Friday, October 28, 2011

Today is the First Ever World Wide Space-O-Lantern Carving Day!

Yuri Gagarkin - Space-O-Lantern
A Yuri Gagarin Space-O-Lantern (I call him, Gagarkin) by me, Rachel Hobson. 

That's me with the knife and crazed look in my zombie eyes ... Ahhh ... college days. 

Y'all already know that I'm a massive space geek, but what you might not know about me is that I'm also a huge, HUGE fan of carving pumpkins. Ever since I was a little kid, one of my very favorite parts of Halloween was carving jack-o-lanterns. I was always in charge of scooping out the pumpkin guts, because not only did I not mind manhandling the slimy innards of a pumpkin, I relished it. In college, my friends and I would have pumpkin carving parties that were great fun. We'd line our jack-o-lanterns up at the end of the party and get a great picture of them all lit and ready for the front porch.

Awesome STS-120 Space-O-Lantern, carved by Liz Warren

A while back, fellow Space Tweep and brilliant scientist for the International Space Station, Liz Warren (aka - @spasmunkey) posted pictures of the amazing space-o-lanterns she's been carving for ages. Most replicate the patches of various shuttle and ISS missions, and they are all spectacular. She's even posted a time-lapse of a pumpkin-in-process. From the first time I saw them, I joked with Liz that we needed to host a Space-O-Lantern carving party where we could get our space geek friends together and carve pumpkins with space-y images. Last week, we did just that. A small group of Space Tweep friends came over to my house and we spread out in the studio and carved the geekiest, most awesome space-o-lanterns you could ever hope to see. It was a total blast. At the end of the party, we lined the space-o-lanterns up outside and photographed them like we were nerdy paparazzi. We then rolled the telescope out on to the back deck and looked at the moons and stripes of Jupiter. It. Was. Awesome.

Wow! The pumpkins all lit up look awesome!
Our line up of Space-O-Lanterns: L to R Yuri GagarKin (by Rachel Hobson), Space Shuttle Tribute (by Robert Pearlman), Timmy from Think Geek (by Liz Warren), Space Shuttle landing (by Carl Carruthers), Ghosts - we like to think they are space-y ghosts! (by Sheila) Thanks to our carving cheerleader extraordinaire, Cindy, for taking pictures and live-tweeting the event! 

A few days later, we joked on Twitter that there should be a World-Wide Space-O-Lantern Carving Day and decided that we didn't even need to wait until next year to start it. So here we are. The First Ever World-Wide Space-O-Lantern Carving Day, October 28, 2011. What does that mean? Today is a day to carve - on your own or with friends - a pumpkin with some kind of space themed image. Rockets, shuttles, planets - you name it. Anything that celebrates space exploration goes. At our Space-O-Lantern carving party, we had shuttle pumpkins, a Wernher von Braun pumpkin, a Timmy (Think Geek) pumpkin and a Yuri Gagarin pumpkin (or Gagarkin, as I liked to call him).

Awesome STS-130 Space-O-Lantern by Liz Warren 

Call your friends and set up a Space-O-Lantern carving party. Share ideas for space-y images and get carving. Share telescopes and look to the skies for even more inspiration. Live-tweet your carving parties with the hashtag #SpaceOLantern. When you've carved your Space-O-Lanterns, be sure to add them to the Space-O-Lantern Flickr group. From here on out, the last Friday before Halloween will now be known as World-Wide Space-O-Lantern Carving Day, so start planning your carving parties now! Next year, I'm totally making a Hubblekin.

Space Pumpkin
Awesome planetary Space-O-Lantern by Jen Scheer

Monday, October 24, 2011

How-To: Make a Pikachu Pumpkin

How-To: Make a Pikachu Pumpkin Last week, my son had a school assignment to decorate a pumpkin as his favorite character from a book.  Of course, the book he picked was a Pokemon one, and the character he chose was Pikachu. Despite both of my kids having been Pokemon fanatics for a couple of years now, I still haven't quite gotten all the lingo, characters and story lines sorted out, but I do think this yellow "electric type" is a cutie and was excited to see him transformed into a pumpkin.

My son was adamant that he had to do "ALL THE WORK," and for the most part he did. Shortly after starting, we both realized that Pikachu was turning out to be pretty awesome so we decided we'd share the process here with you. It's pretty straightforward, but hopefully you'll see how easy it is to transform a pumpkin into a Pikachu and will want to jump in before Halloween.

We used a small round pumpkin, and since the kids weren't allowed to carve the designs (gooey pumpkin guts on the display in the library would be ... not so awesome) we knew paint was the perfect medium.

How-To: Make a Pikachu Pumpkin Supplies 


  • 1 small round pumpkin
  • Acrylic paint in bright yellow, red, white and black
  • 1 fine line black paint pen (a Sharpie might work as well, but we happened to have a paint pen on hand)
  • Assorted sponge brushes (I found an assorted pack of brushes at Hobby Lobby for around $5-6. It included many sizes of rectangular brushes, as well as some round brushes that were perfect for making Pikachu's eyes and cheeks)
  • A pencil with a new, unused eraser
  • Cardstock or Mat Board
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Assorted small plastic bowls (recycled applesauce containers are great!)

Pikachu Pumpkin - base coat
It took two or three layers of the yellow acrylic paint to really coat the pumpkin. We set up on a scrap piece of cardboard and let my son paint away. He played while each layer was drying & it didn't seem to take to long between coats.

For the eyes and cheeks, we used the round sponge brushes. Put a small amount of paint into one of the small plastic bowls. Dip the brush in the bowl, then dab it against the side of the bowl to remove the excess paint and give it a light, even coating.
Pikachu Pumpkin - cheeks, loading brush
Pikachu Pumpkin - cheeks, dabbing the brush
Pikachu Pumpkin - cheeks circle brush dabbed
Pikachu Pumpkin - painting cheeks
Press the sponge brush straight down on the pumpkin and gently rock it around to make sure the entire circumference of the circle gets painted. We practiced a couple of times on the cardboard to get the motion down. My son quickly picked it up and was stoked to see the perfect circles he was able to create with the circle sponge brush.

Pikachu Eyes & Cheeks
Place the eyes toward the center of the pumpkin, and the red cheeks just below and to the right and left of the eyes.

Pikachu Eyes
For the white portion of the eyes, use your new, unused pencil eraser and dab it in white acrylic paint. Use the same straight-down-rock-straight-up method to apply the white portion of Pikachu's eyes. Check pictures for placement (or, as we did, use a Pikachu stuffed animal as your reference)

I helped my son with the nose and mouth, because the lines are so fine. Matching the lines in your reference drawing (or stuffed animal) draw the small nose and wavy mouth.

Pikachu Pumpkin Ears
For the ears, paint a layer of yellow acrylic paint on mat board or heavy cardstock. Then paint a stripe of black across the top. Cut the elongated triangle shapes out to create the ears.

Pikachu Pumpkin - attaching the ears
To attach the ears, hold them in place and surround each one with hot glue (this was the other time I helped my son so he wouldn't burn his fingers) Hold the ear in place while the glue dries enough to set up and support the ears. Once the glue is completely dry, paint the glue with the yellow acrylic paint to help it blend in to the pumpkin. Voila! Pikachu Pumpkin!

How-To: Make a Pikachu Pumpkin
My son was so excited to take his Pikachu Pumpkin with him to school this morning. We kept joking that he needed to carry it on his shoulder. And even though I'm not a diehard Poke-Parent, I could still deeply appreciate his enjoyment of turning a plain pumpkin into an awesome Pikachu.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Recipe: Super Awesome Mash-Up Chili/Frito Pie

I've been on a bit of a cooking kick lately, which is really really strange for me. I've never been very in to cooking (baking, maaaaybe, but not even that much) and I fell even further away from cooking once I had kids. Yeah, yeah - horrible, I know. But nothing is worse than spending loads of time making a nice meal only to have the kids turn up their noses at it. What can I say? Other things were more fun and rewarding than cooking, so I just let it slide and got by as minimally as I could.

And then Pinterest came along. And darn if something didn't just click for me. I guess it's all the gorgeous and easy recipes that get pinned. I started a food board and before I knew it, I was eager to make meal plans and grocery shop. Baffling, right?

It's been going strong for about a month now, and I have to say it's been very nice. I've gotten in to a routine of sending the kids to the showers while I make dinner (and sometimes even listen to my own music, it's amazing!) and I've grown to enjoy that time in the kitchen. Most importantly, though, is that the kids are actually eating what I make and like it. I have no idea where this is coming from, but I'll take it. Our dinners have taken on an honest-to-goodness sit-down-and-chat-about-your-day quality at least 4-5 times a week. That's huge for us.

Mash-Up Chili Frito Pie Recipe 
Last night, I made what might be the best chili I've ever made - or eaten - in my life. I tweeted about it and had several friends ask for the recipe. It was kind of a mash up between Pioneer Woman's Chili Frito Pie and the recipe on the back of a pack of Lawry's chili seasoning. I read several chili recipes online while I was prepping my grocery list and somehow got these two recipes mixed up. I came home with the wrong ingredients. I ended up just kind of winging it between the two of them, and it worked out in my favor.

I know that's the worst picture of food ever, but I didn't realize how good this was going to be until I started serving it. I'm no Pioneer Woman. I don't have gorgeously focused pictures of the cooking process. Forgive me. But I promise, it's still worth making. Enjoy!

Mash-Up Chili Frito Pie
- Put the ground beef and minced garlic in a large skillet and mix and brown over medium heat
- Drain if needed
- Pour in can of RO*TEL (not drained) and the 8oz can of tomato sauce
- Fill the tomato sauce can about 1/4 full of warm water and add that
- Add the drained and rinsed pinto beans
- Add the packet of Lawry's chili seasoning (I also added a smidge more ground oregano)
- Bring to a boil, stirring often, then reduce heat and let simmer anywhere from 20 min to an hour or so (I was waiting for my husband to finish work, so it ended up simmering for more than an hour)

About 15 minutes before you are ready to serve, mix the masa and warm water in a separate bowl. Add it to the chili and stir well and simmer for 10-15 additional minutes.

Fill the bottom of a wide bowl with Fritos and scoop chili on top, sprinkle cheese and onions (if desired) on top of that. It's especially good with Guinness on a cold night. I made cornbread as well, because my husband loves having cornbread with chili, but the corn chips suffice.

Hopefully that makes sense! I'll share links and recipes that we find and love as I can.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Crafty Gifts From Friends

Space Weaving from Pam Harris
I've been on the receiving end of some very lovely handmade gifts lately, and wanted to share a couple with you here.

Space Weaving From Pam Harris 
First up is this gorgeous Saori weaving from Pam of Gingerbread Snowflakes (Diane's mom). Pam and Diane have become dear friends over the last few years, and serve as a surrogate crafty family for me. I love 'em! Pam and Diane have done all kinds of cool weaving projects, and I was delighted to receive this one from Pam in the mail recently.

Space Weaving From Pam Harris
The pictures simply don't do it justice. I never realized how difficult it is to get a good picture of a weaving. It's just near impossible (at least with my photography skills and simple point-and-shoot camera) to capture the depth and beauty of a weaving. Woven in this piece are all kinds of yarns, creating a stunning texture. What really blew me away, though, was the accompanying note from Pam that described the inspiration behind the piece:
When I asked Diane if she knew your favorite color so I could make you a saori, she suggested I make one to represent the "colors" in space. 
I have done my best! See if you can fnd the sparkly Milky Way in a veil of clouds; deep space filled with colorful galaxies; nebulae rising into the space about the weaving and a mock spectrograph or two. 
It is one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received and got me a little misty-eyed. Thank you, Pam!

Needle Felted Beaker From RadMegan
Last month, I posted on CRAFT about this awesome needle felted Kermit the Frog from Rad Megan. Aside from being a gal after my own heart with the "rad" in her name (my first screen name from waaaaaaay back when - AOL when - also started with "rad") she also adores the Muppets. I feel in love with her Kermit and was excited when she mentioned she was working on more needle felted Muppets, including everyone's favorite frantic scientist, Beaker.

The next thing I knew, Megan was asking for my address and her awesome little Beaker arrived on my doorstep! I couldn't believe it! Such a generous treat. Thank you, Megan! You are - for sure - RAD.

Soon to come: the ups and downs of renovating & living in an older home, adventures in estate sales, excursions around Houston and visits from crafty BFFs.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Some Stitching For Friends

One of my favorite things to do is stitch random, fun projects for friends. There is great pleasure and satisfaction in creating something for someone for almost no reason other than you think they are awesome and you love to stitch. Here are a few things I've stitched for friends lately. Enjoy!

For Millie Motts - The Button Girl
Millie Motts was one of the fist blogs I started visiting years ago. She posts a wide variety of delicious mid-century ephemera, and I've never left her blog not feeling complete inspired or happy. She and I started corresponding a while back, and it was wonderful to see that she's as generous and kind as her posts are charming. She once posted a series of cool 40s button ads that just about left me breathless. Aside from being beautiful, the graceful line drawings begged to be stitched. So I did just that. I stitched one of the profile images right on to an 8X10 canvas and attached a few darling glass buttons at the neckline.

For Millie Motts

It was a super simple project that I finished in an evening watching television. The irony? Though finished in just a few hours, it took me a YEAR AND A HALF to mail it to her. I'm not kidding. I moved this piece with us to Houston and then shipped it. I have a sickness when it comes to shipping things. I am horrible *horrible* about getting to the post office. Clearly, I need to work on that. Thankfully, she didn't mind and the piece is now at home in her living room.

We did a glasses switch-a-roo at Maker Faire last year. 
Hanging out with some rad laminated cotton fabric at the Stitch Lab in Austin. 

For Lish - Lishigan
My CRAFT blogging co-hort, Lish, is one of the most awesome folks I've ever met. We hit it off instantly when we first met in person a couple of years ago when she was in Austin for SXSW, and bonded over Swatch watches, Converse and crafting. Lish's trademarks are her glasses and her undying love for her home state of Michigan. Her emails often open with "Hello from the Mitten State" and I always picture her on a map, jumping and waving over the state of Michigan. I decided to stitch a little pick-me-up present after a hard week for Lish a while back, and immediately knew what I wanted to make: a Lishigan stitchery. How better to celebrate Lish's style and enthusiasm than with a Lish-Branded Michigan map? The Upper Peninsula is included for accuracy and because Lish's beau, Nick, stressed its importance to true Michigan folks.


This was also one of my first attempts with honest-to-goodness "fancy" hoop framing, just meaning that I finished the back off with felt and painted the hoop. I was happy with how it turned out!

Niku's Party Skirt!
Nice - for Niku
One of my former Stitch Lab pals and stitchy friends, Niku, recently moved into a new apartment. As part of her "nesting" in the new place, she asked a group of friends if we would be willing to stitch a small, simple piece to hang as part of a needlework collection in her new home. It was a perfect quick-and-easy project, made more fun by the fact it was for a friend. I went a bit willy nilly with it and just dove into my embroidery pattern stash and scraps of fabric (used more of the mumu that was first spotted on my daughter's tooth fairy pillow here) I used Sublime Stitching's rad Epic alphabet and just started picking out letters I thought looked like they would be fun to stitch. I settled on the word "nice" though later, I realized there were a million other words I could have come up with. Ah well, that's the beauty and the downfall of a quickie project - it's fun to dive right in, but you can't have regrets later over quickly-made decisions.

Nice for Niku

I have an ongoing list of more projects to stitch for friends, and look forward to tackling them after I get through a big book project I'm working on this fall (no, not a book of my own - just contributing a chapter to a friend's book ;) What have you stitched up for friends lately? Tomorrow, I'll be back with some lovely things friends have made for me.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Four Tips for Happy Pinning on Pinterest

There's been a lot of great discussion lately on some of the downsides of using Pinterest. You can read Diane and Kim's posts that, I think, tackle some of the issues quite well. The comments are also part of a great conversation, so be sure to dive in to them.

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After all this discussion, I thought it might be useful to put together a few basic tips on how to use Pinterest effectively. Pinterest is an amazing resource, allowing you to quickly and easily visually bookmark all kinds of projects, recipes, color inspiration, fashion, decor and more. It satisfies a lot of needs in a very beautiful, simple way. Even though I've been using Pinterest for a year or so, I still consider it a young enough medium/tool that there is an opportunity here to shape how people use it. Before things like poor attribution and improper linking become too rampant, I think there are a few simple things we can do to influence how everyone uses Pinterest.

At the end of the day, we can really only control how we personally use something. If we choose to do our best to stick to a few simple guidelines and habits on Pinterest, that will eventually ripple out and create trends among Pinterest users that benefit everyone.

So here are a few things tips for using Pinterest effectively. If you have others you'd like to share in the comments, go for it!
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Note: I'm including some image examples of how I pinned poorly and then went back and changed it throughout this post. Nobody's perfect, but we can all change, right?

Click Through Before You Repin
Part of the beauty of Pinterest is how easy it is to see something and quickly repin it. Often, the picture is enough to get an idea of what the project or tip is, so the instant inclination is to just click one button to repin and -BOOM!- you're done. Here's the problem, though: Often times, pins are ... for lack of a better word: Wonky. Sometimes they go to just a picture, not a web site. Sometimes they go to the home or index page of a web site or blog, and not the specific entry related to the image pinned, leaving you to scroll for ages to find the post you thought you were repinning. I've even clicked through on a pin only to be directed to a password-protected web site. Waahuh?

If you take a moment to click through before you repin something, you can make sure the pin takes to you the right place, or you can find the right link and repin from there. You may also find (as in the password protected web site example) that the item really isn't worth repinning. Don't perpetuate poor pins. (say that ten times fast) This step may take a few extra minutes, but if everyone starts doing it, before long it will be a non-issue.

Pin Correct Links
When you are pinning something yourself (not repinning something you find on Pinterest) be sure to pin the best possible link you can. If you are reading a blog, check to make sure that you have clicked in to the actual specific blog post from which you wish to pin an image. Don't pin from the index or home page of the blog. You can check the address bar in your browser to make sure you've got the right thing pulled up. This means that your pin will take people directly to the post from which you are pinning, and no matter how many times it gets repinned, they'll always be able to get right to the good stuff.

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Avoid pinning from a google image search. If you find a good image, click through to the web site and pin from there.

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If you are pinning something you've found on Flickr, check to see if there is a blog post associated with the image. Click thought and pin from that post instead.

**UPDATE: Here's a helpful link from June of PlanetJune for tracking down proper credit for creditless photos you find pinned on Pinterest. Excellent tips!** 

Use Thoughtful and Thorough Attribution
So often on Pinterest (and, yes, I've been guilty of the same thing, but I'm changing that) I see pins that just have one or two word descriptions. "Cool." "Must try" and nothing else. Instead, get in the habit of taking a moment to write thoughtful and thorough comments to your pins or repins (which, again, means you'll need to click through if the initial pinner didn't include good attribution or descriptions). If you get in to the habit of doing this, your followers will see it and start doing it. As will their followers ... and the ripples keep going, just like pins on boards.

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Type a one-sentence description of what it is you are pinning, and include "by ____" indicating where you found it or who made it. Don't forget to add tags where appropriate - they make for easy searching! (I'm a big fan of the #DoctorWho tag)

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Be Respectful
Think for a moment before you pin something you find in an Etsy shop as "I could totally make this." Most of the discussion of ethics and Pinterest started with Etsy sellers who were upset by folks who were pinning their handmade products on DIY or Crafts to Make boards. As Diane and Kim so beautifully wrote, to some extent, you really relinquish control of your work once you put it out on to the internet. However, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't use some common sense and good manners when pinning items. I think much of the unrest could have been avoided if someone had pinned an item in an Etsy shop with a description like: "Beautiful knit piece from XXX Shop on Etsy, $45."

It's easy to get a bit deer-in-headlights on Pinterest because there is such an overload of delicious visual inspiration, but we can't let that keep us from slowing down just for a moment and thinking about how we would want someone to pin our work.

There are many other little things you can do to make your Pinterest experience richer for you and the folks who follow you, but I really think these four big picture guidelines can serve as the foundation for helping grow Pinterest into a vast, well-functioning, respectful resource, rather than a mass of poorly attributed, incorrectly linked mess of pictures (can anyone say Tumblr?).

Now go get pinning!

If you aren't familiar with Pinterest, or are just getting started, here are a few resources for you: