Tag Archives: pumpkins

Decorate Your Car for Halloween

Thought you’d run out of things to creep up on Halloween? Wrong-o, my spooky friend! Have you ever considered decorating your car?

I have. And I’ve used most of the methods described below. If I haven’t, I’ve referenced the appropriate image. Come along on a terrifying little ride with me!

Car Decor Idea #1: Ghost Rider

Every year, come the first day of fall of thereabouts, our fam

"Skellie," our family's very own ghost rider
“Skellie,” our family’s very own ghost rider

ily friend Skellie takes up residence in my car. I drive, and Skellie drives shotgun. We even put a seat belt on him (see pic).

This little trick is hysterical and is obviously very easy to do. Strap in any close to life-size poseable skeleton, zombie, ghost, witch or ghoul so passersby get an eyeful.

Don’t go too gory or too realistic, as trying to figure out what that “thing” is in the front seat could potentially cause a rubbernecking accident.

Car Decor Idea #2: Hunk in the Trunk

This idea is an oldie but continues to be a goodie. Hang an arm or other body part out the trunk. (The old-fashioned way calls for a tie and an “Ex-Husband in Trunk” sign.)

Don’t allow parts to dangle below the level of the top of your license plate. They could get caught on your tires, drag under the car or cause other hazards.

Car Decor Idea #3: Window Clings

Not the artistic type? Use Halloween Window Clings on your car windows. Put them on the inside of the window so nobody can take them! Trust me, these are tempting.

Car Decor Idea #4: Fangtastic

Cut two large crescents out of thick paper and hang on the car grille as “fangs” (the lights are the eyes). Make sure these are very well attached, but do not use any glue or tape adhesive that could damage your paint or grille.

Car Decor Idea #5: Autumn Touches

You can use inexpensive touches like this one year after year.

For the picture of the pumpkin with sunflowers and leaves, I spent a grand total of $2. Each item came from Dollar Tree. Fall touches abound at this time of year, always look good and can be had at a steal.

Also check out your Goodwill, thrift or consignment shops for fall finds.

Car Decor Idea #6: Paint it Up

Use specially formulated car markers or paint on your car windows. Careful: DON’T obstruct your vision. Keep to the perimeters of your windows and dot on pumpkins, witches or a ghoul trying to escape out the side window.

A warning: do not use acrylic paints for this. They’re hard to get off anything, even glass, and you may scratch your windows trying.

Car Decor Idea #7: A Tangled Web

Creepy! And crawly. Photo: Squidoo.com

This idea is so simple and incredibly economical. Pick up a few bags of synthetic webbing — the kind you pull apart to make it look real. Now pull the webbing all over your car.

Be sure to leave the windows clear enough so you still have a good view of traffic on all sides.

I’ve seen bags of cobwebbing let go for less than half a dollar in post-season sales, so if you plan on doing this next year, go shopping in early November and check the clearance racks.

Car Decor Idea #8: Ghost Antenna Topper

This is another easy and very inexpensive project. Take a foam ball and a small square of white fabric. Place the fabric over the ball and pin in with very small, headless pins. Draw eyes and a mouth on your ghost in magic marker.

You can alternatively make a pumpkin antenna topper. Use orange fabric. Gather the fabric around the styrofoam ball from the bottom; tie at the top for the stem. Draw eyes, nose and a mouth using magic marker.

Car Decor Idea #9: All Up in Your GrilleHalloween Car Skulls

If your grille has space (and if you won’t be impeding the flow of air), add cool Halloween decor.

You won’t be wanting to use glue, but you WILL want a tight fit so that your decor items won’t wind up all over the highway, so choose pieces that fit exactly or can be cut to fit exactly, without  moving around.

A Word About Safety

You knew this was coming, didn’t you? We’ll say it anyway. Objects that obstruct your vision, objects that dangle/wave in the wind, that aren’t fixed securely or that look too realistic can be real driving hazards. Don’t cause an accident. Be smart about your Halloween car decor choices.

Have fun being the creepiest speed demon in your neighborhood this year.

The skeleton in our closet ... urr, car
The skeleton in our closet … urr, car

Great Gourds! Pumpkin Varieties and How to Use Them

If you’ve wandered your local farmer’s market or pumpkin patch this fall, you probably discovered that there’s so much more to choosing your desire type than “give me big and orange.”

Today’s decorative pumpkins have gone far afield (see what we did there?) from the traditional Howden’s Field or fun, kid-size mini.

Get in on the “pick your perfect pumpkin” craze – you’ve got your pick: traditional; fun; even a bit, well…freaky. This autumn’s pumpkins are ready-grown and ripe for the choosing. Grab a gourd and eat, decorate and be merry! Below are some of our favorite varieties.

Howden’s Field

The gold (or would that be orange?) standard for the American Jack-o-lantern, Howdens are just the right size, shape, color and ribbing to use as decor. You probably carved Howdens as a child — and so might have your parents, and theirs.

However, we don’t recommend Howdens for pie baking. They tend to be stringy and have less pumpkin flavor than some sweeter varieties.

Pick up at least one Howden for your jack-o-lantern carving this year. Scoop well, scrape and cut a spooky shape into your gourd. Try Pumpkin Masters for a really cool look, or Google pumpkin carving templates to find the perfect freebie.

Lumina

Confession time: as loyal as I am to the good old-fashioned orange Curcurbita, I have a secret love for Luminas. This variety is a gorgeous solid white on the outside but plump and very orange on the interior.

Play up the contrast of white and orange by using your Lumina for your Halloween decor. Add a battery tea light and watch the spooky effect.

Don’t throw away those innards just yet: Lumina seeds are delicious baked with butter and salt. If you don’t plan on carving your pumpkin for decor purposes, use it in a pie or soup; Luminas have a fabulous flavor.

Queensland Blue

This unusual-looking gourd originated in Australia as its name implies. It was imported to the U.S. in the 1930s. You may have seen Queensland Blues at farmer’s markets and overlooked them as not being a “real” pumpkin. However, they are definitely Curcurbitas.

Queensland Blues have a lot of flesh to scoop, so you may want to forgo carving. Or try peeling away sections of skin only, without scooping the pumpkin out. Use a potato peeler or a woodcarving tool to put fanciful shapes on your Queensland Blue.

The flavor and texture of the Queensland Blue also makes it ideal for pies.

Jack-Be-Little

Just 3 or 4 inches across, Jack-Be-Littles are adorable and great for decor. Kids love them because they’re so easy to handle and carry. For your decor purposes, they create instant atmosphere for Halloween or Thanksgiving.

They’re tricky to scoop thin enough to carve (if you figure out a way, let us know!), but you can use a potato peeler to etch cool designs in your Jack-Be-Little’s skin. You can also cut off the tops, scoop the pulp and place a tea light in each for a pretty guest table.

They’re edible too. Try this yummy pumpkin recipe, for example. Mmm!

New England Pie

We’re sure you’ve guessed the use this pumpkin is famous for! The New England Pie pumpkin is an heirloom variety that’s perfect for baking fall treats.

New England Pie pumpkins are on the small side, usually no more than 3 to 4 pounds. Their hard skins make them very difficult to carve, so if you’re using this variety as decor, set it up uncarved.

There are many other pie pumpkin types, but the New England is the gold standard. You will definitely want a few for baking and stewing this Thanksgiving or for pumpkin cookies on Halloween.

Kakai

Get ready for the most amazing pumpkin seeds you’ve ever tasted. The seeds of this fun variety are hull-less and easy to eat. They’re among the most tasty pumpkin seeds when roasted. (And of course, this variety is simply gorgeous, with orange stripes and green mottling on the outside and firm orange flesh on the inside.)

Here’s how to make roasted pumpkin seeds from a Kakai: Cut pumpkin open and remove seeds; separate seeds from pulp in a colander under warm water. Set out on a paper towel and dry for at least two hours. Remove to a shallow pan and smother in melted butter. Sprinkle lightly with Mrs. Dash seasoning. Bake in a 300 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes. Cool and eat.

Big Max

Whoah! If you’ve never seen a Big Max, it’s time to acquaint yourself with one. Just don’t try to pick it up: these behemoths can easily grow to 100 lbs. and more.

Not technically a pumpkin but a “squash type,”  Big Maxes are cultivated primarily for show. (Their grainy flesh makes them a poor choice for eating.) Scooping out the flesh would be a thankless chore, but you can carve these giants and reach inside to scrape behind your cuttings.

DO NOT try to lift a Big Max by yourself. They are slippery and often are very asymmetrical, making it hard to keep a grip. Ask a friend for help.

Cinderella

A French heirloom variety, Cinderellas are so nicknamed for their striking resemblance to the famous fairytale coach. (Their real name is Rouche vif D’Etampes.)

The Cinderella has a long history in the U.S., with rumors claiming the gourd was served at the first Thanksgiving dinner in New England. However, most experts agree that the variety wasn’t officially introduced to the U.S. until the 1800s.

But they’re not just tasty. Cinderellas are pretty, with a very deep orange skin. Pick up inexpensive craft wagon wheels and a wooden support (Cinderellas are heavy!) at a craft store and display this fun variety as a fairytale coach.

Happy decorating…and eating!

How to Recycle Your Halloween Pumpkins

 

With Halloween on the horizon, neighborhoods everywhere will shortly be littered with big orange pumpkins. (What a welcoming and awesome sight!)

Credit: “Sad Pumpkin” by Michelle Milla

In the weeks leading up to the holiday, the sight of these happy, silly, freaky or iconic faces will bring joy and excitement – leading up to the frenzy of The Big Day.

However, come November 1, all of those pumpkins will – as if by the wave of a magic wand – magically turn into a nuisance as they (sadly) go to waste.

I mean sure, there’s pumpkin chucking (which always makes my children cry) and we’ve had the happy little accident when “forgotten” gourds took root and produced random giant vines across our front yard…but otherwise, like most families, we’ve just, well, let our pumpkins sit and go to rot every November.

Don’t let that happen this year! There are plenty of options for recycling that happy li’l jack. To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of things to do with old pumpkins. Enjoy, and remember – after you recycle your pumpkin, Halloween is only 364 days away!

Credit: Pinterest

Bird Feeder – You can easily turn an old pumpkin into a bird feeder by cutting the pumpkin in half and filling each half with birdseed. Use a string to tie the pumpkin halve to trees.

Not only will the birds eat the birdseed, but they will also eat the pumpkin flesh, maybe even the skin, depending on the bird. You’ll be helping feed local birds and cleaning up your post-Halloween decorations – a win-win post-Halloween!

Credit: goingtoseedinzone5.com

Compost Bin – Not everyone owns and operates a compost bin, but they’re easy to start – and pumpkins ideal for this smart, eco-friendly Muse.

Simply cut the pumpkin up and toss the flesh in with the rest of the compost, which will usually consist of non-meat kitchen scraps and lawn clippings. Over time these turn into rich, nutrient-dense compost/garden dirt.

Credit: extremepumpkins.com

Make a Squirrel Happy – Some individuals will just leave their pumpkins out in open areas for the squirrels to eat. Essentially, when a pumpkin ferments, it becomes sugary and sweet, and squirrels go nuts for the stuff.

If you don’t mind the sight of the critters (we love them – then again, we love bats and spiders, too), they’ll be more than happy to act as your personal clean-up crew for pumpkins after Halloween. (Be warned: fermented pumpkins can make squirrels drunk. If your squirrels are acting oddly, take their keys and offer to call Uber. You’re welcome.)

This article was contributed by the experts at Fright Catalog. Thanks, guys!

Witch and Full Moon on Halloween

8 Awesome Smartphone Apps for Halloween

Halloween is such a great event and with the advent of smartphone apps you can enjoy your favorite parts of Halloween everywhere you go.  We tested dozens of apps and compiled a list of the 8 best ones we could find in terms of the most imagination and uniqueness. We hope you enjoy these selections and have a Happy Haunted Halloween!

1.  Halloween Deluxe  ($0.99)

Halloween wouldn’t be complete without scary sounds and this app lets you do that and more.  Opt for the paid version and avoid annoying requests to upgrade from the free one.  This app includes a count down to Halloween, a soundboard, ring tones, music loops, trivia, costumes ideas, and even a option that lets you create your own colored flashlight with the screen.  There are tons of Halloween soundboard apps out there but our recommendation is to ditch the others, this one has it all.

Halloween Deluxe iPhone App

2. imut8r ($0.99)

Our favorite picture altering app, this offering gives you tremendous creative control over altering real photos of you and your friends.  You have dozens of creature choices to model after including demons, zombies, werewolves, vampires.  From there you’ll change skin colors add blood or sores and channel Dr. Frankenstein himself!  When you’re done, save the photos and send them to your friends and family for a spooky good time.

imut8r iPhone app

3. 100+ Horror Stories ($0.99)

You’ll absolutely love this creative application that let’s you tell over 100 of the most popular scary stories in history, but with an added twist.  During your story you can tap the screen when prompted to play an appropriate sound to add extra effect to your story.  Lightning cracks, evil laughs, moans, and more will enhance your terrifying tale and keep your audience on the edge of their seats.

100 Horror Stories app

4. Ghost Radar ($0.99)

For all you watchers of ‘Ghost Hunters’ out there, check out the latest version of Ghost Radar from app developer Spud Pickles.  The creators of this app claim it runs on a proprietary algorithm that interprets QUANTUM fluctuations of intelligent energy.  Some users say the program is just reading simple electromagnetic sources in your immediate environment while others claim they’ve experienced accurate readings of actual objects in the room that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.  Either way, you’re bound to get hours of eerie entertainment from this original idea.

ghost-radar

5. Ask the Dead ($0.99)

Get ready to be freaked out with this unique offering from The FORM Group. It’s a digital Ouija board that sneakily uses your phone’s contacts to return answers to your questions. You can totally prank your uninitiated friends or family into thinking you are connecting with the spirit world.  You’ll get a ton of screams from this application, but be careful, you may even scare yourself….

Ask the Dead smartphone app

 6. Pumpkin Xplode (free)

Pumpkin Xplode is one of those annoyingly addictive games like Tetris or Angry Birds (yeah we could have easily added that one here too).  But you just can’t seem to put it down because there’s always the next level to defeat.  Bottom line: if it’s on your phone, you will play it.  It has great graphics and sounds built into the game play.  Thoughtful features include: night mode, saves game on exit or if uninterrupted by a phone call, and for you cheaters out there you have the ability to undo up to 10 moves back.  There is just something so gratifying about busting up pumpkins that makes this our only game of choice for inclusion in this app review.

pumpkin xplode app

7. Halloween Spooky Soundbox (free)

The truth is there are dozens of free Halloween sound boards out there and you’d probably do just fine if you downloaded most any of them.  Why do we recommend this one then?  Two reasons:  Selection and sound quality.  This sound board has 35 sounds to choose from, whereas most other apps you’re lucky to get 20.  Also, the sounds you get don’t sound cheap or “thin”.  In other words, they don’t sound like you made them yourself on an old tape recorder.  You can play the sounds on a loop (which you’ll probably never use) besides that there aren’t really any bells and whistles to this app.  If we could make a recommendation to the developer, it’d be to add a delay feature in a future version.

spooky soundbox app

8.  Footprints (free)

While this is not a Halloween application it certainly the most useful on the list particularly if you are a parent and your kids are old enough to trick-or-treat without you.  You can track your multiple kid’s locations in real time without having to request location status from the people you are tracking.  We’ve seen some apps where users have to “request” location and the person being tracked has to manually approve request on their device.

This app comes with a number of great features built into it.  Two of our favorites are the parental settings which don’t allow kids to disable the tracking feature or delete the application on their devices, and the ability to track way points.  In short it shows you where your kids have been not just where they are at the present moment.  All this is provided by a beautiful interface overlaid on Google Maps.  There is really nothing we don’t like about this app.

footprints app

About the Author:

Chris DuPaul is a huge Halloween buff and the co-owner of the self proclaimed #1 Wonder Woman Costume website on the internet.  He enjoys technology and sneaking up and scaring the crap out of unsuspecting people year round.  For all you ladies out there still looking for costume ideas check out our Sexy Wonder Woman Costume page for outfits that’ll make you the star of the party.

A Frankenstein Halloween Theme Party

Halloween theme parties can be a huge success, especially if you take a little extra time to plan. But there are so many different types of spooky decorations, if you’re not careful, the party can end up looking like a jumbled mess!

That’s why we recommend picking one classic Halloween character as your central theme. In this article, we give you some tips on how to throw a fabulous, freaky Frankenstein bash. Read at your own risk!

Decorations

  • Jack-o’-lanterns. Instead of the traditional toothless grin, carve your pumpkins using a Frankenstein pattern. (Here’s a great stencil book featuring Frankie and all his freaky friends.) Place your carved jacks on the walkway up to the door or put them in front of windows to welcome guests to the party.
  • Creepy Frankenstein Heads. These are so fun…and SO easy. Use them
    Credit: http://bitesizedbiggie.com

    as table centerpieces or place them on top of your gate like freaky finials. Or stuff clothing, add clunky boots and plop one of these horrifying heads on top! Simply cover foam mannequin heads with water-based or acrylic green paint and paint accents on.

  • Cobwebs, cobwebs, cobwebs. String faux webs everywhere for a dusty mad scientist’s lab look.
  • Beakers and concoctions. Purchase inexpensive plastic or glass beakers and half-fill with water. Add a few drops of blue and yellow food coloring to make an eerie green.

Treats

While we’re not entirely sure if Frankenstein’s monster actually ate “people food” (rather than simply, well…kids), your party guests mostly likely do! Here are a few monster-themed snacks for the party.

  • Frankenpops. Follow the recipe here to make these delicious
    Credit: justapinch.com

    marshmallow treats. They’re so cute…so gooey…so edible. What’s not to love?

  • Frankenstein Brownies. Buy a box of brownie mix, and bake as directed. After they’ve cooled, cut them into even rectangles. Then, frost each brownie with the frosting you like best, adding green food coloring. Use piped icing to create a mouth
    Credit: bettycrocker.com

    and hair; eyes are reversed M&Ms. Lastly, add a piece of candy corn on each side of the brownie for Frankenstein’s bolts.

  • Science Experiment Punch. Be dramatic and add some dry ice to your punch bowl, so your beverage station looks like a bubbly, messy concoction. Here are some tips and directions on how to (safely!) use dry ice at your party.

Costumes

If you’re the one throwing the party, the honor of dressing as the classic monster should be yours. Tall, green skin, flat top – you know what he looks like. This Frankenstein costume pretty much have you covered.

Not everyone can be the big guy, though, so here are a few other ideas for party goers:

  • Frankenstein’s Bride. Even monsters can fall in love. Just drape something long and white over your sensuous form and tie up at the waist. Use green Halloween makeup and a black makeup crayon for the scars. Bonus points if you don’t need a wig to get your hair to look like that.
  • Mad Scientist. There would be no monster without Dr. Frankenstein himself. These costumes are easy to find online or at your local party store. But really, it’s as simple as a white lab coat from your local consignment shop, some glasses and a really freaky, mad laugh.
  • Frankie Stein. A great way to get a tween girl excited about a “really dorky” party? Monster High. Just sayin’…

Monstrously Good Fun: Party Activities

  • Zombie Walk-Off. Set up a runway and see who has the best zombie stagger. Spectators can judge the monsters on their limp walks, expressionless faces, and chilling groans.
  • Franken-Tag. Now is the time to use what you learned during the zombie walk-off! The rules of Franken-Tag are the same as the playground game, but in this case, if you’re tagged as “it,” you can only walk like Frankenstein.
  • Mix it Yourself. Have your guests mix drinks (non-alcoholic version: use grape, apple and prune juice and various sodas). Have the other guests try to figure out what the “mad scientist” has concocted. The winner receives a small gift certificate, a creepy Halloween decoration, or any award of your choice..

Black Grapevine Pumpkin (+ Illumination Instructions)

 

Photo credit: (l, c) the author; (r) recapturedcharm.com

Thanks, guest contributor Gillian Grimm, for this gorgeous seasonal tutorial!

Grapevine pumpkins pack craft and décor stores this time of year. But how about making one of your own? It’s quick, simple and allows you to customize it to create something a little more unique – like this spooky black version, perfect for your Halloween porch decorations!

You Will Need:

  • grapevine garland (about 7 feet of garland per pumpkin)
  • Floral wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Matte black spray paint
  • Newspaper
  • Single string lights, if desired (cordless)

Directions:

  1. Soak the grapevine overnight in a tub of water to help soften the wood and make it more pliable.
  2. Untie the larger strapping but leave the small wires that hold the vines together into a garland. You’ll remove these later but leaving them for now will make forming the pumpkin easier.
  3. Grasp one end of the garland, leaving about four inches of the tail sticking up to form the stem of the pumpkin. Bring the long end of the garland over into a loop and secure with a length of floral wire where the two cross.
  4. Continue to loop around, forming a pumpkin shape and continuing to wire the garland together at the core, until you reach the end of the garland.

grapevine Halloween pumpkin craft grapevine Halloween pumpkin craft tie

grapevine Halloween pumpkin craft grapevine Halloween pumpkin craft knot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Clip the small wires along the outer part of the pumpkin to release the individual vines in the garland, causing the pumpkin to fill out. Use short lengths of wire to help disperse the vines evenly.

6. Allow the pumpkin to dry overnight. Spray with paint over newspaper, turning to assure even coverage. Allow the paint to dry before displaying.

7. If you’d like, thread battery-operated lights inside the pumpkin to have a beautiful, illuminated look.

 

grapevine Halloween pumpkin craft

Advanced Pumpkin Carving Techniques

Tired of seeing the same old carvings on every jack o’lantern you see? Are you obsessed with carving all things gourd and always looking for a way to bring your passion from “craft” to “work of art”?

Or perhaps you just a spare gourd, some cool tools, and a few extra hours on your hands.

This year, forget the triangle eyes and pointy, crooked teeth – a jack o’ lantern can be so much more. Here’s the scoop on how to carve up something spectacular this Halloween.

It’s Easier Than You May Think

Beginning carvers generally only see two options when it comes to carving a pumpkin. We can see the orange of the pumpkin’s skin, or we can see a candle through holes in the skin.

But we really do have more options than that. Peel away a pumpkin’s skin without cutting all the way through the flesh and get a buttery yellow, for example. Or if you’re really determined, scrape away only part of the orange, leaving a lighter orange that can be used for shadowing, and presto – you’ve got three cool colors from one great gourd.

With these new options we can start to create some really unique Jack O’ Lanterns. So if you’ve got the time and the inclination, pull up a pumpkin and come carve wtih us.

Step One: Pick the Perfect Pumpkin

In order to choose the right pumpkin, think about what kind of design you want to do and how intricate it will be. (HINT: Pumpkin stencil books can offer awesome selections.)

Your image choice can determine such things as the size of the pumpkin, the overall shape -for example, tall and somewhat flat on one side for a creepy hanging spider –  and even whether or not it has a stem.

Now that you’ve narrowed down the size and shape, try to find a pumpkin that’s smooth on the side you’ll be carving on – a little scarring on areas that won’t show is totally fine.

Most pumpkins have ridges running from top to bottom, and that’s okay. But do try to find one with the least amount of scratches and scars. This will give you the best, easiest surface to carve no matter what your finished design will be.

If you want a pumpkin with minimum, shallow vertical ridges, go for a bigger one, as these tend to smooth out as they grow.

Step Two: Prepping Steps

Once you’ve found your perfect pumpkin, it’s time to prepare it for carving.

NOTE: Even if you only plan to carve on the surface of your pumpkin (rather than cutting all the way through the skin), you should prepare it the same way you would a normal jack o’lantern, as this will help you protect it from rotting.

Using a pumpkin knife from a carving kit or a small, hand-held jigsaw (these are safest and cut most easily), cut a circular hole around the stem and pop the top off. You may want to leave a little “lip” or a slightly oblong shape so you can easily see how to set the top back down on the pumpkin once it’s carved.

Scoop out all the seeds and save for roasting (yummy!). Scrape the insides to get rid of as much pulp as possible; bugs and bacteria love this goo the most, so keep it to a minimum if you can.

pumpkin-carving01

Prepare Your Image

lon_chaneyYou can put pretty much anything on your pumpkin. One of my favorite things to carve is something iconic from a classic horror film. For this tutorial I chose a picture of Lon Chaney from the lost silent film, London After Midnight. .

When choosing your image, pick something that’s easily recognizable. If it’s a photo with a background, it’s probably best to omit the background and just focus on the characters or main subject so you don’t distract they eye with unnecessary detail.

It’s best to find a picture with a lot of contrast – extreme darks and extreme lights working together well. If your design is in color, you will have to change it to grayscale. All photo editing programs can do this, as can oldschool photocopying if you prefer.

Once your pic is in black and white in your editing program, it’s wise to turn up the contrast. This will make the blacks blacker and the whites whiter. This simple step will help simplify the image so you don’t have too much detail to worry about.

lon_chaney_photoshop

Print the Page and Puncture Your Pumpkin

Print your image out on a piece of paper. You may have to play with your settings to get it to the right size to fit your pumpkin.

Once you have the image printed, position it over the best side of your pumpkin and decide exactly where you want it to go.

Next, use a few pins, needles, or thumb tacks to stick the photo in place.

With another pin (I suggest push pins, as they are easiest to hold) trace every line of your photo by poking holes along the line into the pumpkin. Any line you want to make note of should be perforated this way. This may take a while, but you’ll see that the outcome is worth it.

Hand getting tired? Take a break once in a while to munch some pumpkin seeds or candy corn. Whatever you need to do to keep the momentum, don’t skip this important step; it will determine exactly how you carve your cool image.

When you’ve perforated the entire image, and while the lines are still fresh in your mind, remove the paper and connect the dots by slicing with a craft knife or box cutters. Keep the slices as straight as possible. They do not have to be too deep, but you do need to be able to use them as trustworthy guides.

pumpkin-carving02

Pick Your Pumpkin Pigments

You’re almost ready to carve, but first you need to decide which parts of the pumpkin represent white, black and gray. Once you decide, stick with your vision unless you absolutely have to change it. You might run into this problem when you get to two shapes next to each other that are similar in color, but need to be separate.

This is why it is wise to carve from the outside, toward the center. This will help you coordinate and will leave more possibilities to switch if you later find you need to.

I decided that for my picture, the black of Mr. Chaney’s hat, hair and coat would be represented by the solid orange of the pumpkin skin. That means that the black lines of his face must also be solid orange.

I chose not to carve all the way through my pumpkin, but instead to use the white “meat” of the pumpkin for the color of my creepy subject’s skin and the whites of his eyes and teeth. I also knew that for subtler shadows (gray) I could gently scrape only the very top of the orange skin away and leave a light orange.

You may choose to do it the way I did, or you may have a different vision for your project. Use your creativity to find neat way to incorporate the black of cutting all the way into the pumpkin flesh to the other side. Do whatever you think is best for your design – remember, you’re the artist!

Pare and Peel Your Pumpkin’s Pelt

It’s finally time to carve your pumpkin! After all this preparation you must be dying to get started, right? But first – safety tips! You’ll want to wind up with an awesome carving AND all 10 fingers.

  • Children should not carve pumpkins without adult supervision, even if they’re using safety tools.
  • Cut away from yourself, not toward. If you need the blade at a different angle, just rotate the pumpkin.
  • Go SLOWLY. If you can’t seem to quite cut through, use SMALL sawing motions as you go along your lines. Don’t jab and yank at your blade. Trust us on this.

Now that that’s out of the way…

pumpkin-carving03For this tutorial, I started from the outside of my image and worked inward. The first thing I did was make a little halo around the outside of my image in white. I did this by stripping away the orange flesh all the way around to distinguish the black hat, hair and coat from the rest of the pumpkin.

Then I moved in for the details. And you thought the perforating dealio was hard work! This will probably actually feel more like whittling than carving. Just relax, take your time and have fun!

TIP: When carving details, slice down at an angle toward the part you are cutting out. If there is a piece of skin you need to keep, always push the blade away from it, or you weaken it underneath and risk loosing the detail. That’s how I lost the right side of Lon Chaney’s lower lip, for reference.

blade on pumpkin

The hardest part of my design was probably the teeth because they were so close together. It was hard to take pieces out without damaging the others. So as you can see, even we old pros (or so we like to think of ourselves!) have our challenges. Remember – go slowly!

As I continued with my design I found places where I wanted to leave a shadow. In these cases, before cutting all the skin away, I lightly scraped only the top. The main sections where I used this technique were along the length of Mr. Chaney’s nose and on his jaw, near his mouth. I felt this would give more depth and realism to his face, even though I did not follow the shadows in the picture exactly.

pumpkin-carving04 pumpkin-carving05

For a finishing touch, you can scoop out most of the flesh on the inside to make the wall very thin. Then put a candle inside and you’ll get a nice glow through the flesh. Just leave the top open so oxygen can get in.

When you are all done, sit back and admire your work. Looks pretty awesome, doesn’t it?

If it’s not perfect, don’t worry – neither was mine! Nothing can ever be perfect. But if you did something that’s totally you, it’s sure to turn a few heads – and we think you’re going to even impress yourself.

To help your pumpkin last longer, cover the inside and outside with vegetable oil or Vaseline (warning: flammable) and consider keeping it in the fridge until the big day.

Congratulations! You are an advanced pumpkin carver!

pumpkin-carving-finished

Halloween Party Decor: Four Creative Ideas

When planning a Halloween party for adults, having super decorations can definitely make a lasting impression. Sure, there are lots of ready-made items you can use to adorn your party space. However, some hand-made items not only add a unique and inexpensive touch to your party, they can be  personalized as well. Your guests will rave about these homemade touches you can make in no time:

Tombstones – A Little Effort Goes a Long Way

Among the most popular items at parties I’ve hosted are the Guest-Name tombstones. You can put in a little time or a whole lot, depending on your party guest list size and the time you have available.

Using butcher paper or any large-sized white or grey paper, cut out tombstones that are about 2 feet tall each. Now the good-natured fun begins! You are going to personalize each tombstone with the name of each guest. If you’re feeling creative along with your spooky mood, personalize them in a humorous way. For example, for a friend who enjoys deep sea fishing:

Here Lies Scott Smith,
A better angler’s there’s never been.
Alas one day came,
A shark of some fame
Jaws met Scott, you can guess who did win.

The Halloween Tree

shelterness.com
shelterness.com

The goal is to awaken your creative juices and bring smiles to the faces of your guests. Along these lines, I always have a 4’ tall Halloween Tree, which is decorative and helps you remember the festivities’ participants.

Using a small artificial Christmas tree – and the way stores put out the Christmas merchandise, you should have no trouble picking up one of these around this time of year! – decorate the tree with orange lights and easy-to-make white tissue paper ghosts (stuff white paper towels with tissues, tie to create a neck, and put on a scary face with permanent marker). ALTERNATE CHOICE: Choose any “spindly,” leafless artificial mini-tree.

Next, using orange flat paint, paint some white or clear Christmas ball ornaments in a bright orange hue. Mix things up by cutting pieces of cardboard in Halloween colors; glue together into fanciful shapes. Tie each with a Halloween-themed ribbon, which is readily available at any craft store. As the guests arrive, using a permanent marker, have each sign his name and a message on an orange ornament and hang it on the tree. Voila! A beautiful centerpiece for your party and a fun keepsake for you.

We Do Windows!

You can use car window chalk to write on your windows: BEWARE! DANGER! TURN BACK NOW! Draw simple ghosts with the chalk if you’re adept at drawing simple figures. Use your imagination. Bats are easy to draw using black chalk paint as are witches’ hats, nighttime stars in yellow paint, and ghoulish faces in green paint. Use pictures you can easily find online as your guides. Best of all, if you make a mistake, just wipe the paint away and give it another try!

The Pumpkin Patch and Other Tips

Finally, it’s always fun to have an indoor pumpkin patch if you have the room. I use wild ivy on the floor, along a wall, and real pumpkins scattered amidst the foliage. Have a few vases of black roses (easy to make with black tissue paper and dead-colored pipe cleaners for stems). Add a fog machine you can buy or rent, and the mood is set! Throw in a dance contest to Michael Jackson’s famous “thrilling” tune, and hysterical fun is sure to follow. Reclaim the holiday for us “old” people. It’s not just a holiday for kids!

Play Dough Pumpkins That Taste Fantastic!

Looks like play dough? Check. Smells like candy? Check. Great for Halloween? Check. Tastes great? Yummy! Edible play dough is such a great thing. Kids can play with it and eat all they want (because there is no sugar, and they will get their fill quickly). The recipe is quick and adjustable, and even better it can be used with ‘butters’ other than peanut butter!

Playdough Ingredients

Making home-made play dough is simple:

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup honey
  • 2 cups powdered milk
  • Optional: Food coloring gel paste (various colors – decrease the honey proportionately when substituting coloring gel.)

Mix these all up until the texture is workable. It takes about 10 minutes total. Plan ahead what you would like to make, and separate into small clumps. Mix the food coloring gel as desired to each clump – orange for pumpkins, green for pumpkin vines and leaves, etc.

home made playdoughIn the pictures below, you can see we made these fun, spooky pumpkins. The kids helped out, and it took about an hour or so. The recipe is easy to double or decrease as needed. We followed the recipe and learned a few things:

  • It makes A LOT.
  • If you want to use gel food coloring like we did, decrease the honey proportionately. We put the gel in after it was mixed up and the pumpkins were all droopy.
  • If you chose to work with something besides peanut butter, start with smaller amounts of powdered milk. We used Nutella for one batch and found that using equal parts was just too much powdered milk. We ended up putting some honey in so that it was a useable mixture.

playdough-03 playdough-04

Since the kids were done for the day and mom had a mess to clean up we wrapped the ‘play dough’ in a cling wrap and set it aside. When we decided to use it again, we rolled it out between sheets of wax paper and used cookie cutters.

playdough-cookies playdough-storage

We used milk chocolate on the peanut butter version and white chocolate on the Nutella batch. A little bit of chocolate seems to go a long way with this play dough. If you use too much, the flavor of the peanut butter gets lost. With the white chocolate and Nutella it didn’t do much at all except to muddy the hazelnut flavor further. But since kids don’t really care about that its not a big deal. The “cookies” turned out pretty good, though. They could be a very nice gift for a neighbor or co-worker during the haunting season!

Play dough pumpkins!
Play dough pumpkins!

Making Halloween Memories: A Guide to a Season of Fun for your Child

Baby PumpkinAre you like me? Does Halloween form the basis of many of your favorite childhood memories? It was absolutely magical for me as a child. Now that I’m a parent, I try to bring that level of excitement to my own munchkins. I’m no craft-happy homemaker (don’t I wish?!) but I do try to piece together some special times during the season. Traditions form the fabric which weaves the happiest, richest holiday memories. I know, I know. Life is insane. There’s so much to do and so little time in which to do it. Work. PTA. Household chores. Community functions. Volunteering. Same here. The key is to plan a few simple things that will stay in your little ones’ hearts forever. Here are a few ideas that we use in our household to make it a memorable Halloween holiday season:

Gather Leaves as a Family and Decorate your Home!

Hunt for that perfect pumpkin… and take pictures!
Hunt for that perfect pumpkin… and take pictures!

The first event every year is to go on a long walk and gather fall leaves. Do this as a family. The leaves become decorations and crafts in my house. I do the old “wax-paper-with-iron” trick and make sure the prettiest leaves are “preserved” for the whole autumn season. They decorate my mantle, some bookshelves, and our dining room table. We do this at the beginning of October when the leaves are starting to turn and, again, closer to Halloween. It gives the family a chance to get some fresh air and exercise together. We also have occasion to see the progression of the season in the most concrete of ways.

Pick the Perfect Pumpkin

We also make an event out of pumpkin picking. Whether you go to a local farmer’s market, a pumpkin patch, or even your neighborhood grocery store, make it a real event. I have pictures of this yearly undertaking and cherish them. My children wear autumn colors or actual Halloween-themed clothing. What a blast we have! Each child gets to pick out their favorite pumpkin, be it large or small, perfectly round or as crooked as a gourd. Take pictures! It’s fun to see how the childrens’ tastes change over the years. After, we come home, enjoy warm apple cider and hot cocoa, and place the pumpkins prominently as indoor decorations while awaiting Halloween-Eve carving.

The Halloween “Advent” Calendar

Every year in September, we make our annual Halloween “Advent” calendar. We make it together as a family (yes, even Dad gets drafted to make a few days’ add-ons to the calendar!) Our calendar-making ritual allows us to keep the anticipation of Halloween at the forefront every day of October. Because we start in September, the season stretches just a bit longer as well.

Bringing Home the Pumpkins!
Bringing Home the Pumpkins!
Even Baby gets into the act!
Even Baby gets into the act!

Halloween Snacks and Meals

Because free time is sparse with the start of the school year and all that comes along with it, I buy round, ready-made sugar cookies. Add a touch of orange tint and some candies for the face — and you have precious pumpkin cookies that take no time to create! Finally, we always have the same kids-favorite meal on Halloween itself, before we head out for Trick or Treating fun. I make a homemade vegetable beef soup that’s warm and cozy (my delicious recipe is below.) You can make any dish your family particularly enjoys. The key is to have it be your annual tradition, much like ham at Easter or (gag me!) fruitcake at Christmas. With just a few events, you can turn a one-day holiday into a season of joy for your family. Plan just a few yearly rituals and you can ensure your children remember Halloween with a warm glow, too. Happy Halloween!

Bubble Bubble Goes the Cauldron: Vegetable Beef Soup

One package beef short ribs (4 or more ribs)

  • Six beef bouillon cubes
  • One large red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 25 oz. can of diced tomatoes with 1/2 the juice
  • Tiny alphabet pasta – 3 oz.
  • 2 packages of frozen mixed vegetables
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper

Place the ribs in a large soup pot with water, celery, half the onion, and the bouillon cubes. Boil gently for at least 3 hours. This brings out the flavor in the ribs. Remove ribs, allow to cool, and shred the meat off the bones. Discard the fat, and skim the soup base to remove the fat. I often put the soup pot in the refrigerator for a few minutes to allow the fat to congeal, making for easier removal. Return the pot to the stove and add the chopped meat. Add the remaining half of the onion, tomato with 1/2 the juice from the can, the frozen veggies, salt & pepper to taste, and the bay leaves. Cook together for an hour. Add the pasta during the last 15 minutes of cooking, bringing the soup to a boil to cook the pasta well. Enjoy!

The Author’s Happy Halloween memories!
The Author’s Happy Halloween memories!

How to Grow Your Own Pumpkin Patch

 

 

 

Ah, the orange, glowing, delightful jack-o-lantern: it’s perhaps the most immediately recognizable icon of Halloween.

Each autumn, thousands of families across the U.S. flock to farms, vegetable stands and even supermarkets to buy a pumpkin or two (or more!). But a few in-the-know growers avoid the rush by cultivating their very own decorative pumpkins.

How do these home growers do it? Pumpkin growing isn’t as difficult as you may think. All it takes is a little patience, a lot of yard space and a few tips on how to grow the best pumpkins in the neighborhood.

Read on for a tutorial on growing your very own pumpkin patch.

Selecting Your Seeds

Your first consideration is how much land space you have for your pumpkin patch. This will partly determine what variety you’ll be growing (hence, which seeds to choose).

Be aware that pumpkins require a lot of space—often ten feet or more per vine, depending upon the variety —so be sure you have a sufficient area available.

If space in your garden or yard is limited, try one of the two following options:

  • Semi-bush hybrids. The most popular variety among these is the Spirit Bush Hybrid. It requires a mere 4-5 feet of space per vine and yields 10-12 lb. fruits, suitable for carving.
  • Miniature decorative pumpkins. Jack B. Little, Wee B. Little and Baby Boo all fall under this category. Although the vines on these minis can still get quite long, the light weight of the fruits makes them ideal for a space-saving hanging garden. Simply fill a large size hanging basket with nutrient-rich soil, plant one to two seeds and allow the vine to dangle (it may reach the ground by the time its growth cycle is over). Be sure to keep the soil well watered and fertilized.

The most common commercially grown pumpkin in the U.S. is the Connecticut Field (Jack O’Lantern); you will find seeds for this variety in any plant nursery or store gardening section. Other popular carving-size choices include Howdens, Autumn Golds and Happy Jacks. Each has its pluses and minuses, so choose the variety that is best for you.

Preparing the Soil

Begin preparing your pumpkin bed after all danger of frost is over. Be absolutely sure of this timing – pumpkins are a warm-weather plant and new seedlings will not survive a frost. Depending upon what area of the country you live in, Final Frost will occur anywhere from mid-March to early May.

Choose an area that receives a lot of direct sunlight in the spring and summer; pumpkins prefer at least 6-8 hours of sunlight daily. Pumpkins do well in nutrient-rich soil; consider starting a compost heap or purchasing a fertilizer that contains manure. Otherwise, try turning shavings of your food and lawn leftovers into the soil. (Fruit parings and fallen leaves are popular choices among growers.) Do this well ahead of your planting date so your additives have time to decompose into the soil.

Dig an area approximately 4’X5’ and about 2’ deep and fill with your compost and soil. Remember that your plants will grow beyond this area; the bed is for the initial seedlings and the first root shoots.

Planting the Seeds

Credit: countryliving.com

If you live in a northern area which experiences very short, cool summers, you can get a jump-start on your pumpkin growing by planting seeds in peat pots about 4-6 weeks before final frost. Otherwise, sow your pumpkin seeds directly into the soil. Poke a hole in the earth 1-2” deep with your finger and drop in two seeds; cover loosely with soil and water well. Space your seed mounds several feet apart (refer to your seed packet for the exact distance your variety requires).

Credit: gardeningandplanting.com

In four to six days, you will be rewarded with a view of your first seedlings. As the plants grow, keep them well watered, but try not to let the leaves get wet; this can promote diseases, including the powdery mildew that is common to pumpkin plants.

Pollination, Maturation and Harvest

When your seedlings are approximately 2-3” high, cut the weaker of the two plants in each pair. You want the soil nutrients to go toward your most viable plants. Now sit back and watch your vines grow! Pumpkin plants grow at an amazing rate.

Credit: beeaware.org

About 40 days after planting, you will begin to see flowers on your pumpkin vines.

Pumpkins produce male and female flowers; generally, the males appear first, with the females following a week or two later. Female pumpkin flowers have a tiny “node” below the base of the bloom. If pollinated, this node will begin to grow into a pumpkin.

(l-r) Male and female pumpkin flowers. Credit: http://www.leafrootfruit.com.au

Insects will probably do the pollinating for you, but if you’re unsure, take the pollen from a male flower with a small paint brush or Q-tip and transfer it to the inside of each female flower.

Depending upon the variety, your pumpkins will be mature and ready to pick 95-120 days after planting. Be sure to leave a few inches of stem on the pumpkin when you cut it; an accidental slice into the fruit will dramatically shorten its shelf life. Store your pumpkins in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to carve them.

Pumpkin growing is a delightful activity for adults and children alike. Get your kids in on the growing action by involving them in every step of the growing process. You’ll leave them with an experience they’ll always remember. Just be sure to save some seeds for next year’s growing season!

One-of-a-Kind Halloween Pumpkins – Exciting Themes to Carve Your Pumpkin

You’ve picked the biggest, roundest, most orange pumpkin in the patch. The table is covered with protective newspaper. Armed with an array of cutting implements, you stand over your victim, prepared to create . . .yet another snaggletoothed face.

Isn’t there another way?

Traditionally decorated pumpkins – usually consisting of two round or triangular eyes, a nose and a mouth with just a few teeth – are a fun and familiar pick. But there’s more than one way to dress a naked pumpkin. Try something brand-new this year for a look that’ll make your house the best Halloween pick in the neighborhood!

For the Birds

You Will Need:

  • One small or medium-size pumpkin
  • Decorative black-feathered birds
  • Decorative pumpkin tendrils
  • Black spray paint
  • Glue gun (with one stick glue) or instant-bond glue
  • Cutting or digging tool
  • Paint or glitter if desired

This idea is eerie, yet deceptively simple. You will need a small- to medium-size pumpkin (pie pumpkins work great!) A pumpkin with a slightly flattish bottom is ideal; the fruit should be able to stand upright without being propped up. Purchase decorative blackbirds, ravens or crows and decorative pumpkin tendrils (curled strips) from your local crafts store or flower shop. Buy a small can of black spray paint from any retail store.

Spray paint the tendrils black; allow to dry. Glue the crows to the outside of the pumpkin, arranging them so that a few are “pecking” at the pumpkin’s skin. Attach the tendrils to the stem of the pumpkin with glue. Decorate the rest of your pumpkin in paint or glitter with a catchy saying if desired.

Slithering Snakes

You Will Need:

  • One medium or large pumpkin
  • Novelty rubber or plastic snakes
  • Carving tool
  • Scooping tool
  • Battery-powered pumpkin light

Turn your pumpkin over and carve a circle into its bottom, slightly smaller than the circumference; remove. (Alternatively, you can cut a top out of your pumpkin; however, cutting the bottom creates a seamless look and prevents the pumpkin top from falling in as it shrinks over time.)

Scoop out seeds and pulp and scrape carefully.

Turn the pumpkin right-side up and carve eyes, nose and a gaping mouth. Try for a frightened or disgusted expression on your pumpkin’s “face”. Place your light source securely in the pumpkin’s bottom. Because any added materials can pose a potential fire hazard, we recommend a battery-powered or electric plug-in light rather than a burnable wick candle.

Place the carved top over the cut bottom, then situate the novelty snakes so that they are slithering out of the eye sockets, nose and mouth. Sit back and enjoy the reactions!

Eerie Black-and-Orange Pumpkin

You Will Need:

  • One pumpkin (any size)
  • Carving tool
  • Scooping tool
  • Black spray paint
  • Halloween stencil, if desired

Spray paint your pumpkin black; allow to dry completely. Carve the pumpkin, using tips shown above (see “Slithering Snakes”). Be careful not to nick the spray-painted skin; if you do, just cut a bit farther outward, or touch-up carefully with more paint or a black magic marker.

Your best look for this ghoulish gourd is a traditionally scary carving; try a frightened black cat, sinister tombstone or a witch flying past a crescent moon. Carve freehand, or use a Halloween stencil. When lit, the black will contrast spookily with the pumpkin’s orange insides.

Black Widow Web

pumpkin-spiders

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Will Need:

  • One pumpkin (any size)
  • Carving tool
  • Scooping tool
  • Black paint or black permanent magic marker
  • Novelty toy spider
  • Crafts glue

Because you won’t be carving or cutting into this pumpkin, it should last quite a while if kept outdoors in cool to cold weather. Draw or paint a spider’s web on the outside of the pumpkin; using the stem as your point of reference, paint lines out, down and back up again at intervals from the stem center. Now paint lines vertically at intervals, connecting the web.

Use your crafts glue to attach the spider to the web. You’ll be sure to startle (and delight!) any trick-or-treaters that come to your door.

Pumpkin Brains (aka Spaghetti in a Pumpkin)

pumpkin spaghettiOne of my favorite family Halloween traditions is eating spaghetti in a pumpkin on Halloween night. Every year, without fail, my dad would hollow out a pumpkin while my mom cooked the spaghetti, and we would feast at the table. It is a bit messy and time consuming if you are not having a party.

However, if you are having a party, or having the neighbors and their kids over for dinner before or after trick-or-treating, it is a pretty spectacular sight! I have never met anyone else who makes this delightful dish for Halloween. It is a true original.

We never called it anything except for spaghetti in a pumpkin; however, Halloween is so fun and dramatic, that I think it deserves another name. If you etch a face into the side of the pumpkin, this dish can definitely be called “Pumpkin Brains.” That is much grosser and Halloween-ish!

Ingredients

  • 1 Large pumpkin (small enough to fit in your oven)
  • 1 lb of spaghetti
  • 1 jar of spaghetti sauce

Instructions

Hollow out the pumpkin. Cut a large opening in the top—larger than you usually would cut for jack-o-lanterns. Save the seeds to roast. Use a knife to etch a face into the side of the pumpkin, but do not cut all of the way through, as the spaghetti will fall out!

Cook the spaghetti, drain and stir in the sauce. Pour the spaghetti mixture into the pumpkin, and cook the pumpkin on a cookie sheet with sides in the oven for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees. (The pumpkin will get a little bit juicy as it cooks.) Serve with garlic bread carved into the shape of hands!

Save the pumpkin seeds from the pumpkin. Clean them as well as you can. Then toss in olive oil and salt and spread on a cooking sheet. Roast at 400 degrees for ten minutes or so until brown. They will be VERY HOT when they come out of the oven, so you will want to wait a bit before eating. You can serve these as “Pumpkin Teeth!”