOVE to carve pumpkins, but the best part is when you get to roast the seeds after you clean out the inside of the pumpkin. It seems like a hassle, but it’s really not hard at all and you will love the way they taste! This was a family favorite of my mom’s and we still love them 24 years later!
You Will Need:
The raw pumpkin seeds you scrape out
Olive oil
Sea Salt
Directions: After getting your seeds out of the pumpkin, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Then clean the seeds by separating them from the stringy pulp. Rinse the seeds in a colander under cold water, then shake dry. Don’t blot with paper towels because the seeds will stick. Then spread the seeds in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet and roast 30 minutes to dry them out. Finally, toss the seeds with olive oil and the sea salt. Return to the oven and bake until crisp and golden, about 20 more minutes.

Bonus Suggestion: Plan a fall road trip and come visit the Big Basket and Longaberger Homestead. While you’re here you can make a basket, shop, learn about American crafts and meet our basket makers and family members! Especially through October, our area has some of the most fantastic fall colors you will ever see! Plus we would love to welcome you to our East Central Ohio home.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

DIY Banner Bash

DIY Banner Bash

Decorating for each season can be a lot of fun, but it can also turn out to be a major investment.  I always love all the festive trimmings that you see popping up in stores around this time of the year, but as someone just starting off their adult life, splurging on items that have limited uses can seem a little impractical.  That’s where a little creativity and a love of crafting comes in handy.  Instead of shelling out lots of cash for something I’ll only use for a month – if that – I prefer to find inexpensive and fun ways to create my own decorations.14Sept_cover_new
There are all kinds of places where you can find inspiration for DIY decorating projects – scrolling through Pinterest and browsing home décor magazines are just a couple of my favorite ways to get ideas.  Today’s project was inspired by none other than the banner you can find embellishing the cover of our September Flyer.  Banners are great because they can be made to fit any style or season, they’re super easy to make, and can often be made from materials you already have on hand.  So if you’re ready to liven up your space with a beautiful banner, read on!

Computer paper
Marker or printer
Light colored scrapbook paper
Dark colored cardstock
A glue stick
Small hole punch
Something to tie things together with (ribbon, twine, yarn, hemp, etc.)
 Optional Materials:
Small embellishments (buttons, leaves, confetti, etc.)
Glue gun
The first task in creating a banner is to decide what you want it to say.  Once you have chosen your phrase, you’ll want to map out your letters on computer paper so you can figure out how much cardstock and scrapbook paper you will need.  You can look through computer fonts to find inspiration for the design of your letters.  If you’re not so good at drawing, you can even print them out.  The size of your letters, of course, depends on how big you want your banner to be (mine were between 3 and 4 inches tall), and you’ll want at least ½  inch of space on either side of each letter. This is also the step where you will want to decide what color to make each letter block, so map out your letters on your computer paper accordingly.
Once you have that done, you’re ready to transfer to your scrapbook paper!  One way to really unify the colors in your project is to make the letters the same color as your cardstock.  If you printed out your letters in the step before, you can also do that here.  Once you have your letters drawn, cut them out, keeping that ½ inch border around them.
Next, cut pieces of card stock that are just slightly larger than your letters.  I gave each of my pieces a 1/8 inch border.
To rough up the edges of your scrapbook paper, tear a very thin strip (no more than ¼ inch most of the time, but the width will vary) from the edges of each letter square.  For the neatest edge, make sure to flip your scrapbook paper upside down and pull the scrap edge toward you when you tear.  If you don’t like this look, you can also just leave the scrapbook paper as is or trim the edges using craft scissors.
Using a glue stick, glue your scrapbook pieces to the center of the matching cardstock square.  Make sure to get your glue all the way to the edges.  It is helpful to lay some of your scrap computer paper underneath your scrapbook paper and apply the glue to the back so you can run over the edges.
Using your hole punch, make holes in the upper corners of your squares, about ¼ inch from the top and sides.  Make sure your holes are just slightly larger than the material you are using to tie the squares together.  Cut short lengths of your tying material (at least 4 inches) and join each letter together, tying a simple overhand knot at each end to keep the letters from slipping off.  It is better to overestimate the lengths here because it is much easier to shorten the pieces if they are too long than it is to replace them entirely if they are too short.  Between words and at the ends of your phrase, give yourself a lot more length than you think you’ll need – I used about 18 inches.
To really pull your banner together and make it look complete, finish it off with some decorative embellishments.  You can tie some items to the string as I did with my wheat pieces, or you can use a glue gun to attach most other items to the cardstock.
And voila, your masterpiece is complete!  Proudly display your work of art on a mantle, wall, or the edge of a table!  Make sure to share any completed projects with us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter using #BigBasketBlog and post your comments and questions below.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Fun With Filters

Fun With Filters

From the Big Basket Blog                               

Do you take pictures on your cell phone? I bet that’s a yes. Your pictures can look even more spectacular and you can share them with your friends by using Instagram, which is a free app that you can use on your smartphone.  It’s very popular with young people because of the filters it offers.
Filters are what separate Instagram from your regular cell phone camera. Instead of editing each photo’s brightness and saturation, you can choose pre-made filters that can transform your selfie into a photograph that even James Salzano would be jealous of.
It seems like there are 31 different filter flavors, but Instagram actually only has 19 filters to choose from. It’s easy to slide through and preview what your photo will look like with different filters.
I wanted to illuminate my favorite filters and how they can be used in your epic cell phone photography adventures.

I shot the photo above on my phone in our lobby. Let’s see how it can be transformed by using Instagram filters. Each picture below the text shows what that filter looks like on this image.
Rise: This filter gives your pictures a golden glow like a rising sun (the names of the filters aren’t just coincidental). Its soft light can be great for improving the appearance of skin in close-ups (aka selfies). Goodbye makeup, hello filter!
Valencia: To give images a nice faded quality, this is what you want to use. It washes out some but not all the color by increasing the exposure. It’s great for making photos look more antique-y, bringing out delicate colors, especially for beach pics.
Sierra: If you were daydreaming with your camera, this is what it would look like. It has a cloudy quality that makes it gorgeous for landscapes. You can skip the trip to the spa and just shoot a calming pic with Sierra. Way to go, you!
Earlybird: The earlybird catches the filter. Picture a western cowboy standing in a ghost town and that’s what Earlybird gives you. It has an old-fashioned quality with its red and golden colors. It’s one of the most flattering Instagram filters, according to The Huffington Post. No need to get a tan because it gives your skin an instant bronzer.
Sutro: This one can add a spooky gothic quality to your pictures, making it good for Halloween. It adds smokiness to your images by making the highlights and shadows more dramatic. Purple is my favorite color in the universe, so I love that Sutro increases the purples in a picture.
Inkwell: One of only two black and white filters, Inkwell plays with lights and shadows very artistically. This is my favorite black and white filter (sorry Willow— nothing personal) because of how it brings the attention back to the subject of the photo. That’s what good black and white photography ought to always do.
Walden: No longer will you wonder what Henry David Thoreau’s favorite filter was. This filter gives photos a pleasant light, making it ideal for photographing young children. It increases the pic’s exposure and adds a subtle sense of being washed out. The mellowing effect of this filter can also be used to achieve a romantic glow in outdoor photos.
Hefe: Hefe gives you high saturation and high contrast, which makes for vibrant yet warm photos. It’s great for photos with lots of colors and can be used both indoors and outdoors. If you’re lucky enough to live near mountains, Hefe is your go-to filter (think of it as your new little black dress, but on Instagram.)
Hopefully, you have learned a thing or two about Instagram’s various filters. I leave you with one final potentially mind-blowing challenge: Take a picture of a coffee filter using an Instagram filter.