What to Do With those Pumpkin Seeds?

I love pumpkins, hence the name of this blog. It is my time of year to decorate and entertain my neighbors. Inside and out, I find places for this orange marvel. I also love when the pulp comes in a jar, so I can make pumpkin pie. Give me pumpkins seeds and pumpkin butter any time. I buy the seeds, but people often asked me what I do with the ones from my carving craft. I started to roast them; but most often I like to use them in recipes or for décor. You can paint them and include them in a fall collage. They add texture and interest. My best work was a color drawing of a huge pumpkin in its prime with scattered seeds all about. I used a special varnish to make them shine. It was wonderful, and I am tempted to make prints out of it for cards next year. It is now the image on my laptop.  A pumpkin is wonderful to eat and explore as an inspiration for decoration. There is no end to what you can do. Halloween has its own applications and Thanksgiving is a tradition unto itself. Small pumpkins can grace the family table. Cut out the center and put in a tiny votive candle. The effect is magnificent at night. Add a few colorful leaves on the surface of the table to complete the seasonal look.

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere. This is my motto. I put them outside on the steps and in the window. Kids like to come by and ask to come in for pumpkin cookies. They are an easy variation of the popular gingerbread man at Christmas. Buy a mix or make your own. It is fun either way. Sometimes a few small tots like to watch. They think they are “helping.” More often than not, they play with the pull-down faucet that I bought from https://www.kitchenfaucetdepot.net/.

A pitcher of cider next to your pumpkin centerpiece on a buffet table is a veritable draw at a party. You can also make pumpkin chocolate truffles or brittle. I hear there is actually a pumpkin martini. I wouldn’t be surprised. I start to get more serious in November. The fun of a carved pumpkin spewing cookie dough from its huge toothless mouth at Halloween no longer applies. No more stuck on bat ears or pointy eyebrows. Either holiday involves a bit of a mess and some diligent cleanup. To make sure the inside of the pumpkin is flat, I put it under the kitchen faucet. Fortunately, I have a handy pull-down style. I can easily remove any remaining pulp. Given the vast number of pumpkins in my life in the fall, I use this faucet quite often. In fact, the pull-down advantage was the main reason for its installation. The larger the pumpkin, the harder it is to fit under a faucet. An adjustable nozzle is a godsend.

Unseasonably Warm Fall

Can’t believe what I see. The thermometer shows eighty five degrees. I love Indian summer when it is fall, but unseasonably warm. Some parts of the country enjoy this kind of climate every year without fail, but it is not typical in my area. In fact, I turned off the air conditioning unit weeks ago. I can’t imagine turning it on again and facing those hefty summer electric bills. No, I have to resort to other methods to keep cool. A ceiling fan is the perfect solution. They look great in any space as they do their job.

If you consult the old Farmer’s Almanac, you will find out more about this special time when the leaves are turning into magnificent colors or burnt orange, red and yellow; but the air has not yet developed its distinctive fall chill. It is an interim time that lasts for only a short period. It is unexpected in these parts and when it comes, everyone is giddy with joy. We have a bit more summer upon us. We know winter is around the corner and that the brisk air will soon take its toll. While I love nothing more than donning a down jacket and using a wool neck scarf, I don’t relish putting on icy cold mittens to do my outdoor chores. So, I am luxuriating in the warmth for the moment. All I need to do is buy an inexpensive Ceiling Fan Choice for a gentle cooling indoor breeze. It is easy to find them at a discount online, and you don’t need to spend hours on Facebook. Most any brand will do. My advice is to buy in the middle of the price range so you get a bargain and not a bomb.

Indian summer is a strange time in that there is no wind at all despite the time of year. The nights can still be cold and clear, however, so the ceiling fan gets turned off if you have one. The barometer is high according to the almanac. The reason is a cool polar air mass that is moving south becoming an “anticyclone” or high pressure system. Some areas experience haze and warmth with extreme swings in temperature from day to night. Most often in the northeast, for example, Indian summer is followed by a cold spell and a hard frost. Meanwhile I enjoy walking for hours or sitting on the patio reading a Kindle book. I haven’t forgotten my usual duties, of course, and a row of pumpkins sits pertly outside the front door. They stay for the duration, even after Halloween and thanksgiving. I wait until a week after winter has officially arrived. Then I replace them with pine cones in a home-made twig basket. I do like the snow and the implications of the weather, but I miss fall when it disappears and merges into the next season. Knowing it is coming again in a year keeps me in a jolly mood.

Prepping for Cooler Weather

It’s not far away. The cool weather will be coming soon enough. Rah! As we approach the fall with all its wonderful seasonal foods (like pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread), I get excited anticipating the fun ahead. It’s time to think about my Halloween costume, where I am going for Thanksgiving dinner, and how I am going to decorate my front porch. You can bet that it will be loaded with carved pumpkins with candles inside. My front door greets the world with festive wreaths made of small gourds. People in my neighborhood expect something unusual—and different every year. It taxes my imagination.

Meanwhile I am pulling sweaters out of mothballs and leather jackets from the storage closet. This usually makes me happy but not this time. Yikes. My favorite jacket smells like smoke. After a quick post on social media to explain my distress, it was back to thinking about how it happened and how to fix it. It must be from a party I attended last year. Since it was a fall event, we stayed inside because of the cold. The smokers who usually retired to the garden were too frozen to go outdoors. The host was okay with it and thus my jacket got a lot of exposure. With fabric, you can deodorize it; but not with leather. I was in a quandary about how I could get the smell of smoke out of my leather jacket.

You can, of course, clean leather with special paste polish in a neutral color or one to match the garment. Dry cleaning is possible but very costly. Besides, the odor might be in the lining. First I will try to air it out. Spraying a product like Febreze would be totally inappropriate. The problem can be solved, but I might not be totally satisfied. I am not making a rash decision as yet to toss the item.

After a long session outside and one round of dry cleaning, the jacket was approaching perfection. It is now ready to wear on chilly nights. It looks cool in late summer with jeans but cozy and warm with cords and a scarf in the dead of winter. It is the fall season when it really shines. After this incident, I was curious as to why leather, being a skin, absorbs odor. It is a natural material and must be porous at some level. It is not visible to the naked eye. Beware of smokers in your home if you have leather furniture. It also goes for cars with leather seats. Only the most high-end models have them, the very cars you don’t want to reek of cigarettes.

Well, my prepping for fall blog turned into a rant on protecting leather. It might be a practical reminder for you anyway. Leather jackets are the norm in my area come September so at least I can forewarn a few innocent souls. Give your garments a long life with a little extra care. If only smokers knew the havoc they wreak. Maybe we should ask them for pay for dry cleaning. It might stop a precious few!

Like Finding a Wedding Band in a Pile of Leaves

I was on a plane to visit family out of state and got to talking to my seatmate. Given the length of the flight, we got into some detail about our lives as friendly strangers do. We had made an immediate connection. I asked him about his profession, city of residence, marital status, children, and that kind of thing. Pretty normal stuff. But then he volunteered that his favorite hobby was gold prospecting. He said that most people relate it to panning in a creek, using a pick and shovel to gouge it out of a lode, or availing oneself of a gold sluice in a river. I was fascinated by this odd interest. He then mentioned that he also looked for precious metals on playgrounds, in parks, at beaches and stadiums from time to time when he was young. The hobby grew into a passion. It reminded me of a funny story of my own.

My father had lost some weight one year and we didn’t realize the complete consequences until an incidence occurred while he was raking leaves in the yard. Autumn is my favorite time because of the holidays and wonderful gourds that appear everywhere. It is pumpkin time to my delight. Leaves are table decoration to me, but not him. It was a chore. He dutifully performed the task in the crisp October air and was almost done when I heard a sharp cry. I ran quickly to his spot and found him brushing the remaining leaves all around. “I lost my wedding ring,” he said with annoyance. “Help me find it. It must have been loose due to my weight loss.” Of course, it was precious to him not to mention that it was 18K gold. We got on our hands and knees and scrutinized the entire area to no avail. We both were exhibiting signs of frustration. It reminded me of the times when I couldn’t find something I needed in my messy room as a teenager. Now I know that it was like finding a wedding band in a pile of leaves.

It was an apt comparison but not really funny. Finally, we gave up and called my uncle. He said he would come over and help, but would do better than that. He owned a good metal detector he had bought for the kids at the beach. They were only looking for metal debris but now it would show what it was meant to do. He took it out of its pouch and started to set it correctly for fine metals, which he’d been reading up about on the internet at Finding a Fortune.

To set it up to detect gold meant putting it on low sensitivity – or was it high sensitivity? I can’t remember. He placed it facing the ground around our big stately tree and turned it on. Within seconds, we could hear a faint buzz. A green light also went on. Eureka! We found the ring. This device saved the day and my dad’s good spirits. We invited Uncle Jim in for a beer and some snacks. He deserved a reward.

DIY Halloween Decorations

When late October rolls around, I get motivated to start decorating. I can buy lots of stuff of course, but I prefer to make my own. I rummage around in friend’s attics and garages to gather materials for a DIY look in the front of my house. I can whip up a ghost or goblin with some fabric, fake hair, black paint, and glue. The reason for all this work myself is that I like to change things up every year. One time I did all carved pumpkins, as I adore them, especially when lit. It takes a lot of skill to carve them well and to make them amusing and odd. The spookier the better. In lieu of gourds, this year I am collecting some old, cheap soccer balls from https://www.topcornermag.com/best-soccer-ball/ that I don’t mind ruining. They will never grace a playing field again. I try to outdo myself every season by spending as little as I can. This challenges my creativity and spurs my neurons to spark. It is all about imagination with horror overtones for me. All the kids that wear pretty costumes don’t get the idea. If you don’t scare trick or treaters, you are not spreading the right holiday cheer.

Every holiday has its special symbols like Easter eggs, rabbits, and bunnies. It is all about color, happiness, and glee. Christmas requires red and green and lots of pine cones and plaid ribbon. Valentine’s Day is pure schmaltz and only red velvet and lace will do. I would take Halloween over other special days any time if I am in charge of decorations. My friends and family now expect something new and super fun. So what can you do with a soccer ball? You can paint it black and adorn the front with big white popping out eyes. You can drape ugly torn spider web fabric from the bottom and insert creepy bones. Then you hang it and hope the kids notice. You can also take the balls and group them as long as one face is more horrific than the other. They can be splashed with red paint and voila, you have a bunch of severed heads found in a ditch in the graveyard. You can add a tombstone or two in between the frightful balls and cover everything with that weird white filmy stuff.

My mother asks me all the time how I can scare little kids like that, and I just laugh. They expect to feel fear and miss it if they don’t find it here and there around the neighborhood. They don’t shy away. In fact, a few little creatures who come to the door ask if they can have a soccer ball for later. I imagine that their parents would be surprised by my severed head idea and want to wash off the “blood.”

Next time you want to throw away your old deflated soccer ball, don’t. Keep it for Halloween. It can become something ghoulish in no time flat. Use your best painting skills. Set the adorned faces, blood and all, in your front yard trees or peering out of your car parked on the street.

I Learned an Important Lesson Today

Fall is an unmistakable time with new smells and foods of the season. While summer is glorious, fall is unique with the cooler weather changing leaves, the appearance of apple cider, and the expectation of Halloween, a time of fun galore. I revel in good times and good eats. No wonder winter is a disappointment. I usually muddle through, but these past few months, I have not been feeling my best. A little depression, but it has to go away. I was chatting with some friends who put me on to @BeRight_Light and I realised that a visit to the doctor is in order to resolve this. While he isn’t a psychiatrist, he tells me that he can do some tests and find out if I have SAD.

I hadn’t really heard of this ailment so he explained. It means “seasonal affective disorder” and is simply a negative response to the lack of sunlight in winter. After questioning me and doing a mental assessment, he was pretty sure I didn’t have it, but it is easier to cure than depression. I learned an important lesson today. Now I was a bit worried, but he said there are treatments and medications. If I end up being diagnosed with SAD, I will have to get an artificial lamp and sit in front of it for a half hour or more a day during the months that affect me the most. I am glad that it is likely to work immediately and solve my problem of winter blues. The symptoms are similar for either malady so trying the light is an easy way to determine the culprit.

If you feel down certain times of the year, have lost interest in your work or personal projects, suffer from an inability to concentrate, lack energy and verve, and sleep too much, you can be helped. The light is an amazing form of therapy. You must, of course, choose the right box with the help of your doctor. These are also known as phototherapy boxes. It is all about the right intensity and timing. You may not use this appliance if you have bipolar disorder. Fortunately, I am not among the afflicted. What is interesting is how a light box mimics outdoor light. It is a form of simulation that causes a chemical change in the brain. You use it the first thing in the morning and it will set your biological clock for the day. The treatment is safe and effective and approved by the FDA and it will not hurt the eyes.

After trying it out for a few weeks, and feeling much better, I was thrilled that I did not have clinical depression. I believe it is a mild case of SAD. My doctor reached the same conclusion. You must get a prescription for the exact box you need. Insurance isn’t likely to pay for it so it doesn’t matter what shape and size you choose. You can get a small and rectangular light or an upright lamp. I am comforted in knowing that I found help.

Fall Themed Party Ideas

Fall is a great time to host a party. There are all kinds of ways to incorporate the color and fun of the season into the festivities, celebrating Halloween and all things autumn. I’ve broken down some ideas based on the age groups of those attending.

If you’ve got kids coming to your party, you’ll need to find activities to keep them busy. Sure everyone loves bouncy houses and that kind of thing but you can do that any time of year. Fall gives you all kinds of ways to have fun with the little ones. You can go big and have a Pumpkin Roll race, PumpkinFest-style. You can go simple and get pumpkins (or even those little pumpkin-shaped gourds) and have a decoration station with stickers and paints so the kids can make themselves a party favor. If you have space, a hay bale maze can be a lot of fun. If you don’t have hay, you can decorate cardboard boxes of different sizes to look like hay and use them instead. Another cool thing you can do is create a corn pit. It’s kind of like a sandbox, but with dried corn. It sounds weird but kids really like it. You can also take them on a leaf hunt where they gather fallen leaves and then make a craft out of them after. Give a kid some construction paper, glue, and some glitter, and they’ll make you something they’re awfully proud of!

If your crowd skews a little older, they are going to want to be a little scared. You can go playful instead of terrifying and do those “what am I touching?” games with hardboiled egg eyeballs and spaghetti brains. Even just hosting a scary movie night with different flavored popcorn and maybe a sleepover could be a big hit. You can also go a little—or a lot—scarier by transforming the party location into a haunted house. You can use props, sound effects, and even live actors to make it even more spooky. Teenagers still like to dress up sometimes, so a costume party wouldn’t be out of line. You can assign a theme or have a free-for-all, it just depends on what you think your guests will enjoy. Pumpkin carving contests and pumpkin rolls are still a big hit, although I have noticed that some teenage boys are more interested in smashing pumpkins than they are at actually rolling them, so bear that in mind.

For a party with mostly grownups, I like to focus more on the food. I’ll make a batch of my famous apple cider or create a nice fall-themed menu. You can also host a fall themed potluck, but post a signup sheet online for all your guests. This way, you aren’t stuck with 15 pumpkin pies. Adults also enjoy a good costume party but you can make it optional or declare it must be handmade if you think it might cause issues. Adults also like a good Pumpkin Roll. Have a prize and do it early in the evening if drinking is going to be involved; it will be less competitive and messy.

If you try any of these ideas, let me know how it went! I’d love to hear from you.

Practice Makes Perfect

Pumpkin fest is the best time of year. I look forward to fall and Halloween, even if it means the glory days of summer are drawing to a close. The pumpkin patches are appearing on every empty lot, loaded with ball-like gourds that remind me of basketballs. Kids are thinking about their costumes and if they will make or buy them. It’s always a big decision each year. I love the spontaneous creativity associated with the spirited holiday, not to mention all the yummy treats. I am a sucker for candy, cupcakes, and caramel apples. With the cool weather comes apple cider, spooky decorations, and a plethora of classic and new horror movies.

Of great interest to me is all the pumpkin carving that goes on. We all try to outdo ourselves with new ideas. None of the usual designs will do. You must hone your skills and learn how to make something so eye-catching that it stops people in their tracks. This means a lot of practice. It is not enough to draw a scary face. I like to try it out by painting an old basketball. I get them from the gym. They are about to toss them when I show up to get my dibs. These balls are just about the right size and the orange color helps to make the practice session more real. I use an outdoor basketball since they are sturdy and have the right texture. Sometimes, the results are so good that I keep them for decoration. They make people laugh. You can place them side by side or pile them up in pyramid fashion. Surround them with a bit of loose hay and you have a funny Halloween scene. For atmospheric effects, you can put candles in front. This will add to the eeriness of the grouping. The flickering light is magical. Of course, I prefer the candle inside a hollowed-out pumpkin, but this is simply something different that the kids can even do. Who doesn’t adore a well-conceived jack-o-lantern.

Contests abound at the end of October and adults and children alike join hands to enter their creations. The finalists’ work will be on view for the public until the day after Halloween. Kids like to see them after they finish trick or treating. The rules are simple. You must use a real pumpkin and carve it yourself after hollowing it out. Candles are not required, but most entrants like to include them. Winners get pumpkin pies and pumpkin seed butter in jars. It is all about the ubiquitous fruit (or is it a vegetable?). Whatever it is, it is surely the symbol of fall including Thanksgiving. We can’t have Halloween night antics without one glaring at visitors from the front porch. By the way, I have been known to win a contest or two in my time. I credit my hours of practice with the basketballs. I can’t imagine anyone else doing it.

Pumpkin Recipes

Nothing says fall like the taste of pumpkin and spice.There are a couple basic components to cooking with pumpkin. Once you have some of the techniques down, there are lots of recipes you can try. Here are a few basic ideas on what you can do with two great parts of the pumpkin—the seeds and the meat. I’ve given basic recipes for both, as well as given you a variety of links to check out to elevate this humble ingredient. The recipes below vary in difficulty, but I’m sure you can find something you’ll be comfortable making.

One of the easiest—and healthiest, and delicious—things you can make are roasted pumpkin seeds. This is especially good if you are carving the pumpkin, so you aren’t wasting the insides. There are so many different flavors and takes on this healthy snack that you are sure to find something that interests your taste buds. Check out this great selection on allrecipe. Just separate the seeds from the pulp and pat them dry before you start. I am a bit of a purist, so all I use are the seeds, some olive oil or melted butter, and some salt. I mix the seeds with the oil/butter and salt, and then put them in the oven at 200 degrees F for about an hour or so. Once the seeds are crispy and dry, I pull them out, let them cool, and put them in an airtight container. Yummy!

Next upis a useful ingredient in lots of recipes: pumpkin puree. You can buy canned puree, sure, but it isn’t that hard to make your own. You take a pumpkin, cut it in half (top to bottom) and clean all the seeds and goop. Lay the pieces, flesh side down, in a roasting pan. Put them in an oven preheated to 400 degrees F for about a half hour—you’ll know it is done when the rind is easily pierced with a paring knife. Let it cool. Then, using a spoon or ice cream scoop, scrape the sides of the pumpkin down to the skin to get the meat. Put the meat in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. There you have it—pumpkin puree! You can use it for almost anything (including pie, but I’ll get to that later). You can add it as a flavor to your coffee or to boost the taste of your morning pancakes. But there are other options. I’ve seen recipes for everything from tasty appetizers like pumpkin hummus to desserts like gingersnap cookies to more traditional pumpkin soup recipes. Pumpkin is also a perfect complement for pasta—either as a filling or in a sauce. Get creative and you will be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Of course, one of the greatest things you can do with a pumpkin is make a pie. You can go completely from scratch, use canned puree and refrigerated pie dough, or use some kind of happy medium. If you’re using a canned puree, there is typically a recipe on the side of the can. But if you’ve made some of your own thanks to the recipe above (make sure it doesn’t call for a spice mix, just plain canned pumpkin puree), you can try simply substituting yours for canned.Or you can try a recipe like thisthat calls specifically for fresh puree.

I hope you try some of these recipes out, or feel free to share your own in the comments!

What is PumpkinFest?

Pumpkinfest is a really great way to celebrate fall. It has a bunch of activities for people of all ages to enjoy. I’ve been going to the Pumpkinfestin historic Franklin for years. Each year it gets bigger and better, and every year I have a great time.

One of the highlights of the Franklin Pumpkinfest is the Pumpkin Roll.  You can bring a pumpkin of your own or buy one at the festival in order to compete. Everyone stands at the top of a hill and the goal is to get your pumpkin to roll the farthest. It is actually pretty exciting to watch. Many of the pumpkins are casualties of the road and splatter before they get very far. Others veer off course and roll into the audience. I like that because then you can actually kick it back into the competition. If this doesn’t sound exciting to you, you obviously need to see it in person, because it is a really fun time. The person whose pumpkin made it the farthest even gets a monetary prize!

There is also a costume contest for those interested. It is broken down by age, and there is a different category for groups. That means the adults are allowed to compete too! And evn more adorably, our pets can get in on the action. There is a small fee for entering the contest (both for humans and animals) but the prizes are usually pretty cool. If you are wearing a costume, you may as well enter!

Activities abound all day long. If you have little ones, there’s a lot to do. They close off a whole street to make room for bouncy houses, face painting, games, and pony rides. For selfie fans, there are plenty of photo opportunities as you walk around. If you don’t have kids or just aren’t into all that, they have vendors selling arts and crafts, as well as live music from some really great local bands. And what would a festival be without street food? There are plenty of vendors selling tasty treats for the whole family. As if that weren’t enough, there’s also a beer garden!

If you get bored with those things, you can check out some really awesome carved pumpkins or pose for a picture with the Great Pumpkin. You can try to guess its weight in order to win yourself a nice prize.

For those souls brave enough to stomach being in a cemetery at night, there are first-person stories about some of our most famous deceased residents.

If you are in the area at the end of October, I definitely recommend coming out for the festival. And if you aren’t here at the end of October, you definitely should be!

Grow Your Own Pumpkins

Pumpkins are actually pretty easy to grow on your own without too much of a green thumb. Luckily, pumpkins can grow in a variety of temperature conditions, so if you have a good-sized patch of land with full sunlight, you should be all set.

Take a look at the area you want to use before you plant. Pumpkins require a lot of space. Vines from a pumpkin plant can take over your whole garden, growing upwards of 20 feet in length. Be sure that you’ll have the room for thenumber of seeds you want—you’re going to need to plant the seeds with about five feet of space between each. Once you are confident that you have enough space, start working on the soil. Pumpkins are water- and nutrient- hungry, so the ground has to be well-tilled and have enough food for your crop. Compost or manure mixed into the soil will help ensure that your pumpkins will grow well.

Next, determine when you should plant your seeds.It is necessary to accommodate for their long growing season. It can take anywhere from 75-120 days for pumpkins to fully mature. That’s a long time! If you live in colder climes, you’ll have to wait till the danger of frost has passed and the soil is nice and warm.When in doubt, you can plant them indoors and transplant after the dangers of frost have passed. The more north you go, the earlier you should get the seeds in the ground. Farmer’s Almanac recommends by the end of May for eastern states, while the deep south can wait until around the 4th of July.

Once your pumpkins have started growing, they’ll need the same care as most other plants. Lots of sunlight, weeding, and watering. When you water, be sure to keep the leaves as dry as possible to avoid mold and rot. The easiest way to do this would be to water your pumpkins early in the day so that the leaves have time to dry in the sunlight if you get any of them wet. While pumpkins do require a lot of water, be sure not to overwater them, as this can also cause rotting.

First, you will see sprouts. Next come the flower blossoms. There are two types of flowers that will grow on your vines: the male flower, which is more narrow and attracts bees and other pollinators to the patch, and the female flower, which has a small bulb at the base. If your female flower is fertilized, it will begin to grow a pumpkin. If not, it will wither and die off. If you want to control how many pumpkins you get in your patch, you can keep an eye on the number of female flowers growing in your garden and ‘pinch off’ the female flowers after you reach your desired amount.

Then your pumpkins will start to grow. If you planted a traditional orange pumpkin, the color should be nice and deep. The vines will also start to wither away when the pumpkins are ripe. Of course, the best way to tell if your pumpkin is ripe is by checking to see how hard the shell is. If you can indent the skin of the pumpkin with a fingernail, it isn’t ready to be picked.

Once you’ve got your pumpkin picked, it is time to enjoy all your hard work! Carve it, paint it, turn it into a decoration, or use it as an ingredient in a nice fall recipe!

Pumpkin Carving Tips and Tricks

Being artistic can help when you’re carving a pumpkin but it isn’t everything. If you have the right tools and some patience, you can make something really cool.

First, find a good pumpkin. The larger it is, the easier it will be to carve. Be sure it isn’t soft, there are no bruises, and the stem isn’t moldy. You don’t want it to go bad before its time.

Now it is time to get to work. Using soap and water, wipe down the pumpkin. Carefully cut the top off with a sharp knife. It’s better to cut it at an angle. It will prevent the top from falling into the pumpkin when you put it back. Get all the goop and the seeds out of there.

Once the pumpkin is empty, you need to start scraping. Use a metal spoon or even an ice cream scoop to clean the inside. The bottom needs to be flat so that when you add a light, it can sit flat. The walls also need to be scraped. They will need to be between 1”-1 ½” thick. That gives your design some support but will make it easy to carve.

After scraping down the sides, the real fun begins. Choose a design for your pumpkin. You can find something online, or freehand it with a marker onto the pumpkin itself. I find paper to be easier. Tape your chosen design to the front of the pumpkin. Use a pushpin or other sharp, pointy tool to make an outline.

Remove the paper stencil from the pumpkin and you should have dotted guidelines for you to follow. Use a serrated knife and carefully follow the dots to create your jack o’ lantern. Go slowly and follow your guidelines until your design is complete.

Quick tips to make your hard work last a little longer:

  • I know some people who soak a hollowed-outpumpkin in bleach for a few hours before carving in order to “preserve” it a little. You can also rub the inside with petroleum jelly to prolong the mold set in. Others use a vegetable oil spray.
  • You can also make a bleach solution (1 tablespoon bleach per quart of water) and pour it into a spray bottle. Spray down the inside of the pumpkin and any cut surfaces. After 20 minutes, rinse the pumpkin down with cool water. Wear gloves for this part so you aren’t touching the bleach.
  • If it starts to shrivel, a soak in cold water can help.
  • The hotter it is, the faster your pumpkin will rot. Keep it out of the sunlight and consider refrigerating it during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Keep in mind that no matter what you do, your creation is going to shrivel, rot, and collapse. That’s just what happens. Mine typically last about a week.

Lighting tips:

  • If you are using a candle, be sure to put it on something non-flammable. Or use a tealight. Keep the lid OFF the pumpkin when you have the candle lit. Never, ever leave a lit pumpkin unattended.
  • As an alternative to open flames, they make battery powered LED tea lights you can put inside the pumpkin. Some even flicker like real candles. These are a much safer option, and they are not very expensive. Plus, you can leave the lid on.
  • As another fun option, you can use glow sticks. They don’t last nearly as long as the LED lights, but you can get them in all kinds of colors and they can give your carving a really cool look.

Hope you enjoyed these tips, and happy carving!