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Bring autumn home to Florida

Autumn color in Central Florida usually is to be found in sunsets, but many Floridians travel north to see the brilliantly colored leaves. If you're among them, pick up some souvenirs on a walk through the woods or a neighborhood.

Choose a sunny day for your walk and collect only dry leaves.

Look for variety in color, shape and size. Try to find leaves without too many imperfections, because those will stand out when the leaves are dry.

Then make the memories last by preserving your favorites and showing them off all year-round.

Here's some information on finding and preserving your leaves, offered by www.newengland.com, www.goodhousekeeping.com and the Clemson Extension Service. The key to keeping fall colors vivid is to dry the leaves as soon as possible.

When you get home, place each leaf between layers of paper towels.

Put the leaf and the paper between the pages of a large book. Keep at least 10 pages between leaves.

Stack at least 5 pounds of pressure (a handful of books) on top and let them sit for at least 10 days. You can change the paper after a few days.

After the leaves have dried, it's time to display them. There are dozens of options.

For this project, several kinds and colors of leaves were grouped together in a basic frame. You also can mount and mat a single leaf in each frame and group the frames for a display.

Along with drying in a book, here are several other ways to dry leaves.

Ironing. Place the leaves between two pieces of waxed paper and press with a medium hot iron on each side. New pieces of paper must be used for each pressing.

While the leaf is still warm, peel off the paper. This thin coating of wax will nicely preserve your autumn color.

Or you can cut out the leaves, leaving a narrow margin of wax paper around the leaf edge.

Silica gel (dry crystals). Follow the instructions on the container carefully, and the brilliant color shouldn't fade. Keep the leaves out of direct sunlight in a cool, dry place. High humidity can make them turn powdery.

Microwave oven. Take separate leaves or small twigs and place them in the microwave between sheets of paper towels.

Turn on the oven for 30 seconds to three minutes. The drier the leaves, the less time they will take.

Pay attention to the leaves. Those that curl after removal have not been dried enough. Leaves that scorch were left in too long.

Let the leaves dry for a day or two, then finish them with a sealant such as an acrylic craft spray.

What you need:

The beauty of dried autumn leaves is that they aren't tough to find and you don't need much to preserve them.

Leaves

Paper towels

Books

Frames (an 8 by 10 display case costs $12.99 at Michael's)

Silica gel, $7.99 at Michael's (optional)

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