Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Harvest Hullabaloo: Make a Memory. Carve a Pumpkin!

Have you ever carved a pumpkin with your kids? It may not seem like a big deal to pick up a pumpkin. It doesn't take much to get your hands covered in messy pumpkin-goo, and it won't take long to make a few holes and place a candle inside, but to your child it is a fabulous memory-maker and a wonderful family tradition!
We have been carving pumpkins with our kids for at least the past 4 years. Sometimes we go to a pumpkin patch and select the perfect pumpkin for our family, but if funds (or time) are limited, they are just as happy with an equally perfect pumpkin thrown in the cart from our super-center. Kids really don't care.
The main thing is to create a memory with your kids, and the #1 rule is to have fun and don't worry about the mess. Tell yourself up front that it's a bath night and let them get involved in the process!
If at all possible, I have discovered the joys of pumpkin-carving outside. It is much easier to enjoy the process if everyone can dig their hands into the pumpkin, whether you are planning to keep your pumpkin "guts" or whether you are planning to launch them into the shrubs.
Before I begin basic pumpkin carving 101, let me recommend a few tools for the job. Of course any old knife and any kitchen spoon will work as a pumpkin carver and scraper, but if you are willing to splurge on the tiny carving sets (knife and scraper) sold in most convenience stores, you will save yourself a lot of time and energy.  It's important to scrape the inside as cleanly as possible.
I also discovered a GREAT use for an art tool I had lying around.  If any of you are really looking to take pumpkin carving to the next level, or if you have linocut printmaking in your past, track down your Speedball Linozip set like I did. It was so easy and fun to peel away the layers using my old printmaking tool!
Once you have carefully cut the top off your pumpkin and removed the insides (it worked really well to store ours on a cookie sheet!) then it's time to become an artist.  We normally download a free template, if you do a quick search you can find all kinds of ideas for your pumpkin.  My husband chose to use a Darth Vadar template this year, and right now my daughter is really into Swan Lake Barbie. I found a coloring page printable online and added some black and orange in Photoshop to help me see how it would look on the pumpkin.
I normally cover the backside of my printed template with a thick layer of pencil, tape it to my pumpkin and trace a heavy line (using the carbon copy method).  My husband prefers to tape his template to the pumpkin and poke small holes through the paper where he wants to carve through.  Either method works depending on how detailed you want to be!
Once our drawings were lightly traced onto the pumpkins we went to work carving. My husband used the carving tool to make all his cuts and was finished in about 15 minutes.  I made all my deep cuts, then went back in and peeled back the layers of skin from my pumpkin. There are several tutorials online for how to do this effectively. I wish I had watched one of them before carving, but it was still fun and my daughter was thrilled! 

My husband's Darth Vadar! We lost one of the eyes, but he still looks intimidating--especially at night!

We will not be entering any pumpkin carving contests anytime soon, but we had a great time digging our hands in the pumpkins and choosing the perfect thing to carve for and with our kids.  I would highly recommend making this a family tradition--this is the perfect week for you to go discover your very own Great Pumpkin rising out of the pumpkin patch.  We'd love to hear your favorite pumpkin carving or any tips you might have!

by Elsie N. Brady

How silently they tumble down

And come to rest upon the ground

To lay a carpet, rich and rare,
Beneath the trees without a care,
Content to sleep, their work well done,
Colors gleaming in the sun.

At other times, they wildly fly

Until they nearly reach the sky.

Twisting, turning through the air
Till all the trees stand stark and bare.
Exhausted, drop to earth below
To wait, like children, for the snow.


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