Nov 01 2011

Oh, gourd.

Posted by Lisa in Uncategorized

Continuing the tradition.

Sadly, the face grew so fragile I couldn’t finish it properly (and had to use toothpick support, which I really try to avoid), but here is this year’s Snape:

Two of the four pumpkins I picked out were fine on the outside but soft of flesh… had I known I’d have saved this one for eldest’s simple jack-o-lantern-style carve and saved the firmer gourd for Snape. (And, of course, I couldn’t figure out where I’d stashed my camera, so this is a cruddy phone photo. My apologies.)

Oct 13 2010

The crazy woman’s guide to pumpkin carving

Posted by Lisa in Uncategorized

I love Halloween. And by love, I mean LOVE. All of it. Insanely. Especially pumpkins!

Making stencils for pumpkin carving (using Photoshop):

  1. Find a photo–I used two of the new HP7 posters (here and here) to make these two examples–save it, open it in Photoshop. (Keep in mind your carving skill when selecting, as exceptionally complex images may result in a thoroughly mangled pumpkin or a trip to the ER when you slice yourself trying to execute the design.)
  2. Image > Adjustments > Desaturate
  3. Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast (You’ll need to increase both of these, the picture will dictate how much. Contrast will likely need to be between 75-100. Play with the sliders, it’s a matter of mucking around til it seems right.)
  4. Filter > Artistic > Cutout (More sliders. Levels should be at 3, edge simplicity probably 3 or 4 and fidelity in the 2 range, but play with the settings – it’s a matter of still being able to identify the subject while making the design as carve-able as possible.)
  5. Nope–not done: now it’s time to finesse the design. The important thing is to remember that dark areas can’t be in the middle of light ones (as that’s a cutout – get it?) without some sort of support. You’ll need to take your brush tool and adding (or subtracting) black, white, or mid-tone wherever necessary to improve the look or the structural integrity of the design. This will take time, really thinking about the limitations of the medium (dude, pumpkin is not forgiving–once a cut is made you can’t take it back), and you may want to use Image > Adjustments > Invert to see the design differently (in order to identify possible problems for carving). Save different versions, don’t be afraid to tinker with it. And also keep in mind that it’ll need to be big enough and bold enough to be seen clearly cut into a gourd and lit from within.

You’ll need:

  • enough room to work–think kitchen table–and cover the working surface with newspaper, a garbage bag (cut up both sides so it opens), tarp… whatever.
  • clothes suitable for the task (seriously–if you dremel you will be covered in pumpkin pulp)
  • good lighting: can’t stress that enough – I borrow my son’s gooseneck desk light and angle it as needed
  • a large safety pin and scotch tape
  • something to scrape the insides of the pumpkin with: I grew up using a hella big spoon for pumpkin-gut removal, but I’ve found the plastic scraper in pumpkin carving kits works better for scraping the walls clean, as it offers more control (less gouging from varying pressure) and less chance of getting the handle wedged.
  • something to cut with: Those pumpkin carving kits at the shops–you know, the ones with the ‘safety’ knives–do work (they can be less precise, but also less likely that you’ll injure yourself). Remember: a sharp knife is safer than a dull one.
  • Also useful (and have used all of these): a drill (both for piercing small cut-outs in the design and for the initial piercing into which a cutting tool can be inserted to lop off the top of the pumpkin), dremel (allows for controlled removal of layers of pumpkin flesh but requires patience), a nice riesling (for after, lol).
  1. Lop the top of the pumpkin with a large knife or the coarser of the two pumpkin carving tools (remember to go in at an angle so the top can sit back on–ie, not fall in–once you’re done) . De-goop (pick out the seeds – roasted pumpkin seeds are yummy!) and scrape the walls clean, including scraping the bottom flat so the candle/light won’t fall over.
  2. A pencil or ballpoint pen works for drawing on a design (make sure the pumpkin skin surface is dry before drawing)–when I was a kid I was handed a knife and expected to freehand it – but I, a. don’t hand my kids sharp knives, and b. expect drama to accompany mucked-up designs or mis-cuts, so it’s better for all involved to go at this with a bit more forethought (or stock more wine).
  3. When using a stencil it’s a little more complicated: tape the stencil on the pumpkin so it doesn’t shift around on you. Bend the safety pin a bit, so it’s easier to hold like a stylus, and then carefully prick through the paper along the lines of the design (ie, you’re creating a pin-prick follow-the-dot on the surface of the pumpkin). Once you’ve finished prick-tracing every line, remove the stencil (do not discard!), rub a paper towel across the surface to remove any excess moisture, and then write over the dots with your pen so the lines are clearly visible. Use your stencil as a guide if you run into areas where lots of holes converge. Once the line-drawing is in place, X over the areas that will show lightest (ie, need to be completely cut-out), and use a different mark on the areas that will show up mid-toned (gray on the stencil)–I usually just put a ~.
  4. Cut out the X’d areas–just use a straight cut, finessing can be done once the next cuts are in place, so you know where you can trim, structurally, and where you can’t (translation: when the walls of the pumpkin are thick there is more flesh between the light source and the external skin–obviously, yes?–this means that to actually get full light showing through some cuts it’s necessary to angle-trim the pumpkin flesh toward the light source – think arrow-slits in castle walls.)
  5. Next to go are the ~’d areas, but this is where some patience is necessary. You can use a blade or a dremel – the goal is to remove the outer skin and enough of the flesh so the light can still pass through (probably half of what’s there, possibly more if it’s really thick… too thin can be a problem, structurally, so if you need to go part-way and then check it in the dark–lit from within–to see your progress, do). Only after this is done will you know where the weak points are, so as you trim the larger cuts you can avoid collapsing the whole design.

Tip: If you’re carving well-before Halloween, coat all exposed flesh (cuts and pumpkin interior) with petroleum jelly – it’ll help the pumpkin stay hydrated (ie, not shrivel) and keep it from rotting as quickly. (Or put it in the fridge, if you live somewhere very warm this time of year.)

Last year I carved six pumpkins of varying complexity… this is the best, I think:

(Edited 11/1 to add)–And here’s how they turned out (both quick phone shots): The first took a little less than three hours. I was running late and rushed through the second, finishing in somewhat over an hour and a half (I carved a total of five pumpkins this year–my hand is still cramped).

Dec 30 2009


Posted by Lisa in Uncategorized

The new Olay Regenerist Anti-Aging Eye Roller … can’t imagine what was on their mind during design.

Well, I’ve heard it said it keeps you young — but if you’re sticking your Pocket Rocket in your eye you’re doing it wrong!

Aug 06 2009

Danke Schoen, darling. Danke Schoen.

Posted by Lisa in Uncategorized

Goodbye, John Hughes.

You captured a whole generation with your films, you made us laugh and cry and comb our hair into ducktails and you were pretty frikken awesome. I can’t imagine being a teen in the 80s without you.


Mar 29 2009

Now Serving: disjointed miscellany soup

Posted by Lisa in Uncategorized

Planning for the blogger meet-up at the International Congress on Medieval Studies is under way. Don’t forget to pencil-in Session 546:
Weblogs and the Academy: The Scope of the Professional and Boundaries of the Personal in Open, Pseudo-Anonymous, and Anonymous Blogging

  • Personalizing the Profession: The Value of “Academic Life” Blogs, Christina M. Fitzgerald, Univ. of Toledo
  • Balancing the Personal and the Professional in Academic Blogging, Kristen M. Burkholder, Oklahoma State Univ.
  • “A Blogger by Any Other Name”: Pseudonymous Blogging and the Creation of a Legitimate Academic Voice, Julie A. Hofmann, Shenandoah Univ.
  • My Blog Is Not Myself: Negotiating Identity in the Academic Blogosphere, Janice Liedl, Laurentian Univ.

(Yes, that was shameless pimping.)

*More pimping: Peter over at has done a ton of work on the ‘Kalamazoo’ section, so go give him kudos. (even if he has plans to put me and a camera in the same room… I’m trying not to hold it against him)

*Reminder: all 240 glorious pages of The omg!uber!Program have been online since Feb. 1.

Sorry, other than the above I have nothing else academic-y to add.  I have an IEP meeting to construct many varied and interesting weapons for — Momzilla has to stomp Tokyo again. (I really hope the new Prez will do something about No Administrator Left Behind, it’s screwed special ed thirteen ways from Sunday)

(An aside for thems that know me: If you plan/need to track my whereabouts at the conference drop me a line at the university email (elisabeth dot carnell at wmich dot edu) and I’ll add you to the google calendar so you can stalk me let me know when and where I’m drinking in the evenings! :P)

See y’all in 5 weeks (5! weeks! aaaagh!)!

Wait!  There is this sweet bit of awesomeBreathe Easy Benefit

Breathe Easy Trailer from World's Fair on Vimeo.

Go! Look! See!

Three Rivers Land Trust

Great Rivers Land Trust
Natural land Institute
Little Traverse Conservancy and Raisin Valley Land Trust

Dec 10 2008

read it, know it

Posted by Lisa in Uncategorized
Read it.

Read it. Know it.

Sep 11 2008

the long and the short of it

Posted by Lisa in Uncategorized

“Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should, on no account, be allowed to do the job.”  — Douglas Adams

Jun 10 2008

Too busy to think clearly

Posted by Lisa in Uncategorized

But not too busy to Laugh Out Loud:


(laughed so hard I cried, I did – oh noes!)

Feb 28 2008

I am just about thoroughly sick of the snow, thanks.

Posted by Lisa in Uncategorized

Winter is icumin in
Lhude sing Goddamn,
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
Sing; Goddamn.
Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham
Damn you, Sing, Goddamn.
Goddamn, Goddamn, ’tis why I am,
So ‘gainst the winter’s balm.
Sing goddamn, damn, sing goddamn,
Sing goddamn, sing goddamn, DAMM

-Ezra Pound (1915)

(and if you’re squinting at the screen wondering why this looks familiar)

Feb 28 2008

The abbreviated update

Posted by Lisa in Uncategorized

head, meet desk.