DIY Pumpkin Pi

Hello all! I thought I’d switch things up and post a little how-to for everyone for a project I did this weekend. Behold! Pumpkin pi!

A craft pumpkin has fall silk flowers on top and the pi symbol carved into the front.

Oh my god, I am the dumbest. But how can I resist a pun like this?!

This was fun and easy to make. Let’s talk supplies.

A picture of a workbench with various tools and a stencil of a pi symbol.

Tools:

  • One craft pumpkin (we opted for the kind with the back pre-cut out)
  • A printed picture of the pi symbol (here’s one from Wikimedia! I resized it in Word)
  • Pins, like sewing pins
  • A pen
  • A sharp tool like an x-acto knife
  • One LED tea light (those craft pumpkins are WAY flammable)

Extra Credit:

  • Seasonal fake flowers/foliage
  • Ribbon
  • A wire cutter
  • Hot glue, zip ties, etc.
  • Maybe a drill!

 

Here’s the step by step for creating your own pumpkin pi!

A craft pumpkin with an open back sits on a workbench. Crafting materials surround it.

1. Print our your pi symbol after looking at your pumpkin and getting an idea of how tall you want that guy. My pumpkin was a medium size so my pi symbol is about 4.5″ tall. Snip around the pi symbol, cutting in some relief cuts (see picture below) since the pumpkin is slightly curved. Just makes the next step easier.

2. Position the pi symbol on the front of your pumpkin. Use a pin and press it into the craft pumpkin. You don’t need to worry about pressing the pin all the way inside. We just want it to produce a hole on the surface of the pumpkin. So maybe a third of the pin needs to be pressed in?

3. Start pushing in pins all around the pi symbol. You want to get a good outline going.

4. Once you’re sure you have the symbol totally outlined… pull them out. I know. It sounds crazy. Then remove the paper from the pumpkin. Here’s a photo of my pi symbol once I took the pins out.A pi symbol printed on paper with tiny dots outlining it.

See the holes? The holes create a “connect the dots” on your pumpkin.

5. Connect those dots! I used a ballpoint pen and just drew on the pumpkin. Nothing fancy there.

6. You should see a clear outline of a pi symbol on the surface of your pumpkin. Get your x-acto knife and carefully (CAREFULLY) start scoring the pumpkin along the outline you’ve traced. Work slowly. We worked best by scoring an inch or so before cutting in deeper to the pumpkin. The wall of the pumpkin was about 1/4″ thick, so be mindful of that, and don’t press too hard. You don’t want to bust off that middle part or break it.

7. Work around the symbol until you’ve free it! The edges may need some cleaning up so shave them down with your x-acto knife.

8. Put that LED tea light inside and enjoy!

EXTRA CREDIT:

I decided to arrange some fake flowers on the top with a nice green bow. This is more free form. GO FOR IT! but I’ll share some tips.

-Hot glue is your friend.

-So is a drill and a gentle hand! We bundled together the stems of the flowers and zip tied them together. We drilled a hole into the pumpkin’s stem very, very slowly (using a pilot hole) and once it was cleared we pushed the flowers through.

-The bow was zip tied to the flowers.

-Honestly, you could probably get away with just glueing a bow or flowers to it and not that fancy drill stuff. But if you want to try that, make sure you’re far enough down that you don’t just bust off the top of the stem.

-But heck – if you do, glue a flower on top! CRAFTING!

A craft pumpkin with a glowing pi symbol.

YOU DID IT. YOU MADE A FESTIVE, SEASONAL PUN THAT WILL DELIGHT AND IMPRESS! (Maybe!) CONGRATS!

A follow-up to “What happened to LaserMonks?”

Bless the internet. I am constantly amazed at the things I see this wonderful network of computers do.

I got a notification that a new comment had been posted on my LaserMonks post, which you can read in full here, and lo and behold – an update of sorts! A commenter going by “faithfjord” shared a news story from a couple years ago from reporter Keith Strange with “The Mount Airy News”. Mt. Airy is a little town in North Carolina with a population of about 10,000. How “faithfjord” found this article… well, now you know why this post opened with me marveling at the power of the internet. Anyway.

The article, which you can see here, details the entrepreneurial endeavors of Vann McCoy, which the article notes he felt the call to serve, moved to Wisconsin, joined a Cistercian monastery, and went by Father Bernard. Guys. This is Father Bernard McCoy, the former CEO of LaserMonks. It’s him. He doesn’t name the company in the article but discusses his previous role both in a business and in the church. It’s him.

He explains what happened. He’s reflective and contemplative. It’s not terribly detailed. He says essentially that running the business and the monastery was a tremendous amount of work shared by too few people. They decided to close up the monastery. It was a crossroads for him and he left on a sabbatical soon after.

Wow. I had my answer. The answer to a great mystery that occupied my idle thoughts from time to time for years. People would comment on my original post and I’d be thinking about them again. (It always got a fair amount of traffic, always people led here by the same question I had. Googling “What happened to LaserMonks?”) Sometimes, the question was prompted by changing my printer ink. Or tasting the jelly I used to order from them with the cartridges. (A really delicious jam called Trappist which does a seedless raspberry that is fantastic, by the by.)

I was telling a friend about this yesterday and they asked if I was satisfied. It’s hard to tie my feelings to satisfaction. I just… I get it. I get being done. I get being in the thick of it and saying, “Enough, it’s over, I can’t do this anymore.” Is there more to the story? Maybe. But… that’s okay. I don’t need more than this.

Reading this article… I saw the pieces of the story of LaserMonks I hadn’t fully considered before. The toll something like that takes on a person. Work, even good work like the kind monks were doing in Sparta, is hard. There’s a human cost when you throw yourself into something so aggressively and fully. It’s not sustainable. You lose yourself along the way. Even if it is for good reasons.

I also feel really relieved. It’s so helpful to see someone who has walked down different paths and had his share of success… but who’s also been so willing to change course. Father – er – Mr. McCoy started out studying physics and astrophysics, shifted to other courses of study, and then became a man of the cloth. Then LaserMonks. And when he moved back to Mt. Airy after his sabbatical, he started up a business making moonshine. MOONSHINE! Is that not great?! They make whiskey and other goods, too. (You can’t take the entrepreneur out of the man, can you?)

I feel like my adult life has taken such a weird course. I didn’t go to college out of high school. I’ve had a bunch of odd jobs, a couple careers, few side ventures, lived in many places… And hey. Now I can proudly mark “some college education” when I fill out surveys. It’s just validating to see someone else with that same sort of path. Seeing someone take the time to figure out their life… and try again with a new thing. Someone who seems successful and happy.

I didn’t expect the LaserMonks story to wrap up in a way that had such a profound effect on me. But considering the subject matter, should I be surprised?

The “Mt. Airy News” article wraps up with a quote from Mr. McCoy saying he hopes he can inspire others to live well. You have, sir. At least this lady. Thanks for your openness and honesty. If I ever find myself in Mt. Airy, I’d like to buy you a drink.

A Winner Every Game

The floor in front of a ticket game in an arcade with a large pile of tickets coming out of a machine.

I’m good at arcade games. I enjoy the thrill of the hunt and the cheap tchotchkes you can cash tickets in for. Or those games where you pick up a stuffed animals using a crane. It’s just fun figuring out the timing and there’s that WOOSH of success when you’ve conquered it. The photo above is a pile of tickets from a particularly good day where we went home with a bunch of toys to donate to Toys For Tots and an Amazon Echo from a Cut the Rope game. Not bad.

I’ve always had a knack for these things and I can’t quite tell you why… other than it’s an activity that brings me total joy. I give myself a budget and from there it’s a totally anxiety free experience. It’s something I’m moderately skilled at and I have fun with it. Sure I feel a little silly with this as a “skill” of mine. It’s nothing I’d ever list on a resume.

Fake screenshot of a resume for me with my gaming skills.

If I win, awesome, I get toys and candy and a sense of accomplishment. If I lose, well, I had fun playing and I still probably get a Dumdum lollipop out of the deal. I do well with it because I feel totally confident.

“Well, duh,” you say to yourself, “that’s literally anyone doing a fun thing they like.” But even with my hobbies I still have this pang of unease. When I paint, I worry it will be ugly or that I’ll mess it up. When I read books it snowballs into feeling bad about not reading more and then I’m not reading at all, I’m just thinking about reading while holding a book. Even now as I write this, I feel the pang. Is this worth talking about? Will anyone read it? Does it matter if no one does? How does this contribute to my ~writing career~?

I just wish I could have that feeling of total confidence and control like I do when I’m playing in an arcade. If this were some self-help blog, I’d list five ways to start synergizing my real time career expectations with my hobbies… or something. Throw the word ‘millennial’ in there about a half dozen times. But I don’t have five ways or even one. Hell, I don’t even know what millennial means anymore.

But I do know that I’ve identified the goal. I need to find my way to that place where I’m running around, and nothing feels like work because I’m laughing and having a good time. I need to feel like I can be a winner in every game I play. All I can do is try to be more comfortable and enjoy playing the game, whatever it might be. If I figure out a foolproof way to do that, I’ll let you know.

Taking the week off.

Hey everyone. I’ve been traveling a lot this last week and I’m currently trapped on a plane that is about 90 degrees. A toddler is whining and the man next to us is having what might be the loudest conversation I’ve ever heard. I’m jet-lagged and sleep is hours away.

No stories this week. See you next time.

Part of Your World

As a kid, I did musicals. My first taste was a scene in a showcase at theatre summer camp. I had a brief solo and after that, I was sure I had What It Takes. I saw the community theatre in town was casting for the musical “Heidi” and I wanted in. For hours, I nervously practised the only song I knew I could sing for the audition, “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid.

See, the problem was I could sing but I couldn’t read music. I wasn’t a musician. I picked up on things as I listened to them, which is a neat skill to have but it makes it hard to, you know, learn new songs without hearing them. I listened to that part of The Little Mermaid VHS tape over and over until I knew every word and note.

I remember calling the theatre, anxious because I didn’t have the required sheet music for my musical audition. “What are you singing?” “…Part of Your World. From The Little Mermaid?” The manager chuckled and I was assured it would be fine, just as long as I let the pianist know. Maybe he was a big Disney fan?

The audition was packed. A lot of girls had come. 60, probably. Some vied for the lead role, but I was just content to show up and hope for the best. I sat and watched as they called each girl up one by one. They stood under a spotlight, announced who they were and what song they were singing, and then they sang part of the tune.

One girl, fairly early into the process, got up and announced who she was and her song, but I didn’t clue in until she started singing some familiar words.

“Look at this stuff? Isn’t it neat?”

No.

“Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete?”

No no no!

I reeled. She was singing my song! It was the version of wearing the same outfit as someone else and I was doing it at My Big Audition! When the girl finished, I hurried up to an adult in the wings.

“That’s my song like the same song I picked the same song oh no I don’t have another song and that’s my song and-”

I was told it was okay. This happened sometimes. Not to worry, I just needed to sit down, things were fine. They shooed me away.

I sat. But a few girls later… the song started again. “You want thingamabobs? I’ve got twenty.”

Girl after girl proceeded to sing that goddamn song. Enough that I lost track.

My name was called. I begrudgingly sauntered to the stage. Head down, already defeated. I stood in the hot light, raised up my head, and said, “Hello, my name is Lauren and I am singing… Part of Your World.” You could sense a collective groan.

I rushed the lyrics as I sang. Part of being nervous, I guess. Once I got to the “I want moooooore” lyric, the piano cut off. “Thank you!” the director shouted and it was on to the next girl.

I bawled in the car, convinced being cut off was a sign I’d screwed it up and I wouldn’t end up with a part.

After a few days of moping, I got a call from the director offering me a spot in the chorus. I was shocked and elated.

Since then, I’ve heard lots of stories of first auditions being a Disney song. I’ve heard “Part of Your World” a few times, too. What a relief. It wasn’t a faux pas, it was a right of passage! You start in theatre, you tread the boards, you sing some Disney songs. It’s just what you do.

And it’s kind of the perfect song, too, right? You want to be where the people are. You want to see them, see them dancing. You so desperately want to be apart of that world.

I quit subscription boxes.

A pile of cardboard shipping boxes with the text 'it's not you it's me'.

My first subscription box was at Quarterly. Quarterly gets really neat people and businesses to curate boxes of cool stuff every quarter. You buy in at a set rate (like $50 per box) and select your curator. Their box gets shipped to you and the items within are totally secret to you until they arrive.

It’s a great concept. I jumped in when one of my favorite blogs, Unclutterer, was getting in on the action. It was exciting! Like Christmas! A box with secret items on my door step. And I liked the idea that these were selected by someone whose opinion I valued. The objects within would be worth my money.

But soon the novelty wore off. I had $50 of items to help me organize my home, but they weren’t all things that I would be able to use. Or return. I canceled before my next box came.

This is the problem with these subscription services. If you’re not familiar, they’re showing up hot and heavy on the internet lately. It’s a model very similar to Quarterly (described above), but with different products. There’s clothing, makeup, accessories, toys, pet treats, meals… all kinds of things. Selected for you by the experts at these companies and shipped to your home.

The companies are nice enough. My experience with Stitch Fix and Dia & Co., two services that evaluate your style and send you five clothing items to try, were great from a customer service standpoint. (And each of them shipped me items made in America when I asked if they could!) The folks at Blue Apron were kind, too, when I canceled after my first week. The food wasn’t too shabby, either.

But the clothes are never quite right. One or two items will be okay… or I’d have to settle on one article of clothing so not to lose my styling fee. (The fee is $20 you pay initially, which gets credited to the price of an item you keep.) Blue Apron had meals that weren’t really my style (or had nuts in them, but those are easy enough to omit or avoid) but I tried them anyway.

Here’s my core issue. It’s something that can’t be erased by the fuzzy happy feeling that is “I’m getting a special package in the mail with a surprise inside!” Nor free shipping. Or coupon codes.

These companies employ experts to handpick a package for me. But… they’re not experts on me. How could they be? I am one lady out of thousands. The allure of asking an expert to pick something especially for me is tempting but it’s a hard fantasy to deliver on.

I’m sure there are people out there who are like, “Yes! Nailed it!” and end up with five new clothing items in their closet. I’m sure there are people who thrive in the structure a food delivery service gives them. Who are excited about new makeup. New toys. New stuff. But I can’t seem to find a groove. Usually it’s a hit and miss.

I think I’ll keep to being my own personal shopper. I know what I like to wear and what I can eat. If I see something in a store, I can make a decision about it without having it shipped to my house first. There are a lot of wonderful things on the internet that I’ve enjoyed doing  and buying – this just isn’t one of them.

As for all the subscription services I’ve listed above, just remember – It’s not you. It’s me. Thanks for trying.

Dear Clorox,

Hello marketing team at Clorox! Saaaaaay. I seem to have disrupted your Streamlined Digital Content Synergization Schedule or whatever with the popularity of my suggestion of Pumpkin Spice Bleach.

This message from your representative would seem to indicate that you think this is a bad idea!

This is a picture of the official Clorox Facebook account saying Pumpkin Spice Bleach isn't real.

 

Woah woah woah. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss what is a golden marketing opportunity. One that I have handed right off to you! For free, I might add!

But you see, this is just the tip of the quickly melting iceberg. There are lots of other marketunities here. (see what I did there) (you love it) (seriously I’ll just take a job in middle management now thank you)

For example! At Easter time, lots of families have cleaning up to do after making a big holiday meal. I’m sure there are spills from their adorable offspring, all hopped up (get it) (again I’m a genius) on chocolate bunnies.

I PRESENT TO YOU…

A container of Peep flavored bleach.

Peep bleach! All the marshmallowy sugarness you love, but none of the staleness and regret over not just buying Cadbury Eggs instead.

See, what I’m suggesting is that you’ve got to focus on other chances to get your product into homes! Might I suggest that the ides of March may have something in store for you?

TA DA.

Luck of the Irish Bleach, with a leprechaun puking a rainbow.

Irish eyes won’t be the only ones smiling over your spotless bathroom! Luck o’ the Irish flavor will be able to knock out a mess from even the most rowdy of St. Patrick’s Day parties. What does it smell like? Rainbows and bleach!

And finally, in the last of these dog days of summer, what better to choose than…

Sweet Tea Clorox.

Served up to consumers in a jug, just like real Sweet Tea. Bring some southern comfort to your floors!

I hope my suggestions have sparked your imagination. You’re welcome. I am available for team building exercises, secret shopping, and market research assistance. I await your phone call.

Ye Olde House Wifee – #5

Dearest husband,

June’s heat was aggressive and unrepentant.

July, her twin sister; full of sweltering.

Sticky humidity. Awful, awful chafing.

August would be no different.

 

The walls of this humble home never knew

sweet, sweet relief during the oppressive summers,

warmth always trapped in its bones.

If you laid your hand upon it,

You would search for a heartbeat.

 

I haven’t cooked. Nor cleaned.

The laundry lingers and I with it.

A pile. Soaked with sweat.

 

But then.

 

Then a breeze.

And more.

And more.

 

I go from room to room.

The windows are closed

and yet

a breeze.

 

Witchcraft? No.

HVAC.

 

Yours,

Lauren Veruca Tabitha Wishwhamerschmidt

Fast Fashion

I’m not much for fancy clothes. I wear stuff I like that makes me feel comfortable. And I don’t tend to go shopping unless I need something. For example: my black ballet flat shoes I’ve had for like six years finally wore out when the toe had a hole in it. I noticed it when I walked through a puddle and water came gushing in. If you look at my clothes, it’s a lot of the stuff I’ve had for years. I wear things until they fall apart.

Maybe it’s because we didn’t grow up with much. Maybe I’m just low maintenance. But I know it has something to do with my awareness of how fashion works and the industry that manufactures it. Thanks to the internet and to the owners of small, local clothing businesses, there are things I can’t unknow.

It started out with my attempts to find items that were made in America. Several years ago all I could find was clothing from American Apparel. American Apparel was based in California and I bought shirts from them for years. But when the head of the company turned out to be kind of a skeezeball, I stopped buying.

I would ask the question when I was in stores. “Do you have anything made in America?” It was nearly impossible to find anything in any large commercial chain. Just blank faces and shrugs from the staff.

Why was I asking? Because goods made in America meant I was supporting people here, in my country and community. I associated it, too, with quality. I’d had stuff made in far-flung countries that fell apart too quickly. I was content with keeping my dollars at home.

What made my quest nearly impossible was the fact that manufacturing had been largely outsourced to cheap labor overseas.

Not long ago, we made clothing here. Check out this old commercial from the 70s that celebrated American made clothing:

 

Somewhere along the way that changed. We shipped it all overseas and these nice ladies and men lost their jobs. And yes, sure, now some other human being is being paid to make that article of clothing. I think I’d be okay with it if I knew they were being paid fairly and in good working conditions. But a majority of them aren’t. News stories in years past have documented how large manufacturing shops have collapsed or had fires break out that left workers injured or dead. The wages these people receive are meager at best. By buying these clothes, we perpetuate a system that is exploitative and unfair.

When you’re at the mall and you see shirts for dirt cheap or giant sales, realize the manufacturer planned for that. So to make any profit at all, the amount they must pay for labor and materials has got to be impossibly low. Some people might say, “hey, that’s capitalism” but paying someone just enough so they’re not technically a slave doesn’t sit right with me.

Now, I’m not saying I’m an expert. I’m not saying I have the answers. And I’m also not saying I’m 100% perfect. I don’t make a lot of money and sometimes the shoes or purse or whatever I own were made overseas. I’m not preaching perfection. I’m saying we should try to be more knowledgeable. We should care. We should adjust our habits where we can.

I have seen a resurgence in made in America goods. Fair trade clothing items are becoming more common too. Again, with the internet, you can find more information and shop clothing that is more in line with healthier manufacturing practices. There is a potential to fill your closet with clothing that is not to the detriment of others.

I’m sorry if this is soapbox-y. I just care about this. I think we can all be a little better with some extra consideration.

If you want more information about fast fashion and common manufacturing practices, check out the documentary “The Real Cost”. It’s on Netflix streaming. For more information about ethical fashion (or eco-friendly fashion, another thing I try to incorporate into my buying habits) check out ecouterre.com.

LOAD “*”,8,1

I saw this gorgeous scarf at an event last weekend.

The pashmina is silk screened with some coding from a Commodore 64 computer programming guide that taught the user some Basic, a programming language. The code is the start of a song.

I never did any Basic coding on the C64 when I was a kid. All we ever needed was this line: LOAD “*”,8,1

I had no idea what it meant. I didn’t need to. That line unlocked the blocky games loaded in delicate floppy disks. The scarf brought me right back there. That chunky text, the waiting forever for things to load…

I kind of miss those days. Nothing was instant. There was a built-in break. Patience was needed. I know it drove me crazy when I was a kid, but I kind of long for that now. But to get that sort of respite in these times, you need to escape technology. You need to hide in the woods or on the road, away from technology or cell reception.

Maybe I need to dig up an old C64. For nostalgia’s sake.