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!

Charlotte Mini Maker Faire

Charlotte Mini Maker Faire at Discovery Place Science was amazing. Working together, we created art with over 10,000 stickers!

July Fourth DIYs


Few things symbolize summer more than July Fourth. Everything about the day is celebratory, from parades and swimming pools to hot dogs, watermelon, and fireworks. Summer is also a great time to take on a few simple DIY projects that can make your celebration all the more spectacular. My friends at Charlotte Today asked me to put together a few ideas to share with their viewers and I think I came up with some fun stuff.

Video not working? Click here.

I admit I sought a little help from Pinterest in coming up with some of these ideas, but instead of searching “Fourth of July” I looked at party decorations in general, and just adapted the great ideas for Fourth of July. This yielded much greater variety of search results than the more narrow “Fourth of July” search would have.

For example, my wreath was adapted from this gorgeous Paper Dahlia Wreath I found at Love, Pomegranate House.


When I found it, I realized it also looked just like fireworks, so I decided to make my own red, white, and blue version. Choose your own colors, follow Talitha’s simple step-by-step, and you’ll have your own cool, spiky wreath in no time! Here’s my finished version:


The other idea I found on Pinterest was the giant Jenga set. This is something I know we’ll play with for years to come. And it was so easy to make! I followed the DIY from A Beautiful Mess, and it came out great. All it needed was some red, white, and blue paint and it was ready for July Fourth!

I needed a total of five 105″ 2x4s. I cut the boards myself at home, but if you asked nicely, I’m sure they would cut them for you at the lumberyard. Here’s a quick time lapse of the cutting:

And here’s the finished stack. Because my kids are always at sleep away camp during Fourth of July, we don’t usually host a party. But I’m excited to bring this with me to our friends’ party.


Do you usually have a Fourth of July party? What do you do to add a personal touch? If you step away from the screen and make some of the decorations or games yourself, I hope you’ll share them with us! Tag them with #stepawayfromthescreen on Instagram, or post them to our Facebook page!


#THE100DAYPROJECT is a free and open project for anyone who is hungry to jump-start their creative practice, who is curious about being a part of a supportive, nurturing community that celebrates the process, and those who are busy busy busy (🙋🏻) and searching for a bite-sized way to nurture their creativity! Is this you? If so, you’re in the right spot!

✔️ Choose your action (an action you will repeat for 100 days)

✔️ Find a unique hashtag for your project, like #100daysof… (This is very important. Choose your own so that you can have all of your work under one hashtag)

✔️ Announce your project on Instagram with your hashtag and #THE100DAYPROJECT hashtag

🏁 Begin Tuesday, April 19th!

What will you do with 💯 days of making? We can’t wait to see! Please share this post! 🐢

A photo posted by elle luna (@elleluna) on

7 Tips for Perfect Spray Painting

When you think of spray painting, you probably think of graffiti, porch furniture, and school spirit boulders. But did you know that pretty much everything can be spray painted? Yes, everything. I have spray painted sneakers, sticks, plastic cat litter bins, vinyl chairs, pillows, cameras, cheap glass vases, lamps, and more. A couple of coats of spray paint can make almost anything look better, even if it looked great before.

I got to visit with Colleen on Charlotte Today and show her a big batch of different things you can spray paint. I also shared a few important tips for ensuring your spray paint looks great. Take a look:

Video not working? Click here.

On the air, I had to be pretty brief, so I thought I’d share some more details here. It’s not like there’s a huge complicated list of things to do before you spray paint; you just need to follow a few basic rules. They don’t add much time to the project, but they do guarantee a perfect paint job. And who doesn’t want a perfect paint job?

1. Prep your surface. Every single time.

I cannot stress this enough, which is why it’s item #1. Pretty much any time a spray paint project hasn’t worked well, it’s because I didn’t prep properly. Here’s the order of operations:

  1. Sand with 220 grit sandpaper. This is a very fine grain which will just scuff the surface of whatever you’re planning to paint. In the case of wood, it’s enough to smooth out the rough edges and splintery areas; in the case of plastic, it’s enough to scuff the surface enough that it will take the paint better.
  2. Wipe with tack cloth. Tack cloth is just cheesecloth that’s been covered in slightly sticky stuff. It removes all the dust you created when you sanded. You can get it at any hardware store, in the paint section, near the sandpaper.
  3. Clean with Trisodium Phosphate (TSP). TSP is a fancy name for degreaser; as in it literally dissolves grease and oil. This makes it the best pre-painting cleaner because grease is kryptonite to paint. Also, if you’re painting something that has already been painted, TSP breaks the gloss of oil-based paints and opens the pores of latex-based paint. All this enables your new paint to adhere to the surface. Don’t be afraid of TSP. You can get it at any hardware store.
  4. Let it dry completely. Rinse the TSP off your piece (damp sponge, hose it down, rinse in the sink, etc.) and let it dry. Fully dry. Water repels paint, so you don’t want any water on it. At all. None.

2. Shake shake shake. Shake shake shake. Shake shake shake.

If you read the instructions on the back of the can it will tell you to shake for 1 minute before painting. Follow this rule. Spray paint contains propellants which must be completely combined before you spray. If they aren’t completely combined, they will come out of the can in uneven proportions which means some areas will have more propellant and some will have more paint. What does this mean? It means your paint will clump. And nobody wants clumpy paint. So shake your cans.

3. Multiple light coats are better than a single heavy coat.

You should assume that you’ll be applying at least 3 coats to everything you spray paint. I know this may sound like a pain in the neck, but stay with me. Spray paint contains a solvent that evaporates quickly which enables the paint to stick immediately to the surface. If you apply the paint too thickly, the solvent doesn’t have a chance to evaporate and the paint will drip and run Or worse, it will crack as it dries. If you apply the paint with long, fluid, light coats, you will be able to apply another coat in 5 minutes. Yep, you read that right. In 5 minutes your paint will be totally ready for a second coat. Then wait 5 more minutes and you can apply a third coat. That means the whole thing can be painted in a little more than 10 minutes. With no drips or cracks.

4. Spray paint is a fair weather friend.

I know I’m starting to repeat myself by talking about all the chemistry involved in spray painting, but it’s just a major factor in how your project turns out. The best temperature for spray painting is between 65° and 85°F (18° – 30°C), and 75°F (24°C) with no humidity is ideal. If it’s too cold your paint won’t dry; too hot and your paint will dry too fast. Just right and your paint will be just right. Be like Goldilocks.

5. Don’t paint in direct, bright sun.

This seems very counter-intuitive, but trust me on this one. Direct sun causes the solvents to evaporate before the paint even hits your piece, which results in tiny little clumps all over your paint. It will look like you painted something covered in dust or sand, even though I know you followed my instructions and cleaned the heck out of your piece.

6. Keep it moving and be sure to oversprayoverspray

Lingering too long in one spot causes the paint to blotch. This will actually create a raised surface on your piece which is very noticeable once the painting is finished. To avoid this, keep the paint can moving constantly (slowly and fluidly), and change directions off your piece. I call this overspray, which refers to the areas around your piece that get sprayed in the process of moving the can back and forth. That’s where you want to change direction — to the right or left of the piece as you spray — to make sure you don’t get unintentional build-up on your piece.

7. Let it dry. Then let it cure.

Most spray paint is dry enough to handle in about 6-8 hours. But it still isn’t completely dry. For maximum adhesion and hardness, you need to let the piece cure before you really start using it. This takes between 3-7 days, depending on the weather and how many coats you applied. To test if a piece is cured, choose an inconspicuous area and press your fingernail into the paint. If it leaves an indent your paint is not fully cured. If no indent is visible and the surface is hard, your paint has cured.

And that’s it! I can’t wait to see what you paint. Please share your creations with me, either with a link in the comments, over on our Facebook Page, or tag your Instagram posts with #stepawayfromthescreen.




Natural Easter Egg Dyes



It’s almost Easter, y’all! Today I had the opportunity to visit with Colleen and Eugene from Charlotte Today on NBC to talk about dyeing eggs for Easter using natural dyes.

Video not working? Click here.

It’s a fun, easy variation on traditional Easter egg dyeing, using natural, food-based dyes instead of synthetic dyes to achieve the colors. I explain the basics in the video above, but here are some specific recipes:

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Peel and chop one beet. Place in boiling water along with 1TBS white vinegar. Simmer for 20-30 minutes. Strain beets.

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Chop one head of purple cabbage. Place in boiling water along with 1TBS white vinegar. Simmer for 20-30 minutes. Strain cabbage.

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Peel skins from 6 yellow onions. Place skins in boiling water along with 1TBS white vinegar. Simmer for 20-30 minutes. Strain skins.

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add 6 TBS ground turmeric to water along with 1TBS white vinegar. Stir until turmeric is dissolved. (You can also do this with a 2″ piece of fresh turmeric root. Just chop and add to boiling water with the vinegar. Simmer for 20-30 minutes. Strain.)

Place eggs in dyes for 20-30 minutes, or as long as 24 hours (though your kids probably won’t be patient enough for that). Different lengths of time yield different color results — have fun experimenting to get different colors.

Decorate the eggs with rubber bands, stickers, wax crayon or birthday candle, pressed leaves and flowers. The sky’s the limit!

Combine colors to get secondary colors: dye eggs first in yellow and then in blue to get green; red and blue to get purple.

Make up your own variations! Share them with us on our Facebook page — we’d love to see what you create.

Most of all, have fun!

Maker Spotlight: Molly Carroll


Editor’s Note: Thank you so much, Molly Carroll, for being our first victim Maker Spotlight! We’ll be featuring other makers here as often as possible. Have you made something you’re particularly proud of? Figured out a way to keep your screens in their corral? Inspired your kids to happily go analog for a few hours? Please send us a note and tell us all about it. We can’t wait to focus the spotlight on you!

A couple of months ago when I didn’t have a charger at work, I plugged my dead iPhone into a co-worker’s charger, a few cubes down from me. I went to work back at my desk and consistently interrupted myself with my knee-jerk habit of checking my phone. I’d reach to my left to grab it, remember it was charging a few cubes away, and go back to work.

After the fourth time of unconsciously checking my phone and remembering it wasn’t there, I started to feel ashamed. I was so addicted to my screen that I was conditioned — like Pavlov’s dogs — to check it regularly.

I sat at my desk and inventoried all the things that were adversely affected by my attachment to my phone. Productivity (both at work and home), potentially missed laughs with family, and conversations with my husband that never happened because I was scrolling through Facebook in bed at night instead of talking or laughing with him about, well, anything at all.

I think that’s why Step Away from the Screen and Make Something resonates with me. It’s a reminder to recondition myself to use my hands (and brain) for more than scrolling. I walked away from work that day with a goal to break the constant phone-checking and step away from my phone screen and create.

If you know Laurie, you know she’s insanely creative. She and the Step Away from the Screen community make some amazing things. Initially, it felt as though there was no way I could keep up with this awesome group of makers and artists and craftspeople. And then it hit me. It’s not about what they’re making, it’s about what I’m doing to meet my goal of putting down my damn phone. Making a fantastic gazpacho? Yep. That’s stepping away from the screen and making something. Creating a beautiful bouquet of flowers from the farmers market? You guessed it: Making something. Using my very best handwriting to ink justin timberlake is my patronus on my new favorite coffee mug? Um, that’s the coolest thing I’ve made in a long, long time. And I use it every day. And he is indeed my patronus, but that’s another blog post altogether.

So now, I just try to make. Something. Anything. Every day. Whether it’s a tangible craft or piece or art or just dinner. Making. For me, it’s just about the doing and the making. What will it be about for you?

PS: I only checked my phone twice while writing this. That’s progress, people. Real progress.

make/FOOD – The Best Slow Cooker Beans EVER

beans beans beansWelcome to make/FOOD!

Each Monday I’ll be providing a new recipe for you to step away from the screen and make. For the first installation, I’m excited to introduce you to your new favorite Mindless Monday Meal. Beans.

I know I know. Beans in the slow cooker taste like chalk, right? WRONG! I have cracked the code people. I have figured out how to take a $1.00 bag of beans, add a few simple ingredients (most of which you already have in your pantry), and slow cook them into a ridiculously tasty base for a fantastic dinner. Ready to go?

Best Slow Cooker Beans Ever

Serves: 4
Time: 10 minutes active; 5-11 hours inactive.


  • 1 cup of dried black beans (they’re my favorites, but others work too.)
  • 1 square of dried Kombu
  • 1 TBSP soy sauce
  • 2 TBSP red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1 bay leaf
  • dash salt (I like celtic gray salt for the earthiness)
  • 3 cups water


  1. Combine everything in your slow cooker.
  2. Give it a little stir.
  3. Cook on low for 9-11 hours or on high for 5-7 hours. I give mine a stir or two during the cook time, but that’s just because I’m home. Don’t worry if you can’t — they’ll still be delicious. Red kidney beans need the full 7 or 11 hours.

Note: For those who aren’t familiar with Kombu, it is a type of seaweed that adds umami flavor to any recipe. This is one of the reasons these beans taste so good. Additionally, Kombu helps soften beans and make them more digestible. Win win! You can find dried Kombu at health food stores and also at Asian markets. You may even be able to find it in your grocery store if they have a decent Asian food section.

Note: If you’re making red kidney beans, be sure to boil them for at least 10 minutes before putting them in the slow cooker. This neutralizes a toxin called phytohemagglutinin (a mouthful that you don’t want in your mouth) that can cause severe GI distress. Red beans also take longer to cook, so they do well to be soaked overnight if you have the time. This is one of the reasons I tend to stick with black beans — much less work.

When the beans are done, you can serve them any number of ways. Here are a few of my family’s favorites:


Place beans, rice, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sliced avocado, jalapeños, a squeeze of lime, and more! across the middle of steamed 10″ flour tortillas.

Fold left and right sides in, over the stuff. Then roll burrito away from you, tucking sides in as necessary, until you get to the end. Steamed tortillas should stay closed on their own.

(To steam tortillas, place a wire rack over a 12″ skillet of boiling water, place one tortilla on rack and cover for a minute til soft.)


1. Make refried beans (place beans in a skillet with some olive oil, mash/fry them til they’re a little crispy).

2. Make crispy tortillas (rub soft corn tortillas with a little oil, place in 400° oven for about 4 min per side).

Add lettuce, tomato, sliced avocado, jalapeños, a squeeze of lime, some shredded cheese, and anything else you’d like to add.

Beans and Rice

Slice and sauté 4 or 5 sausages in a pan (use chorizo if you like it spicy). Mix sausage with beans. Serve in bowls with rice, red wine vinegar, jalapeños, cheese, etc.

We often mix raw kale or collards in with the beans, too. The heat from the beans softens the greens.

Do you have a favorite way to serve beans? Share below in the comments.

Monthly Challenge: September


Welcome to a new monthly challenge, friends! Kids are back to school, work is back in full swing, apples are being picked.

September’s first cool mornings are so sudden. Seemingly overnight, the radiating heat of summer gives way to crisp and brisk. Immediately, there’s a shift in our perception of the colors that surround us. Summer is all burning yellows, cyans, and glowing oranges — heat personified. Autumn is decidedly different.

Personally, I find autumn to be the most reflective month. While spring is full of hope and promise, summer is all about action, and winter is about nestling in, fall is the time to cast a critical eye on how the year has gone. Have I accomplished all that was hoped for in spring? Did I take advantage of all of summer’s opportunities? Have I earned a winter hibernation?

Autumn is quieter, more muted, but not silent. Autumn is thoughtful.

Your challenge this month is to create something out of autumn’s different colors. What are they? Who are they? What do they make you think of? What do they communicate? What do they inspire you to do?

Pull out your favorite comfy sweatshirt, put your screens away, take a deep breath of that new, cool air, and go create something! Share your work with us on Facebook, or post a photo on instagram with the hashtag #stepawayfromthescreen. We’re excited to see what you make!

Monthly Challenge: August


Someone said to me recently, “Screens keep me from being able to do the things that make me happy.” Do you find that statement to be painfully true? I know I did.

So here we are in August. Summer’s last chapter is upon us — school has even already started for some people — which means it’s time to make the most of the days we have left. Here’s your monthly challenge: put your screen down RIGHT NOW and go do something that makes you happy. It can be anything, not just making something. Play 18 holes of golf; drive to the mountains for the weekend; call a friend and take a walk together; read a book you’ve been meaning to get to; send a real birthday card to someone; get an adult coloring book and color page one.

Whatever it is, just go do something that makes you happy. Then share it with us on Facebook, or Instagram using #stepawayfromthescreen.