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Don't miss these great books:

Extreme Pumpkin Carving: 20 Amazing Designs from Frightful to Fabulous

by Vic Hood and Jack Williams

Extreme Pumpkin Carving

This is the best book ever on carving pumpkin. There are patterns for everything from scary to comical faces. Carving is done only with knives or for those carvers with tools, good directions are available for a really terrific creation. Step-by-step instructions are detailed for using handy household tools to carve dramatic Halloween figures and using professional tools for creating more elaborate and intricate details. Twenty pumpkin carving patterns are provided and include full-color photographs of each finished carving.

Holidays: Recipes, Gifts and Decorations: Thanksgiving and Christmas

by Martha Stewart

Holidays: Recipes, Gifts and Decorations

Even if you are not planning a large holiday party or feast, you will still find Martha Stewart's book useful for information on homemade gifts, gift wrapping and wreaths and garlands. Beautiful photographs tempt and inspire.

Copyright © 2007

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carving the pumpkinHow (Not) to Carve a Pumpkin: Some Halloween Words To The Wise
by Marjorie Dorfman

It’s almost that time of year again. You know, that season when the color orange reigns supreme, pretty dead leaves fall upon our heads and ghostly spirits find new homes, souls and places to haunt. Trick or treat celebrations and pumpkins are all part of the Halloween experience, and carving a jack-o-lantern is an art form few can do well. So what makes you think you can? I have no idea, but read on for more information about that which you should do your best to avoid this holiday season

First and foremost, use your common sense and I am not talking about the writings of Thomas Paine. Carve your pumpkin in an area that casts few shadows, for the dark is for carvers not. Wash and dry pumpkin and utensils before starting and assure the pumpkin that it only hurts for a little while and that all will be well very soon.

pumpkin carving kit
Remember that bigger is nowhere near better. Do not use long sharp knives as they often stick in the thicker parts of the pumpkin and require some force to dislodge, often cutting hands and other meaningful body parts. (Save the long sharp knives for cinematic psychopaths, Michael Meyers and Norman Bates. Theirs must be rusty with all those blood-stains by now anyway.)

Invest in a carving kit because pumpkin carving knives are designed specifically for that purpose, and as such are much safer than some others. Always remember to cut away from yourself in small, controlled strokes. Eliminate all thoughts of ineffectual high-school shop classes and carpentry projects that may or may not have failed in the past.

pumpkin pulp clearing
Leave the carving to adults who sometimes feel like children rather than the other way around. Let children help by sketching the pumpkin’s design and cleaning up the pulp and seeds after the "dastardly deed" is done. Pick simple designs with few curves and cuts for younger tots. Always keep children at a safe distance while carving (unless, of course, you are considering them as part of the mix).

Keep your free hand away from the direction of the knife. Use slicing motions and never force the knife. (Tell it in no uncertain terms to behave itself!)

If you do cut yourself, for God’s sake, don’t just stand there and watch the blood drip! Apply direct pressure to the wound with a clean cloth, after gently washing the wound with soap and water. If the bleeding doesn’t stop after 15 minutes or if you experience a change in sensation or color, it’s time (daylight savings and other) for a visit to the local emergency room. Don’t be shy. That’s why they are there.

Choose lighter colored pumpkins as they are softer and easier to carve. They don’t last as long as their prettier, darker brothers and sisters, but we can’t have everything, can we?

Pick a pumpkin with a nice size stem and a carvable face. Keep it in a cool place or outside until you are ready to carve it. Don’t buy it too far away from Halloween as it may be ready to say goodbye to the world by the time you are ready to carve it and make it say hello to the people.

slice pumpkin top
Cut open the top of the pumpkin and clean out the seeds referred to by those in the know as "pumpkin brains." Remember to scrape the inside wall up to about an inch thick. This will make carving a lot easier. You can use an ice cream scoop to clean out the pumpkin rather than bending every kitchen spoon you have in the drawer. Set the seeds aside for use as snacks.

Slow is the operative word when cutting. There are no short cuts and a careless mistake can completely ruin the effect you are trying so hard to create (not to mention sending you on an unplanned trip to the emergency room). The pumpkin will never forgive you if you ruin its face, as gourds are well known to carry grudges that can last a lifetime. You will have to get rid of it immediately, pick yourself up, dust yourself, buy a new pumpkin and start all over again!

Make sure to pick a design that is properly sized for your pumpkin. Enlarge or shrink it on a copier if need be. Transfer the design to the pumpkin by tracing with a small knife, a nail, a marker or a pencil.

Be very careful if you decide to use candles for your jack-o-lantern and never leave it unattended. Tea lights work well but for safety’s sake, for indoor use, stick with battery-operated lights.

For a unique look, add a little glow paint or better, fake blood. Consider also inserting a bowl inside the carved pumpkin and adding dry ice and warm water to create a "spooky" effect. (Be careful though. Those ghosts do linger waiting for that special moment to "arrive." You don’t want to make them too welcome.)

pumpkin cat stars
Make your pumpkin last by applying a light coat of petroleum jelly on the cuts. This serves to seal the wound. After carving, place the pumpkin in a cool dark place. (Or offer sunglasses. Be considerate.) It will spoil quickly if left at room temperature and will also attract fruit flies with no particular place to go.

Although this procedure is not recommended and probably will not work for unpleasant relatives and nasty neighbors, you can revive a shriveled pumpkin by soaking it in a bucket of water.

These procedures will help you enjoy your jack-o-lantern and make you, if not the envy (for it is green), then at least the orange equivalent to your neighbors who don’t know how to carve a pumpkin. Try it this year if you haven’t before. The process will enhance your holiday and who knows what spirits might have lurked in your doorway had not the jack-o-lantern directed them otherwise?

The pumpkin shadow, that’s who!

Did you know . . .

For more holiday fun, see these related articles:

Halloween: Ghosts, Goblins and Lore with Gore

The Pumpkin: Gourd of Gourds and King of All Things Halloween

The Truth Unmasked: The Story Behind The Halloween Mask

Lick Or Treat: Costumes For the Discerning Canine and Feline

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