Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Halloween Pumpkin Carving

I spent the weekend moving! Yes, again. I know. It was humid and rainy as we moved my things into my new place, but I’m happy and settling in nicely. While I was lugging boxes up and down stairs, my family was carving pumpkins. My family lives in a different state than I do, so they weren’t able to help with the heavy lifting, but my mom did offer to write a guest post about her pumpkin carving experience. Enjoy that while I continue unpacking and preparing for NaNoWriMo. I can’t believe November starts on Sunday!

Pumpkin carving at Halloween has long been a tradition in our family. When our children were little, we carved out faces using simple geometric shapes. The kids would draw the shapes and we would carve them out. As the kids grew, pumpkin carving became a serious art in our house.

Before you begin, read the brief history of the Jack-o-lantern

here. For smaller children or to get in the mood for carving, try this fun site which allows you to virtually carve a pumpkin. It’s simple and very easy to use. For another, more realistic looking pumpkin carving experience, try this.

Creating jack o’ lanterns online is fun (and mess-free!), but there’s nothing like actually carving your own pumpkin. Let’s get started.

First, a few tips:

1) You don’t have to open the pumpkin at the top. Here is a great example of a pumpkin that uses the stem as part of the jack o' lantern.

2) Never use a jackknife or other folding knife. Pumpkin skin is tough and folding knives are likely to collapse on your hand. This one I learned the hard way. Ouch.

3) If a piece of your pumpkin breaks off, you can reattach it with a toothpick.

4) When you open your pumpkin, carve the sides at an angle so the opening section won't fall in when you put it back on.
Picking out the perfect pumpkin is the foundation of this project. Pumpkins come in many sizes and shapes. For some people, the perfect pumpkin will be round with a nice long stem. For others, it will be tall and skinny or short and fat. To me the perfect pumpkin is one that is oddly shaped or has unusual textures that can be incorporated into the carving. This year I have also purchased a squash that I think could make an interesting carving:
The next step is to decide what you will carve. You can use a pattern that someone else has drawn or you can draw your own. It is now possible to purchase many patterns you can trace and carve, although I don’t think this is as much fun as making your own design. For beginners, the simplest patterns are best. There are many websites dedicated to pumpkin carving which teach all the techniques. I like
this one which starts with a lot of free simple patterns and has a long list of instructions for all types and techniques of carving.
Once you have created your pattern, draw it onto your pumpkin. It’s easier to carve the pumpkin when you can just follow the lines you’ve already drawn. Young children can draw their patterns onto their pumpkins and then ask an adult to carve for them.

The images above show all the steps my daughter (Jessica's sister) took when carving her pumpkin. And here it is lit with a candle:
It came out pretty well. All the jack o’ lanterns came out well this year, as you can see below.
Enjoy carving jack o’ lanterns and have a safe and fun Halloween!

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Friday, October 16, 2009

The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tomie dePaola

The Indian paintbrush flower blooms in reds, oranges, yellows, and pinks throughout the Midwest as it does at the end of this story. There are many tales about where the flower came from, and Tomie dePaola’s retelling of The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush is an especially captivating one.

Little Gopher is not like the other boys in his tribe. He’d rather draw pictures on rocks than run or ride horses of shoot bows. One day, as he and the other boys his age are nearing manhood, Little Gopher goes to the top of the mountain to think about what it means to be a man. There, he has a vision: one day he will paint a picture with colors as bright as the sky at sunset.

Little Gopher mixes colors and paints picture after picture. He can’t seem to get the colors right. Finally, he is called back up the mountain where all the colors he has ever needed are waiting for him.

This is a beautiful story with illustrations to match. I highly recommend it.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009

It’s that time of year again! Dust off that imagination that’s been hiding in the closet since you exhausted it last November and get to work! That’s right: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is almost upon us.

If you’ve ever read a story and thought I would have done it differently, there’s a writer in you looking for a chance to perform. If you make up characters and ask what they would do in different situations, you could be a writer. If you like to play games with your friends in which you pretend to be someone else, you could be a writer. If you think maybe, just for a little while, you’d like to live on Mars or visit Australia or be an archaeologist, you could be a writer. This November, prove it!

Plus, look how cool this novel machine is:

Those of us 13 or older are challenged to write 50,000 words (about 200 pages) in the month of November. If you are 12 or younger, ask an adult to help you set your own writing goal.

NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program has tons of resources to help you get ready to write and to help you through November. Be sure to explore the workbooks. They're pretty awesome.

Maybe you can convince a parent to take the challenge with you. I did! This year, my mom’s progress bar will appear in the sidebar with mine! Leave comments here throughout the month to cheer her on.

Click here for more information about
National Novel Writing Month, and click here to learn more about the Young Writers Program.

Is anyone planning to participate this year?

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tiny Art Director

I almost forgot to share this site with you: Tiny Art Director. No doubt many of you have found this on your own, but it's new to me. The artist's young daughter is a is a harsh critic and her critiques of his work are hilarious.

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Ms. Julie's Blog Carnival and More

Ms. Julie, who you've seen mentioned here often, has begun a monthly blog carnival called The Gallery. The Gallery is a showcase of art projects for kids, and this month one of my projects was included along with projects from ten other bloggers. This month's offerings include a fantastic line drawing project based on Kandinsky's work, a palm tree silouette project, and a project meant for preschoolers just learning their letters. Please visit The Gallery. If you've posted an art project on your blog that you think would add the The Gallery, sign up to be included next month. I look forward to watching the carnival grow each month.

While I'm sending you around you the web, here are a few more cool, art-related items you should check out:

* Nathan Sawaya, LEGO artist extraordinaire, has created a working cello out of LEGOs. It doesn't get any better than that. Watch a short video of Sawaya building the cello, then check out some of his other LEGO sculptures.

* Grand Rapids, Michigan is slowly being transformed into a outdoor art gallery. About 1,262 artists from around the world are installing sculptures and creating murals throughout the city as they compete for a grand prize of $250,000. I don't live in Grand Rapids so I won't be following ArtPrize for you. Jennifer of CraftSanity, however, has been enjoying the artwork with her children. Check out her posts, complete with many photos, here, here, here, here, and here. Be sure to bookmark her so you can experience the artwork with her as it's installed.

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