Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Our Pumpkin Carving Contest Tradition

    I'm not sure how this happened, but Halloween seems to have kind of snuck up on me this year.  I feel totally unprepared.  Halloween is a big deal for us.  We don't have our yard display out yet (that's due to the fact that we have had workers and torrential rains), I just feel unprepared.  I guess really that our yard takes us about an hour to decorate, we have it down to a fine science, maybe we will do that this afternoon, if the rain and high winds hold off.

    One Halloween tradition that I am actually on top of this year is our pumpkin carving contest.  We have done it for so long that I don't even remember how long we have done for.  In the early years we would just carve one pumpkin.  That was a problem when the kids began to exhibit free will and want a say in it.  It was then that we decided that everyone should carve their own pumpkin.   Even my parents bring over their pumpkins to carve.

Even Fergus got in on it.
    We throw down a plastic table cloth and/ or garbage bags.  There are lots of kid friendly carving tools and scoops that I have collected over the years.  I put out lots of bowls to collect the pumpkin guts.  I try to keep the mess confined, but inevitably I am finding pumpkin seeds all over the living room for weeks.  I have finally learned to bring the pumpkins into the house a day before carving so that they are room temperature.  One year I thought I was so smart and kept the pumpkin in the house the whole time (I try to buy the pumpkins early in October.  There have been a few years when we were not able to get our hands on all of the pumpkins that we needed).  I picked the pumpkin up and it disintegrated into a smelly mess at my feet.  Rotted pumpkin is a smell that you don't soon forget, or get out of your skin, trust me on this one.

Grace looked on Pinterst before carving her pumpkin.
She decided to use cookie cutters.
    I am pleased to report that this year none of the kids were grossed out by the pumpkin guts.  Most years one or all of the kids are super excited to carve pumpkins, until the lid comes off of them.  I usually try to capture on film the reactions of my more squeamish kids.

    Everyone has their own tried and true method for carving the pumpkins.  I like to sit back and watch, oh and take lots of pictures.  Christopher cleans out his pumpkin like it's a race.  You can hear the whip, whip, whip of his frantically digging.  The kids work slowly, biding their time, waiting for Speedy Gonzales to be finished with his gutting, so that he can do theirs.   I am slow and methodical.  I cannot begin to carve until every last string is out of that pumpkin.  It was to be completely clean before I begin (boys and girls can you say OCD).

I have no idea why Rowan was wearing
shorts and a long sleeved shirt.

    The same thing applies to carving.  Some of us have a plan, some of us like to wing it.  I have to have blue prints (I get that from my Dad).  I have little doodles, and stencils before I begin to even gut my pumpkin.  The kids kind of fall into both camps.  Some of them are planners, some of them are fly by the seat of their pants.  

    I spent time in the afternoon pulling up images of carved pumpkins that I liked.  I like to be creative, but I do better at stealing ideas than coming up with my own, that's why I like Pinterest so much.  I found lots of them that I really liked, but there were only a few that I could believably do.  I thought the same thing that I do every year, one of these years I am going to invest in one of those Dremel saws.

    I like to cut the bottom off of my pumpkin.  I find it so much easier than trying to fit the top on exactly.  There have been many a year that my top just fell in on top of my candle.  After I had cleaned my pumpkin I drew my picture on using Sharpie marker (I love Sharpies).

    I knew that the design would be tricky.  The idea was to have the ghost stand out, with the pumpkin around him cut away.  That design spelled out breakage.  I carved the eyes and mouth first.  I then cut out the bits of pumpkin one small piece at a time.  I used my Pampered Chef paring knife, praying that I would not snap it (I didn't).  It was no small miracle, but my pumpkin turned out just the way that I had wanted it to... I was amazed.

    A couple of years ago we discovered the battery operated tea candles.  It was love at first sight.  There would be no more struggling to get the stupid tea light to light.  There would be no more burned fingers and hands dropping the candle in.  No more struggling to light the stupid candle, only to have it blow out immediately.  No, battery operated candles are the way to go for us!

    After the pumpkins are all carved, and lighted, the next part of the tradition is to set them all up, and turn out the lights.  I know that it's corny, but I really love that part.  To the kids it's magical, well to me too.  We all ooooh and awwwww over everyone's pumpkins, and tell each other what we really liked that they did on theirs.

    The last part of the "contest" is to hand out prizes.  My prize titles are super lame, I admit it.  Only an idiot would pick out "The Best" pumpkin.  My kid's are ultra sensitive to criticism or not being in the spot light (who am I kidding, who really is).  I come up with titles such as "Rowan win's for the best 8 year old boy", "Riley wins for the best 8 year old girl", "Grace wins the oldest girl category", "Elly wins youngest girl category".... you get the drift, lame.  I always have prizes.  This year chocolate bars were on for a super cheap price, so I bought full sized candy bars for prizes.  My Mom's reaction was my favourite.  She excitedly picked out a Kit Kat bar, only to be devastated to discover that we had Bounty Bars (after she had already begun eating her Kit Kat).
    It's a good tradition.  It's a night of fun and family.  We capped it off with hot chocolates with marshmallows.  Now I just have to decorate the front lawn... in between hurricane force winds and torrential rain.

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