all my tools

I didn’t go as all-out and DIY for Halloween as I did last year, but I think the house might have looked even better this time.  I stopped at the Dollar Store last week, hoping for something interesting to use as decorations, but all I could find was fake spiderwebs and a couple of monster table-topper decorations.  I finally picked up pumpkins on Friday on my way home from work.

Ther interesting thing about living here is the fact that we had to be ready for Saturday night trick-or-treaters this year, because the LDS kids can’t celebrate Halloween on a Sunday.  So Saturday morning I started in on the pumpkin carving.  I absolutely love carving pumpkins, partly for the carving part, and partly for the toasted pumpkin seeds when it is all done.  T isn’t all that into carving, so I knew I’d picked up three pumpkins for myself this year.

bevelled edge

I have to say, I really like the new pumpkin carving tools they have out nowadays.  The little saws work much better than the paring knives we used when I was a kid, and the scoop works quite well for cleaning out insides, too.  I lined my table with a few layers of newspaper fliers, and got a big bowl for holding onto the guts.  I started by cutting out a fairly large lid, to make it easier to maneuver.  I angled the saw to create a bevelled edge, which keeps the lid from falling in, then widened the hole by cutting back the inner edge, a technique I tend to use a lot.

clean inside

Then comes the cleaning, a very important part of the pumpkin carving process.  Two of my pumpkins cleaned up easily — just a few scrapes along the sides and bottom cleaned off all the debris.  As a kid, I would do the classic reach-and-grab maneuver for pulling out seeds,  pulling out as much by hand as I could before scraping the sides with a spoon.  Nowadays, I tend to scrape down the sides and pull everything out at once — it’s a little less goopy, and definitely quicker.  But my third pumpkin had a very stringy interior, something I’ve run across recently.  It makes it really hard to get a clean interior, and I find it pretty annoying.  If you try to rip off the strings, you risk tearing through most of the thickness of your pumpkin’s walls, too.

stringy inside

I also discovered the strangest thing when I was cleaning one of the smaller pumpkins: a sprout!  One of the seeds had actually sprouted while it was still inside, even though there were no signs of decay on the exterior of that pumpkin.  I have never seen anything like it.  The innards seemed a touch darker and slimier than the others, so I guess that it was on its way to going bad, and the little guy way just trying to get a head start.

sprout!

Then it was time to start carving.  I decided to take inspiration from the shape of my first pumpkin, who kinda looked like he had puffed-out cheeks:

the inspiration

holding his breath

finished and surprised

I drew on squnched-up eyes, a little nose, and a small mouth.  It’s really hard to direct the saw when you are cutting, so all of the openings ended up slightly smaller on the inside than the outside.  I used the same technique as I do on the lid, to open things up and let more light through.  I guess I could bevel the sides outward, but I’m not sure that would make much difference.  T also thought that the first mouth was a little too small, so I enlarged it a bit.  This ended up making him look more surprised than like he’s holding his breath, but I still thought he was pretty cute.

For the next pumpkin, I decided to make my first ever non-freehand pumpkin.  I have always created my own designs, but someone gave me one of those full pumpkin carving kits a few years back, and I decided that I really liked the skeleton design.  I think it took longer to transfer the pattern to the pumpkin than it took to carve it!  But it came out really good, and I think it was worth the effort.  You tape a paper template to the pumpkin, then use a little plastic poker to poke little holes through the paper along the lines of the design.  To make things clearer, I then connected the dots with  a pencil before using a little saw to carve out the design.  Because there were so many fine elements, I carved the pieces and then left them in place until everything was carved, to provide more support for the smaller, more fragile areas.  Once I pulled all the cut pieces out, I spent a fair amount of time shaving back the sides of the cuts again, to make sure that the edges were clean and as wide-open as possible.  In this case, a paring knife was often a better tool than the saw, especially when I was trying to shave back the edges of the more fragile pieces.

skeleton, tools, and part of the design

pi pumpkin

The final pumpkin was my way of flying my geek-flag for the evening.  I use a modified version of the letter pi for my initials (TT, even thought I’m TC now), so it’s a letter that is near and dear to my heart, even if I did suffer from math phobia as a teenager.  I knew the kids probably wouldn’t get it, but I hoped that some of the adults in our neighborhood would.

Once the pumpkins were done, I decided to work on making the front door a little more inviting for trick-or-treaters.  To make sure you could see the pumpkins, I put down a Rubbermaid bin and then decided to drape it in the black velvet cape I picked up a few years ago for a Halloween costume.  The tub I grabbed happened to be my decorations bin, so I peeked inside and found more fake cobwebs, a rubber mask, and a package of Halloween rings, including spiders, skulls, and bats.  I still had the willow branches that I used as our wishing tree at our wedding, and I wanted to use that out front too.  It took a little bit, but I figured out how to anchor it in a large pot I’d bought for the front yard, and put that next to the bin with the pumpkins on it.  Because the outside of the house is stucco, all I had to do was stretch all the cobwebs on the wall, and the texture of the stucco grabbed on and made it stick.  It worked fairly well on the stone at the bottom of our front porch pillar, too.  I had to use tape on the front railing, but that worked pretty well too.  I used the spiders that came with the webbing, and then added some more of the rings.  Then I took the rest of the rings and hung them on the branches of the willow.  I wanted to put the characters on the wall too, but the tape couldn’t hold them to the stucco, so I taped them both on the front door.  And the rubber skull mask went over the front porch light, a technique I picked up from my neighbors, who put pumpkin masks over their outside lights.

front door

webs, pumpkins and spider tree

pumpkins

We got quite a few trick-or-treaters last night, despite the fact that it wasd raining pretty hard around dusk.  One little girl was out with her parents, she couldn’t’ve been more than three, and I mentioned that they were pretty hard-core to be out in the rain.  When her dad admitted that they would probably have to go home soon because of the rain, the poor little thing burst into tears!  It must have been her first Halloween, and she was definitely having a good time.  But the rain dropped off, and plenty of kids came to the door, even if their raincoats and sweatshirts made it hard to tell what they were supposed to be sometimes.  The rain and wind did some damage to my cobwebs — in fact, most of the ones on the wall next to the tree ended up in the tree itself by the end of the night — but it all held up fairly well.  We’ll hafta see how many trick or treaters we get tonight, that way we’ll know just how many Gentiles like us there are in the neighborhood.  *smile*

I’m off to re-light the pumpkins — hope you are all having a happy Halloween!

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