For many, Pinterest is a place to collect recipes they’ll never make, fashion they’ll never buy, places they’ll never visit and a random assortment of cute pets, inspiring quotes, celebrity photos and house porn.

My boards have some of that too, but I also pins things I may actually make.

One of the craft ideas that really struck my eye was a romantic art work by Bombus – a collage of hearts cut from real maps and arranged neatly on a white background. The Etsy price tag of $520 meant it was definitely out of my price range but a quick search on Google revealed that many others have created similar pieces, so I immediately started thinking about a home made version.

Of course, it was only a few moments before I decided that creating mine digitally would give me the most flexibility to create an affordable, beautiful and personalised piece. In any case, I didn’t have months to spend on sourcing just the right vintage maps – I had an deadline to work to; I was determined to give the finished piece to Pete as a gift for our 20th anniversary of dating, which fell this mid-May.

I went ahead and made it and I’m chuffed to bits with how it turned out. I think Pete really likes it too!

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It took me half a day to create my finished artwork document, though some of that time was working out the best way to do things in Photoshop… once I got into a rhythm the slowest aspect was selecting the right maps. Once finished, I emailed the document to a kind friend to print. Once he posted the hard copy back to me, I had it properly mounted and framed by my local picture framing service, handily located opposite our house.

 

How To Make A Digital Map Hearts Collage

This tutorial is based on Photoshop and you will need a good understanding of working with layers, using selection tools, adjusting layer opacity and using guides to follow the instruction below. There are many great online tutorials available should you need to brush up your Photoshop skills first.

  • Create (and save) a heart template file, containing a grey heart on a transparent background. Either use a drawing tool or Google for one you like. Mine was 450 x 420 pixels. If you find one that is smaller or larger, resize it to approximately these dimensions.
  • Open (and save) a new file, with white background. To fit 5 x 4 hearts, mine was 3000 x 2500 pixels in size but I’d recommend 3500 x 2500 pixels as closer to the A4/ A3 paper size ratio. This is your main document.
  • Use online map services to display your first chosen location. I switched between a variety of map services in order to vary the colours and styles of my map hearts as much as possible.
  • Centre your location on the screen, zoom in or out and switch to satellite or map view as you prefer. You may want to switch to Full Screen view to be able fit more of the map on the screen. Take a screenshot and paste it into a new file. (You won’t need to save this file as you won’t be keeping it after the next few steps).

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  • Use the Magic Wand (colour selection) tool to select the grey heart from your template file. Paste it as a new layer into the map screenshot file.
  • Move the heart around until it is exactly over the part of the map you wish to use. If you find it easier, you can adjust the opacity of the heart layer to 50%, allowing the map to show through. (If you find the screenshot too small or large, scrap it, go back to the online map site and zoom further in or out and create a new one).
  • Use the Magic Wand tool to select the heart, and then the Layers palette to switch to the map layer beneath. Copy the selection to the clipboard, switch to your main document and paste. (If you had the correct layer selected, this should paste a heart shaped map into your main document).
  • Don’t worry about placing the heart(s) just yet, as you will likely want to swap them around to achieve a nice balance of colour and style.
  • Close the screenshot file without saving, and repeat until you have as many hearts as you need.

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  • Use guides to create a grid in the main document and use it to position your hearts, balancing the different colours and styles as you like.
  • Once the hearts are in position, group them into a layer group so you can easily show and hide them with a single click. (You could merge them into a single layer, but using the grouping tool means you can go back and change them individually, later, should you wish, whereas if they are in a single layer, this is more difficult).

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  • If you wish to add shadows, as I’ve done, copy and paste your grey heart from the template into the main document as many times as you have hearts. Align the grey shadow hearts into exactly the same positions as the map hearts, covering them up completely. Once they are in position, merge them into a single layer and move the layer to below / behind the map heart layers. Use the arrow keys to nudge them down and right a little until they peep out from behind the map hearts. Select the whole shadow heart layer and use the Gaussian blur filter to soften the hearts, as much as you like.
  • Now save a copy of the file with all layers flattened into one, in a format you can print.
  • You can print your document at A4 or A3 size. Mine was printed on an A3 sheet of white paper, though it also looked great on cream.

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  • I decided to have my printed document professionally mounted and framed, and chose a green mount and simple wooden frame. If you want to frame it yourself, you can either do so without a mount, or go to a craft store and choose a ready-made mount and suitable frame.

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And there you have it! Do let me know if you have a go at this yourself, and I’d love to see your photos of how you get on.

Lastly, for those who are confused by this craft post on a food blog, I ate nearly an entire packet of chocolate digestives during the process!

Oct 302010
 

You’ve seen my (first ever) Hallowe’en Pumpkin.

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Now, please put your hands together for my Hallowe’en Courgette!

We grow courgettes in our back garden most years and usually choose the spherical yellow ones, just because they’re a bit different.

This little guy, though much smaller than most carving pumpkins, was a little long in the tooth for eating, so Pete suggested I might like to carve him à la pumpkin!

To my surprise, he was much tougher to carve than the pumpkin – his skin was really hard to pierce and saw through. So I’m glad I went for a simple design (which I chose because of his small size).

What do you think? Will it catch on? :)

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Oct 272010
 

Hallowe’en has it’s origins in the Celtic festival of Samhain, meaning “summer’s end”:

The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family’s ancestors were honoured and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes and masks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. All other fires were doused and each home lit their hearth from the bonfire. ~Wiki

As far as I can make out, the old Celtic festival seems to have merged into the Christian calendar, in which departed souls are commemorated on All Saints Day, also known as All Souls Day, Day of the Dead and All Hallows Day.

The name, Hallowe’en (now often shortened further to Halloween) is an old Scottish abbreviation for All Hallows Evening, the night before All Hallows Day.

Another tradition that has become associated with Hallowe’en is that of carving pumpkins.

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My very first pumpkin

How did this come about?

A common practice for All Souls Day (Day of the Dead) was to commemorate souls in purgatory with candle lanterns carved from turnips.

In North America, pumpkins are more readily available and larger, making them much easier to carve than turnips. Pumpkin carving became an American tradition more than 150 years ago. Although carving jack-o’-lanterns was originally associated more generally with the harvest period, it became more specifically identified with Hallowe’en in the mid-to-late 19th century

Personally, I really like the growing popularity here in the UK for hand-carved candle-lit pumpkins featuring grinning or grimacing faces, witches, broomsticks and cats, skulls, owls, spiders and cobwebs and all manner of other spooky motifs carefully chosen, applied and carved into the beautiful orange squashes.

But… I have never carved a pumpkin before.

Nope. Never!

I once watched in admiration as American university hall mates carved a friendly jack-o’-lantern for our shared kitchen (and stopped them throwing away the seeds with a horrified squeal – washing, salting and roasting them instead). That was nearly 2 decades ago!

So, when Waitrose invited me to take part in a pumpkin carving contest, offering to send me pumpkin, instructions and carving kit, I knew it was time to have a go for myself.

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In my box was a large, lovely pumpkin. An instruction book included some helpful instructions plus some, way-too-complex-looking templates and a little set of specialist tools.

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Step 1: I can haz pumpkin. I named him Pob.

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Step 2: Cut out the lid – the little handle makes it easier to position the lid back in place.

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Step 3: Scoop out the string, seeds and excess flesh.

Step 4: Print template, cut roughly around pattern, soak paper quickly, slap wet paper template onto pumpkin and use clever little roller tool to mark pattern into pumpkin skin.

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Step 4: Use drill to create starter holes in which to insert saw.

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Step 5: Saw out pattern. Carefully!

Step 5: Crow delightedly.

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Step 6: Pop candle inside pumpkin, try to light candle with short matches, swear, try again a few times, swear again a few times, tape match to blunt knife handle, light elongated match, light candle and crow some more.

Step 7: Note where candle flame makes sooty mark on underside of lid, remove lid and create tiny chimney hole using drilling tool.

Step 8: Replace lid, stand back and admire.

Kavey Eats Tombstone Pumpkin Template 2010

I must confess that my original design included, the letters RIP on the gravestone below a much smaller cross. However, when I began transferring my pattern to the pumpkin I panicked at the idea of carving such detail and went for the larger cross instead.

In actual fact, I found the two saws included in the pumpkin carving kit tool set properly sharp and really easy to use and I don’t think I would have had any problems with the RIP lettering.

If you’d like to use my template, please go ahead. All I ask is that you post a comment below with a link to a picture of your results!

The Pumpkin Carving Kit from Waitrose is priced at £6.99 (though it’s currently reduced in my local branch and on Waitrose Direct).

Have you carved a pumpkin before? How did it turn out? What do you think of my results?

 


Our favourite local Italian restaurant, La Lotta, is practically our second home – we go there far too often. :-)

Bob, the manager, is very good with kids and often invites the younger ones to make things from a piece of pizza dough which he then cooks in the pizza oven and either lets them have or puts up on the wall above the pizza oven.

As I’m a big kid I first asked to do the same on my birthday, some years ago. I’ve occasionally done so again since. So when we were there with a friend recently and the restaurant was unusually empty, I decided to indulge.

I made the penguin first. It’s bad I know which may be because I used a rabbit cookie-cutter, then twisted the rabbit ears and head to one side so the ears made a beak, then cut one ear off, then added wings. Not good. So I was thinking aloud what to make next when Pete threw down the elephant challenge. I think he was trying to think of something I would make an even bigger mess of but oddly enough, the elephant came out rather well. The ear sprang back to a smaller size as I stuck it onto the body making this look more like an Asian elephant than the Africa one I’d actually intended. But the body puffed up like a calzone which was rather cool and the lines I’d knifed onto the trunk are actually visible!

Rather like a proud 5 year old, I’m rather too pleased with my efforts, which now adorn the wall above the pizza oven. They replaced the lizard/gecko thing I’d made a year or so previously as the head had fallen off anyway!!!

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