Katelynn and Sara went to “Trick-or-Treat” with the neighbors kids, while Kevin was giving out candy, and I prepared homemade Sloppy Joes for dinner. After the rainy afternoon, the weather was perfect for the Trick-or-Treaters in the evening. The Moon showed its face through the hazy clouds. My witch scared some little monsters, ghost and goblins. But as soon as they saw the candy bowl, the witch wasn’t so frightening anymore. And the carved pumpkins were admired by some of the parents, again.
The Witch casts her spell.
Katelynn’s and Sara’s Jack-o-Lantern 2017
“For the love of the universe! Would you just be quiet, Witch!!!”
Katelynn’s “The Creeps” Pumpkin 2017
“Double, double, toil and trouble …”
Sara’s “The Quartet” Pumpkin 2017
The last six Fridays, I posted photos of the pumpkins I have been carving for past Halloween nights. People were admiring my Jack-o-Lanterns and asked, how I carve them. In this blog, I will explain it.
Before I even think about all this carving process, I have to look for the right pumpkin in the store or pumpkin patch. Key points, I’m looking for are:
- Does the pumpkin have any nicks or bruises?
- Does the stem look healthy and is not cut too short?
- Is the pumpkin big enough for what I would like to do with it?
- Does the pumpkin have a smooth surface?
- Do I really like the pumpkin or should I keep looking for a better one?
A pumpkin should look healthy. Because it will rot, if it has nicks, bruises or the stem is cut too short. It also should be the right size for the pattern, I have in mind. The pumpkin should be smooth and without warts. Having a bumpy surface makes it harder to apply the stencil and carve the pumpkin. Sometimes, I look at a pumpkin and think: This is not the right one, I just keep looking. Since I start looking for pumpkins in the beginning of October, there is plenty of time to find the perfect one for my project.
Usually on October 30th, I begin to carve pumpkins. This gives me an extra day, in case I’m getting too busy on Halloween. I’ll let you know, how I keep the pumpkins nice and fresh for a day or two, before they have their big day on our front porch.
- First I gather all my tools, bowls, stencils and of course pumpkins together, before I begin with the carving. A couple of days ago, the girls and I decided on what pattern they like to get carved into their pumpkins.
- After I opened the pumpkin with a kitchen knife, I get those gooey pumpkin guts out. (Usually I cut it in an angle. The warmth of the candles shrinks it a little bit. And that way it stays on the pumpkin and won’t fall inside of it.) When Katelynn was little, she always helped me and said: “We have to get the pumpkin-yikes out of it, before we can carve the pumpkin!” So cute! She still calls it “pumpkin-yikes”.
- I always use the scraper to clean the pumpkin from the rest of the stuff, what keeps the seeds in place. With this tool I can thin out the walls a little bit more. If the walls are too thick, the pumpkin is harder to carve. But if they are too thin, they can break easier, while I’m carving. Over the last years I’ve got a better feeling for it, how thick the walls supposed to be. 😉
- The pumpkin is clean inside and wiped down on the outside. Now I can apply the stencil with some Scotch tape, before I use the poker around the lines. Personally I do not recommend to get the stencil wet for a better fitting on the pumpkin surface. It takes forever until the paper is try. I never have the patience to wait for that. And poking the holes into wet paper makes a mess, because it will rip faster.
- As soon as the pattern is poked into the pumpkin, I remove the stencil. I always keep the stencil sitting next to the pumpkin as a reference. Sometimes a hole is not poked perfectly or the holes are too close together. Some people use a crayon or another marker to connect the lines.
Once the stencil is removed, the carving can begin. A few years ago, I spent a little extra cash to get better carving tools. The tools, they provide with the stencil booklets are good for some carving. But I’ve noticed, I had to re-buy them, because they bent and/or become dull. I love this saw, you can see in the picture. It has a bigger handle as well.
- My little secret to keep the pumpkins in shape for a couple of days: I soak them with a splash of bleach in ice water. Some people wipe them with vinegar and use some vaseline, to prevent them from molding and drying out. But I’m not a fan of the vinegar smell; and the vaseline just looks messy, if it is not applied correctly.
Gathering the tools, bowl, stencils and pumpkins for carving together.
Time to get these pumpkin guts out of the Jack.
Scraping the pumpkin walls thinner
Applying the stencil on the pumpkin
After poking the pattern into the pumpkin surface, I begin to cut with the saw.
When the “Jack-o-Lanterns” are still damp from soaking them in water, I lit them with a few tea candles to see, how they look in the dark. Katelynn and Sara can’t wait for Halloween night to get the pumpkins on the porch, and show them to the kids from the neighborhood.
Are you ready for the results? Here are the “Jack-o-Lanterns” of 2017:
Katelynn’s Halloween Pumpkin “The Creeps” (2017)
Katelynn’s and Sara’s Pumpkins (2017)
Sara’s Pumpkin 2017; the “Boo!”, which is casting against the wall, looks so cool.
Now in the darkening of the year
the veil between the world wears thin
and those gone on ahead draw near.
In the hours of quiet remembrance
that the waning season brings,
we may feel their whispered presence
like the brush of a gentle wind.
SAMHAIN (The Summer’s End)
The most magically potent time of this festival is the night of October 31st, known today of course , as Halloween. The date marked both an ending and a beginning in an eternal cycle.
Ceramic gourd in our frontyard garden
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.
A few years back, I photographed Courtney’s (neighbor’s daughter) Bearded Dragons for Halloween. Here are a couple of photos, which I let them speak for themselves. 🎃🧟♀️🧛♂️👻☠️
Festive Dragon (October 2014)
“What do you think? Should we eat it now, or should we wait until after Halloween?” ~ “I’m hungry!!!” (October 2014)
This morning, Kevin was running in the The Colony Half Marathon. The runners began at 8:00 am and at 34ºF. When Kevin was done, the thermometer just reached 50ºF. Short before the 12-Mile mark, Katelynn, Sara and I sat by the pond and waited for Kevin coming around the corner. I timed it perfectly. After about 10 minutes, here he comes running. And he dropped everything, he didn’t needed for the rest of the run. Katelynn ran over and picked it all up. Kevin looked much better this year, than he did at his very first Half-Marathon last year. He was more alert but also a little bit heavier, this year. And he improved his running time from 2:49:24 (h:m:s) to 2:37:12 (h:m:s). Yep, that’s an improvement of 12.12 min. Way to go, Kevin!
It was a little bit frosty in North Texas, this morning.
Kevin looks good a few steps away from the 12-Mile marker.