Cool Pumpkins without Carving


Here in North Carolina the weather is FINALLY starting to feel a little like fall. And just in time too, because Halloween is on its way! To get ready, I got to join Colleen and Eugene on Charlotte Today and talk about cool ways to decorate pumpkins without carving them. Any of these would be perfect to do with your kids who might be too young to use the knife, or too grossed out by the pumpkin guts to stick with it.

Check out the video to see the pumpkins I created. I’ll share some DIY details below.

Video not working? Click here.


As I explain in the video, I decided to start by spray painting all my pumpkins. This had a dramatic effect right off the bat and was super easy to do. Each pumpkin really only needs a couple of coats because you’re not looking for perfect, long-lasting results. You just need these to look good for a couple of weeks. Have fun with color! Experiment with tape, doilies, stickers, leaves, you name it.

Here are a couple other notes:


The tissue-paper pumpkin was really as easy as I explained. Figure out ahead of time what kind of pattern or design you want to create and cut out all your tissue paper. Once you start Mod-Podging, you don’t want to have to stop and cut more out because your fingers will be all sticky!


The sticker pumpkin was a lot of fun to create. I order stickers from In Stock Labels. They have thousands of different stickers in different colors, shapes, and sizes. And they offer bulk discounts, which I take advantage of. The great thing about stickers is there’s really no wrong way to do it. This project works for even the youngest kids. As long as they can put a sticker on the pumpkin, they’ll enjoy this project. But it’s fun for adults too.


When I talked about the speckled pumpkin in the video, the word I was looking for was pottery or enamel. Not porcelain. Sometimes my brain lags behind my mouth when I’m live on the air. Anyway, when I began this pumpkin I didn’t know how it would turn out. You would probably get lots of different results depending on the type of paint you use for the base coat. I used flat spray paint, but it repelled the watercolor anyway. Still, I loved the result and just left it to dry overnight. As soon as it got a glossy top coat, it looked like something that was made from clay. I would love to experiment more with this method and try different paints for the base coat to see how the results vary.


The big dipper pumpkin was super easy considering how amazing it looks. First I cut out the top of the pumpkin and scooped out the seeds and guts. I printed out a simple picture of the big dipper at the right size for my pumpkin face and used that as a template for drilling the big holes. Then I drilled tiny holes all over. After that I cleaned it off and spray painted it black. I would love to see a whole bunch of constellation pumpkins lined up on a wall. I think it would look amazing!


To create the tiny pumpkins, I spray painted some black and some silver. Then using the opposite color Sharpie, I drew lines following the grooves of the pumpkin and then connected them with zig-zags.


Last but not least, the emoji pumpkins, which we didn’t get to discuss in the segment. I bought 3 foam pumpkins at the dollar store and painted them yellow. Then I printed out enlarged emoji faces and cut them out of paper (I actually tweaked them in Adobe Illustrator, but you don’t have to do that). I glued the faces on using spray mount. They’re so cute, I want to make more!

And that’s it!

My street gets thousands of trick-or-treaters each year, and we put a lot of effort into decorating our house, so I’m excited to already have my pumpkins created. Now we can focus on the rest of the house! Do you get a lot of trick-or-treaters where you live? If you decided to step away from the screen and create pumpkins (carved or otherwise), I hope you’ll share them with us! Tag them with #stepawayfromthescreen on Instagram, or post them to our Facebook page!

Managing Mounds of Kids Artwork

Lucy artwork

Are you a parent? Congratulations! This means you have a kid! Which means you probably have TONS of kids artwork. Hundreds — or even thousands — of sheets of paper, covered with colored squiggles, broad, dramatic paint strokes, googly eyes, traced-hands-turkeys, houses with no doors, heads, arms, and legs with no bodies, and story after story after story. You may even have encountered the feeling that you are drowning in paper, literally or metaphorically. Moms and dads, I see you. And I’m here to help.

I have twin daughters who love to draw and write, so for each year of school, I had double the number of pages coming home. Before we were even done with preschool I knew I had to find a solution to this problem, and pronto, before elementary school began and the artwork would be supplemented with handwriting exercises, arithmetic worksheets, and composition books. And I’m pleased to be able to report, I did find a solution; one that worked amazingly well. My kids are now in the 8th grade and we have exactly ONE box of keepsake artwork for each of them. And each box is only half full. But it’s a nice sampling of the kind of drawing and writing they were doing from age 4 to 14 (so far), as well as programs from performances, ticket stubs from special shows, each year’s holiday card, and a few photos here and there (obviously I have millions of photos stored all over my computer and the cloud — no kid today will ever suffer from too few photos of themselves).

Once you’ve decided which artwork to keep and which artwork to toss (under cover of darkness, when there are no kids to thwart you) what do you do with it? It’s fun to hang their masterpieces in your house, but covering the fridge with stuff can get so messy. Well the fine folks at Charlotte Today asked me to join them and share some ideas for displaying your your pint-sized Picasso’s pieces of art. I also explain my process for deciding what to keep and what to toss. Check out the video:

Video not working? Click here.

On the air I showed 3 basic ways to show your children’s artwork, but while I have your attention, I thought I’d share a few more.

Twine and Clothes Pins

ahappynest_artwall1 ahappynest_artwall2

This is an idea you’ve probably seen before, on design blogs or on Pinterest, which shows you what a great idea it is. It’s super easy to create, you can hang art of all different sizes, and it’s simple to change the art or just add to the display as new artwork comes in. I borrowed these great images from Nikole from A Happy Nest. She put two screws in the wall, strung a piece of twine between them, and used clothes pins to hang each piece. Regular sized clothes pins work great, or you can find mini clothes pins in craft stores like Michael’s or Jo-Ann. The art will look great clipped to jute, baker’s twine, ribbon, or monofilament. And if you’re not motivated enough to get out the screwdriver, you can even hang the line with thumbtacks. Whatever works for you, it will look great. And your kid will be thrilled.

Spiral Bound Notebooks

Sometimes your kids bring home a series of pieces where every piece is great, but you don’t necessary want to put the whole series on the wall. Or you may find, when you’re looking back through that box from last year, that you have a bunch of work from the same time period that’s all so great you don’t want to get rid of any of it. Or you may find that you just have a bunch of pieces of the same size. These are all great candidates for a spiral bound book. Any local copy shop (Sir SpeedyFedex Office, Staples, etc.). can do this for you and let me tell you, it looks fantastic! When one of my daughters was in preschool, she drew a picture of every kid in her class. The style was amazing and I loved every one of the drawings. So I made them into a book, with a cover that she designed that says, “My Friends.” We have a few others, and both of my kids love flipping through them and laughing at how “bad” they used to be at drawing. Ha!




Mod Podge Boards

Chances are, if you have ever used Mod Podge before, you love it. Like Windex in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, there is very little Mod Podge cannot do. And for preserving your favorite children’s artwork in a truly special way, it has no equal. Especially considering how simple and inexpensive it is.


I got an 8ft long 1 x 12 board from Home Depot and asked the lumber guy to cut it for me into 9″ lengths. This gave me ten 9 x 12 pieces that were perfect for mounting 8.5 x 11 paper. I painted and stained the wood to work well with the different art I chose to mount. Then I Mod Podged the artwork onto the board and let it dry completely (if you don’t, the paper may ripple and bubble). Finally, using a sponge brush, I applied a few coats of Mod Podge to the whole board, artwork and all. This seals the art to the board, and gives the whole thing a nice protective finish (I like matte, but they have glossy, satin, and even glitter). The finished boards look amazing arranged in a collage on the wall. And my kids LOVE them, especially as they get older.

What have you done to manage all your kids’ artwork? Have you come up with some clever ideas for displaying it in your house? I’d love to see! Share with us in the comments, or head over to the Facebook page and post some photos! If you’re an Instagram fan, tag your photos with #stepawayfromthescreen so I can see what you’ve created!

Time and time again

So, once upon a time I had babies. Little baby babies. Who had teddy bears, and rocking horses, and all the baby trappings of babydom. Before these babies were born, someone gave me a clock. The clock below. A very baby nursery clock, which we put in the babies’ nursery. Since that’s where the baby things went.

Over the years, weirdly, the babies have been growing up. And now there’s pretty much nothing left in our house that resembles anything that this clock represents. Not even in their room (they actually asked me to take this clock out of their room. So I hung it in the kitchen). Which means it’s probably time for it to go. Except I had gotten used to having a large, not-digital clock in the kitchen. So I decided, rather than get rid of it, I’d fix it and make it match our house better.

Step one: Design design design design.

This was no small task. I’m nothing if not compulsive. And having the whole world of possibilities to choose from is about as overwhelming as it can possibly get for me. So I designed clocks for about 3 months. Maybe longer. Because apparently that’s how long it takes to design ALL THE CLOCKS.

Eventually, I found myself veering toward certain looks and started refining the design and colors. I originally thought I’d be working mostly with red, as you can see above. Our kitchen has dark brown walls and I typically choose red stuff whenever I have to buy or make something for that room. So, red kettle, red dish drain, red Soda Stream, red silicone whisk, etc. But when I cut these designs out and put them on the wall, the red was too much. So I shifted to other colors that I like with brown.

Lo and behold, I actually chose a design!

But then I had to figure out how to make it happen. I was worried about the circles since it’s hard to make a perfect circle, let alone 13. And if they weren’t perfect, the clock would drive me crazy. Which meant trying to paint circles would probably put me on the fast track to crazy. While mired in puzzling this out, I decided to start prepping the clock itself. I figured if nothing else, that would motivate me to work through the puzzle as quickly as possible.

Step two: Primer

I wanted to be sure to cover all the old art completely so priming was important to enable a fresh start. I blew through this step, so I only have the tiniest portion photographed. Whoops. Needless to say, I completely covered the clock face with primer. I think I did two coats.

Step three: Paint

This was the fun part. I like mixing my own colors, so I started with a basic set of acrylic paints in blue, yellow, red, white, and black. The first blue I created was a little too dark, so I ended up painting about 4 coats. The hands of the clock are a little ornate — and brass — but I decided to stick with them and just painted them white. Also! The clock also had a pendulum. With an insert that continued the design of the clock. I ended up keeping the pendulum — painted it white — but got rid of the insert. So now it’s just an open circle, white, with the dark brown wall behind it.

Step four: Circles

I ended up buying a Fiskars Circle Cutter which worked like a charm for creating the circles. For the large, white center circle, I just took a piece of heavyweight bright white paper (I love Epson Matte Presentation paper) and cut the circle out of the center. It was a little challenging to get the green number circles perfectly centered, but I eventually figured out a method that worked. I used the typeface ITC Blair which has great, clean, retro feeling numbers.

Step five: Mod Podge

I applied all the circles with Mod Podge (on the backs and the fronts) and then, when it was all dry, I Mod Podged the whole clock face. Twice.

And voila! Our new kitchen clock! With a pendulum!

In keeping with my original challenge to myself — stepping away from the screen and making something: one thing per month — I stopped here and counted. And at the end of September, I’m pleased to report that I have actually made TEN THINGS! I’ve got some more to share with you soon, so stay tuned. Until then, YOU step away from the screen and go make something. And share it with us over here on Facebook.