Dog Friendly Pumpkin Picking & Corn Maze in Fairfield County

SUPPOSEDLY, it’s still fall until December 21. Supposedly. The weather outside is frightful and the Christmas decor is delightful here in New England, so it’s easy to forget. But when the leaves were just beginning to change color, Tobias had a day off for Yom Kippur & we took advantage by heading over to Castle Hill Farm in Newtown, with our dog Laser in tow.

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No-Cost DIY Natural Christmas Wreaths

I love how in New England there are natural wreaths everywhere through the holiday season. Back in Texas, there were a lot of Christmas lights that looked good at nighttime, and artificial wreaths on many doors, but nothing like it is here. It’s like Oprah stood on the corner of every business and residential street and was like:

Last year, we had signed the paperwork to our house two weeks before December first. If you think I was out decorating the front of my house, you’re CRAZY. This year, I’ve gotten a little obsessed with minimalism, budgeting, and making sure my money is spent traveling the world & making art. Though the wreaths being sold at Dairy Queen, the grocery store and, ahem, everywhere you look, weren’t that expensive,  nor are traditional wreath forms, I realized I already had all that I needed to make my own.

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Though my yard lacks color during the other seasons, the landscaping is prime for winter. If you don’t have the same plants as I do, no worries! I’ve noticed this year that magnolia leaf wreaths and boxwood wreaths have gotten very popular.

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Tools:

  1. Yard clippers
  2. Scissors
  3. Wire cutters
  4. Pliers

Materials:

  1. Wire hangers
  2. Thin wire
  3. Ribbon
  4. Paper clips (not pictured)
  5. Yard clippings

How to make a natural wreath for FREE:

  1. Unwrap the wire hanger.

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2. Begin rounding it out.diy-natural-christmas-wreath-with-wire-hangers-or-a-hula-hoop-5

3. Create the circle with overlap from each side of the wire. Twist it around as much as you can, then clench both pieces with the pliers and twist it around the form. Repeat on each end.diy-natural-christmas-wreath-with-wire-hangers-or-a-hula-hoop-6

4. Do this again for a second circle that is either slightly larger or slightly smaller. Here’s what you’ll have:diy-natural-christmas-wreath-with-wire-hangers-or-a-hula-hoop-7

5. Use paper clips to hold the circles in place. diy-natural-christmas-wreath-with-wire-hangers-or-a-hula-hoop-8

6. Wrap around with wire. This will give your greenery a place to slide in and keep the hanger wire in place.diy-natural-christmas-wreath-with-wire-hangers-or-a-hula-hoop-9

7. Gather small bouquets of greenery, then wrap them around the sides. diy-natural-christmas-wreath-with-wire-hangers-or-a-hula-hoop-11diy-natural-christmas-wreath-with-wire-hangers-or-a-hula-hoop-12

8. Make sure to alternate between putting the bouquets on the inner and outer wires, for full coverage.diy-natural-christmas-wreath-with-wire-hangers-or-a-hula-hoop-13

I used a hula hoop to make the wreath above the door. Here, you can see I used only one type of greenery for the bouquets and the way it looked when wrapped. I still made sure to attach in an inner/outer pattern, though it was only one frame.diy-natural-christmas-wreath-with-wire-hangers-or-a-hula-hoop-14

9. Continue all the way around. Make sure to lift the leaves of your first one and tie a bouquet under  the leaves of that first. You want to make sure all is covered.diy-natural-christmas-wreath-with-wire-hangers-or-a-hula-hoop-15

10. Tie it up!

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My exterior Christmas decor this year cost me ZERO dollars, unless you count the ribbon I bought on Halloween at a major discount. Similar here. I love the look!

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If you’d try out this DIY, let me know in the comments!

Microadventures in Fairfield County, Connecticut: Mill Hill Open Space

Last year, I read an article in The New York Times about NatGeo’s 2012 adventurer of the year, Alastair Humphreys and The Virtue of Microadventures. At the time, it struck me. It’s a lesson that took me too long to grasp: in pursuit of living a big, adventurous life, you don’t always have to go far from home.

Connecticut is perfect for microadventures. As I mentioned in my post about how settling in to CT, there is an abundance of open space areas to wander through & break away. On a run one day, I stumbled upon Mill Hill Open Space.

Town of Fairfield Mill Hill Open Space April 30 May Sign

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Gillette Castle in Lyme/East Haddam, CT

Last week, my sister came to visit us from Texas. We took a few day trips outside of Fairfield County so that she could see a side of Connecticut other than our little space on the Gold Coast sometimes referred to as The 203.

First up, was Gillette Castle State Park. The park features views of Connecticut River, straddling the towns of East Haddam and Lyme, in the area known as Hadlyme. Within the 122 acres it encompasses there are hiking trails, a visitor center and museum, a picnic area, a fishing area, and the castle, of course.

Gillette Castle State Park East Haddam Connecticut (2)

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So, Now I’m a Birdwatcher.

Not really.

Last Sunday, before I got crazy sick, Mark decided it was high time I upgrade my Canon Rebel XS to something…that works.

I feel like I wasn’t actually ready to upgrade, because I still–shamefully–haven’t learned all of the features of the camera. I wasn’t intending on getting something new until I believed I was well versed in the terminology & technology of a DSLR, but then when I was on my road trip to Yellowstone National Park from Denver, I started getting some errors at all of the most inopportune moments. Unable to get the shots I wanted at the right times, I resorted to using my iPhone again and again. Kinda silly if I’m hauling around this DSLR, no?

I soon found that if I turned off the camera, took out the battery, replaced it, and turned the camera on again, the error would subside and I would then be able to resume taking photographs.

Jury rigged, I know. But it was something.

After taking it to the repair shop, I learned the fix was at a higher cost than the camera was worth. AKA: it was totalled. I bought it second hand from a neighborhood Facebook group and had seen negative reviews for the long-discontinued model prior to purchasing it, but it was definitely the cheapest way for me to get my feet wet with DSLR photography before diving in to the higher cost models.

Thus, forced upgrade.

Now, I’ve got the Canon EOS 70D. We bought a refurbished model with a warranty, so we ended up with a great deal. This time, I know I’ll be eating up YouTube videos and blog posts so I’ll really be able to hone some skills.

I’ve also been making a habit of “target practice” every morning. I’ve been using my macro lens and practicing using manual focus on the birds that have been showing up in my backyard.

Here are some of the photos I’ve been taking. I know, I’ve got a lot to learn and a lot of practice I need to do. But now, I have a camera I LOVE!

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