"I love my cats because I love my home, and little by little they become its visible soul." Jean Couteau

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

pinterest challenge

For this post, I am participating in...

(not sponsored by Pinterest or anyone else, just inspired by Katie of Bower Power and Sherry of Young House Love to get people to stop pinning and start doing).

I'm not 100% sure I should admit this here, but I only recently joined Pinterest and have still not really gotten into using it. So this project didn't actually come from my Pinterest pinning, but it's the same idea, I just stick URLs in my gmail task list instead.

I got this project idea from Abiding Here. I initially got thinking about doing something with maps after seeing posts on Sparks Fly and Young House Love. I liked the idea of different state maps representing where we're from. Also, my husband, Zach, has always been kind of into maps and geography, so when I told him about the idea, he said, "Yeah, that sounds good," which I took to mean, "That's an awesome idea! I am so totally psyched about it!" :-p

I decided to do four maps, representing each of our home states (Michigan and Maryland) and the states where we went to college (Massachusetts and Texas). Since we currently live in Maryland, that one kind of gets double-duty. Instead of just doing regular state maps, I decided to zoom in on the cities where we lived, and then cut out the state around that. 

I initially planned to use old maps that I had from the pre-GPS navigator days, but I ran into some snags with that. First, I didn't have a map of Texas. Second, the maps I did have had bright green highlighter marking my driving route when I had used these maps to get from MD to MI and MD to MA. Third, I they weren't as zoomed-in on the specific areas as I would have liked. So, after much thinking and searching the internet for maps, I eventually gave in and made screen shots of Google maps of the desired areas. I didn't really want to use Google maps because I think they look a little cartoony compared to normal road maps, but I couldn't find any online maps that would give me the amount of zoom I wanted and in a decent resolution and that would be the same look for all the states. And in the end, I think the Google maps look pretty good. Next, I did some more internet searching and found state outline images. 

Next came gimp magic. Gimp is a free Photoshop-esque program, originally developed for Linux, but now available for Windows and Mac (which I have). I'd never used it before, but I had Photoshop on my old Mac, and they're fairly similar. I did have to do some internet searching to find the tool I wanted (which was there, but had a less-intuitive icon and name than in Photoshop), but otherwise, not too hard and not too different from Photoshop. Anyway, for each map, I opened the Google map and state outline in gimp. 

 Houston, TX Google map

 TX outline map from EnchantedLearning.com

I used the fuzzy select tool () to select the inside of the state outline (just use the tool to click on the white inside part). This is similar to Photoshop's magic eraser tool. A dotted line will appear around the state outline, just inside the black line. Hit delete to erase the white background, making the background see-through. Then I had to make the size of my outline match up with the size of my Google map. I did this by looking at the dimensions shown in the window header of the map picture, then went in the 'Image' menu and chose 'Scale Image'. In the dialog box that opens, I chose the smaller dimension of the map (height for MD and MA, width for MI and TX), and set the corresponding dimension of the outline to match that. Then I simply selected the outline image and copied and pasted it onto the map image. Ta-da!

For ease of printing, I then exported the combined outline map image into a jpg or tiff and inserted it as an image in PowerPoint, where I cropped off most of the map edges that didn't make it inside the outline. After printing came the real hard part -- cutting them out. All those little wiggles and juts had me wishing we were from somewhere else, like Colorado or Utah! At one point, I tried using an xacto knife, but I wasn't able to get as clean a cut as with my small, sharp scissors. 

Next came the second hardest part -- finding frames! I wanted square frames, so they could all look the same, even though MD and MA are short and wide and MI is a little taller, and TX is pretty much square. Apparently, demand for square frames is pretty low, making white, 12" x 12" frames difficult to find, especially at a price I deemed not ridiculous to pay for four frames. In the end, I found 40%-off brown 12" x 12" frames at Michael's, which I spray-painted white using leftover paint from my big guest room furniture spray-painting project (post yet to come, so stay tuned!). Also at Michael's, I got some light green scrapbook paper on which to mount the maps. And the result, is pretty much what I had hoped for: