October 31, 2012

We're Seeing Stars: Our Constellation Pumpkin

Happy Halloween guys! This day always holds special meaning for Tim and I since it's actually our anniversary — this year makes 8 years!

Today we wanted to share the 2nd of the two pumpkin carving projects we took on this season. We only carved one jack-o-lantern this year since we used our other 2 in our pumpkin planter project. Since we just had the one, we wanted to do something with special meaning that we could showcase among the others when all lit up.

Tim came up with the idea to do a constellation as the design and we thought the Scorpio zodiac would make a good fit since it represents the birthday our anniversary falls on. In the words of The Church Lady, isn't that special?

Apparently, according to the typical Scorpio traits, our little pumpkin has a tendency to be determined and forceful, emotional and intuitive, powerful and passionate, exciting and magnetic — and on the darker side — jealous and resentful, compulsive and obsessive, secretive and obstinate. Goodness, that's a lot for one night!

To get started, I just carved a circle around the top of the pumpkin, gently lifted out the top and roughly scooped out the insides of the pumpkin:

Once the insides from all three pumpkins (for both projects) were all in a bowl, we gave Brandon the job of separating out the seeds from the other pumpkin flesh so we could make a delicious batch of roasted pumpkin seeds that we always look forward to this time of year. He looks thrilled to be doing this, right?

Then it was time to whip out my trusty old scraping tools! It is so silly that I even laugh at myself, but this little round green fruit scraping tool I've had since I moved into my first place has never once let me down when it comes to carving pumpkins. It's one of those tools I might only use twice in an entire year, but when those couple of times roll around, boy am I glad I have it!

As I've said before, I'm oddly particular about getting a super thin and clean pumpkin wall when it comes to carving jack-o-lanterns, so the scraper really allows me to get in there and thin out those walls with ease. It's also fun to watch all the curly strips of pumpkin flesh glide from the walls and pool into the bottom of the pumpkin before cleaning it out.

Once satisfied with the inside of the pumpkin, I gave it a good rinse and began to map out the constellation design we'd be carving.

To come up with the design, I just used a combination of Google Image Search and Pinterest to come up with the Scorpio connect the dots type rendering we were going for. This map from Mr. Printables is a great resource for these types of images:

If we'd had more than the one pumpkin left when we started carving, it could have been fun to do all sorts of different constellations, representing each of ours, the kids' and Basil's birthdays. Grouping them all together like the big map above could have been really interesting — there's always next year!

After the design was complete, we took it outside where Tim would drill directly over each dot I'd marked. He drilled with a larger bit over the 4 bigger dots in order to have a few key places in the design stand out and used a smaller bit to drill over each of the remaining dots:

Once drilling was complete, I wiped the pumpkin down again and began connecting the dots (pun intended).

To create the feel of glowing thin lines between each dot in the constellation, I sliced two straight lines with an X-Acto precision knife between each hole, then scraped the top layer of skin back where I'd sliced without going all the way through the pumpkin:

Once scraping was complete, it was time to top the pumpkin, inspect, and then test out in the dark!

We like to use small tea lights since they are wide, flat, and easy to get a couple at one time into the base of the pumpkins:

The test lighting is quite possibly the most exciting part of the process, no? I definitely get that magical feeling after seeing a lit pumpkin for the first time.

Here's how we looked out front:

We love the way the larger holes really burst with extra light and flicker like real stars. We also love the way the scraped lines give off a more subtle glow, making each of the stars in the design pop out. 

And no, that black camera lens sitting at the top left of the stairs is not part of our seasonal decor this year. Can you spot the gray ghost keeping a watchful eye in the window?

And as it got a little darker:

Our little constellation pumpkin made it through the mild wind and rain that Super Storm Sandy brought our way from Sunday-Tuesday and is ready to shine tonight for trick-or-treaters and passers by.

It's our first Halloween in this new house, so we're excited to see if we'll get much of any trick-or-treating traffic. The Fan neighborhood here in Richmond is famous for a strip of one avenue (Hanover Avenue) shutting down completely for what has become 1000's of trick-or-treaters that flock to this area for the fun. On this strip of Hanover Avenue, each of the houses really go all out with larger than life Halloween decorations and need giant buckets filled with up to 3000 pieces of candy that they will only hand out one by one. More history on this Richmond tradition here.

Tim and I live a few streets away from all the Hanover Avenue buzz, so we're wondering if we will see some runoff traffic from it or none at all, given everyone flocks to that particular street. In any scenario, don't you worry, I made sure to stock up on plenty of candy just in case (my sweet tooth is speaking here).

I told Tim I wanted to take a walk down Hanover Avenue tonight after he gets home from work, just to take it all in. This may be the start of a new little tradition for us, who knows.

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And just for fun, we wanted to share some of the pumpkin designs we've tackled in past years.

2011: Last year we went all out and drilled every single pumpkin we had. We were so excited to have discovered this carving method the year before that we just couldn't get enough of it. We used different sized drill bits to get all sorts of patterns from stripes to argyle! More from last year's Halloween in this post.

2010: This was the first year we'd discovered the magic of using the power drill since my plans to traditionally carve the grey and white pumpkins failed miserably due to their tough exteriors. I was so thrilled that year to have finally found a white pumpkin to have and work with for Halloween. More from this 2010 Halloween in this post.

2009: I'm not sure what happened to our pumpkin carving adventures in 2009. I think we were up in NYC that week and just celebrated our anniversary instead of carving pumpkins since we weren't spending it back in VA.

2008: Here's a couple shots from all the way back in 2008, the first Halloween after I'd moved up to New York and before we'd discovered the magic of drilling pumpkins. I can't believe I even found these pictures!

Apparently, this particular brown shirt with lacey sleeves is my go-to choice for pumpkin carving, given it's the same exact top you may have noticed I'm wearing up above, 4 years later, ha! More from this 2008 Halloween in this post.

It's funny to look back and see what traditions have stayed the same and what's evolved over time. We're looking forward to the fun of Halloween in our new house this year. What Halloween traditions do you have in your household?

October 30, 2012

How To: Fall Pumpkin Planters

Today we're excited to share one of the fall pumpkin decorating projects we've taken on this season — making live planters out of carved pumpkins!

A front porch update has been on our list of decorating ideas we wanted to try this season and we used the following images as inspiration to get our creative juices flowing:

Image pinned from Jonna and the original project idea can be found here, at Better Homes and Gardens (3rd image in the slideshow).

1. Image pinned from Lisa and the original project idea can be fond here, on Martha Stewart (#61 in slideshow). 2. While flipping around in that same Martha Stewart slideshow, I came across this related image (#40 in slideshow) and pinned it for this project too.

We'd already gotten our pumpkins this year and had a few bright yellow mums in the planters we snagged at a neighborhood yard sale earlier this month all hanging out on our front stairs to "fall" things up a bit. Guess who can't stand it when we go out front to take photos and he isn't allowed to follow?

While we loved the autumn look the plants and pumpkins were bringing to the front of the house, we definitely wanted to take it up a notch with the pumpkin planter idea, so we picked up 2 more colorful mum plants and brought the pumpkins inside to get started!

After wiping the excess dirt off the pumpkins, I just carefully cut a wide circle around the top edge of the pumpkin and removed the top. I cut wider than with a regular jack-o-lantern since we'd be putting live plants in the pumpkin and I wanted lots of room to add fill dirt and let those plants get happy in their new home.

I set the smallest of the 3 pumpkins aside to tackle for our jack-o-lantern (details coming tomorrow) and started roughly scooping out all the seeds and other insides from the larger 2 we'd be making the planters out of. 

Side Note: We always like to save the seeds from pumpkin carving to make and enjoy roasted pumpkin seeds the last week of October — it's such a fun tradition. We use this recipe and method for roasting them.

I didn't worry too much about scraping the insides of the pumpkin perfectly since they wouldn't be carved further and we'd be filling them with dirt. So after removing the tops and a quick clean of the insides, we were ready to bring these guys outside to get them planted.

First, we flipped them over and drilled 4 holes straight through the bottom of each pumpkin to allow for drainage. Since these will be living plants in a natural planter, we wanted to try to do everything we could to help extend their growing time. Mr. Curious was on site to inspect each hole:


Then we flipped them back over and filled in a shovel full of dirt into the base of each pumpkin:


Once the dirt was in and we'd tested the fit of the flower plants, we were able to slide them down into the pumpkins and fill in dirt around the remaining empty areas inside and near the top of the pumpkins: 

With a quick wipe down and healthy watering, we were ready to call our planters complete!

After making the planters, it was just a matter of fussing around with their placement on the front stairs to achieve that "autumn bounty but perfectly balanced" look you always see done so well in the seasonal versions of magazines, haha:

I'm not confident we pulled off the placement like the masters do, but we're in love with how our little pumpkin mum planters turned out:

Basil's been keeping a watchful eye on them:

Please ignore all those doggie nose prints on the glass — it's a constant losing battle on our part. We even brought the pumpkin planters back inside for a little while to fuss around with a centerpiece:

I just brought the tall glass cylinder vase full of branches we keep in our front entry back to the middle of the dining table and placed each pumpkin planter on either side of it. Then I brought all those little baby pumpkins we had around the house back there to toss in the mix too!

We thought a big statement centerpiece like this could make for a fun party table throughout the fall into Thanksgiving.

Discover More:

October 29, 2012

17 Apart in Richmond Magazine

We were floored to find a blurb about 17 Apart in this month's issue of Richmond Magazine when our copy arrived in the mail! 

Find us in the "Love It!" side section of page 25 where Richmond Magazine staffers share their minor obsessions for the month. Mary and I were like "Us? A minor obsession?" It was beyond humbling and exciting to find — especially coming from another creative and kindred spirit like Mollee Sullivan.

We're particularly tickled with our mention being shared in conjunction with a spread highlighting 3 of Richmond's most stereotypical fashions —The Northside Parent, The West Ender and The Hipster:

For those of you familiar with RVA, Mary and I are both Richmond natives. I grew up in Midlothian while Mary grew up in The West End before moving to The Fan with her mom as a teenager. We're not sure which of the 3 categories we'd classify into the most, but are thinking it might be some sort of hybrid along the lines of The West Ender with a healthy dose of The Northside Parent and a touch of Hipster influence? 

This also reminded me of a bumper sticker battle back when I was in high school (before Mary was born, ouch!) which classified three Richmond neighborhoods and each had its own slogan:

Southside: By Invitation Only!

West End: For Members Only!

The Fan: Who Invited You?

I wish I would have saved the Fan sticker as it would be a fun one to pull out now!

Thanks Mollee and Richmond Magazine for the shout out — the feeling is mutual!
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