carved butternut squash skull
October 18, 2011 § 7 Comments
Everyone, meet Gord! For the holiday, I’ve carved this Halloween skull lantern out of a butternut squash, with a chunk leftover for some scrumptious soup (my fave kind of all time, not just du jour!). Yes, I do love pumpkins. But, of all gourds, butternut squashes are tops.
There’s no better shape for a carved skull than the butternut squash. It is bulbous, hollow in the bulb (perfect place for a tea light), and has a narrow shaft (appropriate shape for the jaw line).
This is my second go at butternut squash carving, all done with my trusty paring knife. Last year, my carved butternut squash flower centerpieces took half the effort and a fraction of the time as this one lone skull.
I figure it will be a challenge to explain the process into words, so I’m going to skip the long-winded tutorial and leave you with step-by-step pictures only (there is some interpretation to be left in between steps).
The key steps are towards the end of the process. It is important that the sides of the squash be sliced off and the forehead shaved down to a flatter shape, otherwise the skull will look more like an alien. I realize my skull balloons last week are looking like aliens…I must do something about that…
fall and halloween d-i-y ideas
September 29, 2011 § 2 Comments
I cannot wait to work on fall and Halloween crafts for October, but before I do, here’s a recap of the fall and Halloween ideas I designed last year. If you didn’t get a chance to make any of these creations last year, I hope you try them out this season!
My most favorite post was the one with the Halloween balloon body parts. Doodle on balloons to create creepy eyes, bloody brains, and witch’s fingers:
Make cute little phantom place cards by drawing faces on pumpkin seeds:
Cut out and fold an itsy bitsy spider treat box with the very first printable I designed and shared on this blog (and it was my very first tutorial ever):
Grab a tupperware bowl, four corks, scraps of paper, a pen, and some raffia and create this witch’s candy-filled cauldron with broomstick:
You know I love me my packaging, so here’s another printable! Fill this harvest corn treat box with…you guessed it…candy corn! (I think this is still my favorite treat box out of all treat boxes I’ve designed for this blog to date):
Your little ones can make art of autumn grains with this wheat and corn décor made of exactly that: wheat (pasta) and corn:
And the most popular fall tutorial I made last year was the carved butternut squash centerpieces:
Oh, and I almost forgot: I did a whole week of pumpkin experimental recipes last year:
My favorite from pumpkin week was the pumpkin panna cotta:
And, I almost forgot, I designed and baked a ginormous woven cornucopia cracker for Thanksgiving:
Enjoy! More fall and Halloween ideas from me coming up in October! And I have a birthday GIVEAWAY coming to you this weekend! paper, plate, and plane is very soon turning 1. And I am very soon turning 1 year older. I am excited to host a special giveaway to celebrate the occasion(s). Stay tuned!!! 😀
cupcake liner necklace
September 24, 2011 § 3 Comments
What can you do with a few cupcake liners and a couple feet of brass chain from the hardware store? Why, make a necklace, of course!
This super easy, inexpensive, and surprising D-I-Y fashion craft is one I wanted to post over the summer before I got sidetracked by summer. But it’s not too late! So long as it’s not a rainy fall day, there is still lots of sunshine to be flaunting this fun, feminine, flirty necklace!
Yes! It is what I wore in my D-I-Y engagement photos in August. I wore it then with two flowers and wish now, in hindsight, that I wore three.
You will need cupcake liners (waxed is best), brass chain in your preferred length (they are typically around 45 cents per foot; for this project I used exactly 4 feet and paid $1.80), scissors, and ribbon.
1. Trim off about 1/8″ of one cupcake liner.
2. For each cupcake liner, trim off an additional 1/8″ than the previous size. You will have cupcake liners that descend in size. I suggest 5 for large flowers; smaller flowers can be made with 3 or 4 cupcake liners.
3. Stack all cupcake liners and align so that they are centered. Fold the stack in half, with all cupcake liners facing out. Cut two very small slits, about 1/2″ apart, ensuring the slits are just wide enough to carefully slide the chain through. Large cuts will cause the flowers to loosely slide along the chain.
4. Carefully slide the chain through one slit of each cupcake liner, starting from largest to smallest. It is best to keep the cupcake liners 1/2″ to 1″ apart at this stage.
5. Slide the chain through the second slit of each cupcake liner, similar to sewing a two-holed button. Gather the cupcake liners to form a stack.
6. Fold the stack in half.
7. Pinch and fold towards the center.
8. Unfold to reveal a flower.
9. Layer as many flowers and chains as you please.
10. Thread a ribbon through the ends of the chain.
11. Tie a bow to close the chain(s).
Flaunt it. Feel fun, feminine, and flirty!
D-I-Y engagement photos: part 3 of 3 — beyond the camera and tripod
September 23, 2011 § 1 Comment
At last, Part 3! It has been too long, here are reminders of the two D-I-Y engagement sessions that O.T. and I had back in the summer (is it really officially fall?!?).
Part 1: Ed Levin Park, Milpitas
Part 2: Napa Valley, California
As mentioned in the previous posts, we used a regular pocket-size digital camera, a tripod, and a heavy dose of post-processing. In this part, I will discuss the challenges you’ll encounter as well as the techniques of achieving a “dreamy” soft focus to any of your regular pictures, even if you don’t have the most up-to-date equipment (as neither do I) and even if you don’t have Photoshop!
My modest little camera is an old Canon PowerShot SD870 IS purchased at the time of its release in 2007. I really loved this camera when it came out; its performance outdoes most others in its category of compact digicams. I am still quite happy with it after four functional years, however, lately I’ve become aware that it doesn’t successfully serve the purpose of this blog. I do hope to retire it soon for a DSLR (*hint, hint, O.T* :p). Regardless, this little gadget didn’t stop me from taking our own engagement photos or all the photos you’ve seen on this blog thus far.
I must forewarn: the set-up of shots takes the most time, more so than we anticipated. We took turns setting up the shots. While setting up the camera, one would tell where the other should stand, before bolting to take their place in the shot. The timer was set to 20 seconds (which was sufficient time to bolt and freeze) with three consecutive shots at 5-second intervals.
The challenge of doing your own photography session is that no one will tell you that his hand is totally cropped out of the picture. Or that your belt is not perfectly centered in the shot. Or that your sweater is a bunched up hot mess. Or that your cupcake liner flower necklace (tutorial next!) has been turned over backwards by the wind. You may be disappointed by the number of times you will have to run back and forth from the tripod (though exercise is good for us all). But all in all, the efforts will be worth it!
We took 15 shots just for the scene with the “love at first flight” airplane props, until we both got annoyed and decided we’ll use whatever is “best”, even though there was none we were truly happy with. Over the two days (a Friday at Ed Levin Park and a Sunday in Napa Valley), we took a combined 337 shots, out of which we were happy with about 60. A more discerning photographer would likely be happy with about 6. A professional photographer would likely be happy with none. But we’re easy to please!
For post-processing, I found some helpful Photoshop tutorials online at: www.photoshopessentials.com. I mainly used the techniques in the tutorials:
The technique for a soft focus effect is incredibly simple:
1. Duplicate the layer, then choose Overlay as a blend mode,
2. Apply a Gaussian Blur filter to the overlaid layer, then adjust opacity, and
3. In most cases, a mask is required to remove the soft focus on parts of the photo that should be sharp, such as the face.
The above Photoshop-edited version has 30 pixel Gaussian Blur with 50% Overlay.
This is the unedited version:
I realize that not everyone has the access to Photoshop, so if you require a free photo-editing program, GIMP is available online for free download. GIMP is a really impressive imitation of Photoshop, for the fact that it is free. It offers the same filters (such as the Gaussian Blur that you’ll need) and blend modes (such as the Overlay that you’ll need).
This is the GIMP-edited version:
Of course, cropping provides impact in the composition of shots, as in the final chosen edit for the scene above:
There is also a trick you can do by adding lens flares in the photo-editing process, such as in these shots. The tutorial is found here: http://www.photoshopessentials.com/photo-effects/lens-flare/
Just to give you an idea of how post-processing can change the life of your photos, here are some raw shots and their corresponding Photoshop-edited shots.
Play around with the blur and overlay to adjust the softness as you’d like.
Remember: a bulk of what you pay photographers is to compensate for the enormous time they spend on editing photos. Some refuse to believe this fact: most award-winning professional wedding photographers heavily edit their work. Plenty of photographers, professional and amateur, invest in add-on actions and presets, such as those found in Totally Rad!, in order to jazz up Photoshop and Lightroom photos in a few clicks. I am so impressed by the things you’d find in Totally Rad!
If you already have a great camera, you are already half way there (even more ahead of me in these pictures I’ve taken with my PowerShot). I suggest taking the time to study the work of your favorite wedding photographers. Look at style and composition, such as subject placement, angle, perspective, frame. Especially look at wedding photography trends. Did you realize the more current wedding photos are composed with a lot of room above the head? And that often the subjects are cropped in ways that aren’t conventional, such as the cropping of feet or of bodies? After you analyze your favorite works, with a bit of help from Photoshop or Gimp, you can mimic the styles and save a lot of money. They are not going to be perfect, but you cannot beat the personal touch of D-I-Y! How many people have said they took their own engagement pictures? Now you can!
Click on any of the above to enlarge.
D-I-Y engagement photos: part 2 of 3 — napa valley, california
August 6, 2011 § 8 Comments
Here’s the second installment of our self-taken engagement photos, this time in the verdant vineyards of Napa Valley!
Just like the first set of photos, these were taken with a camera on a tripod and softened with a heavy dose of photo editing, all of which I will explain with more depth in the next and final post of this three-part series.
If you missed the first set, please have a lookie here for part 1. I admit I am a lot partial to that previous set now that the pictures are up for comparison. They express much more dramatic flair than this set, what with the tall brown grass on the knolls of Ed Levin Park, and the wind blowing through my curled hair and chiffon dress. The sheer effort of hiking up hills in a dress as my curls fought for their survival is, in my mind, the clearer winner. However, O.T. is not fond of days when I actually make an effort (a lot of it) to look made-up. This seems to be true for most men. They prefer women in jeans, hair undone, without the slightest trace of powder, and maybe just a smidge of lip gloss. So, these here pictures — a version more plain and less panache — are for O.T.
Though both sets of pictures display props I’ve made to highlight our long distance love, I do favor these airplane props in this set over the red tin can telephones in the previous. For one thing, as most of you have already read, our fateful love story began at an airport and in an airplane. Secondly, I used the logo I designed for this blog (with a few changes in theme). Third, I wanted to make use of paper, I am obsessed with paper afterall.
We went into Napa without a single plan of what to see. Neither being wine drinkers (a cardinal sin in Napa), we knew we were visiting to take pictures. From downtown Napa, we drove up and down the Silverado Trail searching for the perfect spot. There are plenty of beautiful spots, though not what we were seeking. Most vineyards are fenced in and close at four o’clock in the afternoon.
We diverted out of the Silverado Trail and headed southwest to Carneros and discovered a beautiful spot right at the entrance of Cuvaison Estates. We had gotten there well past 6 pm. Despite the gates being closed, we were able to walk through rows of unfenced vineyards to take our shots. The gates were far from the main road, so we drove further in to discover a pond waiting to be photographed.
Other cars had driven in, one driver paused a while to watch us take our pictures as we made our poses in front of the camera and tripod. He waited around after we finished one set (we were doing pictures in threes) and gave us the thumbs up from his seat. He drove past us on his way out, rolled down the window, and asked if we needed his help taking the pictures. We thanked him for his thoughtful offer but happily explained that we had undertaken the exercise to conduct our own engagement session. He smiled, puzzled, and disappeared past the vines.
I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as we enjoyed taking them! Feel free to click on each set for a larger resolution. Up next: D-I-Y engagement photos part 3 of 3: beyond the camera and tripod. Stay tuned!