It’s here! The busiest month of my year! So much to do, and seemingly never enough time!
I could shock you all with a listing of my schedule for the month, which includes fundraisers, PTA events, and oh so many birthday parties… but I don’t want to remind myself of the monumental size of my to-do list!
Needless to say, when you have school-aged children (one of whom has an October birthday), this is a mighty busy month!
So, we have probably all carved a pumpkin for Halloween. It’s one of those rites of passage, getting your hands covered in slimy orange muck while you hollow out your squash. I look forward to it every year! I don’t just look forward to competing with the neighbors across the street for who can have the best decorations, I look forward to plunging a dagger into a gourd! Yes, this sounds twisted, but it is so much fun!
There are many tricks one can use when carving pumpkins. I know that stencils and little tiny saws can be purchased to make detailed curves. My favorite tools are my dagger, a paring knife, a mini zester, and an apple corer. Toothpicks must also be on hand, along with pumpkins and other fleshy squash of different colors. My favorite pumpkins are the white ones with the deep orange flesh, sometimes called “ghost pumpkins”. I love to carve a face with particularly wide eyes in these and then use an apple corer to obtain two perfect, dark green circles from an acorn squash (inexpensive, fun to carve, and the seeds can be roasted just the same as pumpkins. I like to use carved acorn squash as luminarias along my walkway on Halloween!) . I take these perfect circles, cut down the orange fleshy part on the back, and then stick them in the ghost pumpkin’s eye sockets with a toothpick through the bottom. Cutting triangles from another squash can yield some awesome cat ears, which can be toothpicked to the top of your squash.A small zester with a sharp front edge and be used to carefully cut away a whisker pattern that will give a faint glow in the night if you put a candle or glow stick in your pumpkin. If you have cinnamon-scented candles, your yard will smell like pumpkin pie when the little ghosts and goblins come seeking candy on Halloween night (or, as seems to be more the case these days, afternoon).
But the most important thing to remember when carving pumpkins (after knife safety, covering the floor with a tarp, and having the kids wear smocks) is to keep the seeds! Once you rinse them off in a strainer and separate all of the clingly squash guts, you have something magical! Now, I know that most people simply salt them before baking (on a non-stick cookie sheet at about 350˚ for 15-20 minutes), but there are some amazing things you can do! it’s fun to experiment! I usually make a simple, lightly salted batch (not ridiculously, dry-your-tongue-out salted like the seeds you buy at the corner bodega) for my less-adventurous guests. Any spice or herb you sprinkle on your seeds will stick well because the seeds, though patted a little to dry excess water, are still a little damp. The favorite around here is pumpkin seeds sprinkled with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and just a little raw sugar. The grown-up fave is salt, cayenne pepper, and powdered garlic. They can also be quite awesome tossed with crushed dried herbs, cumin, curry powder… they’re better than popcorn, and they hold the flavors better without the necessity of adding butter or oil! Yum!
Now that we have talked about the extreme awesomeness that is pumpkins, what Halloween activities do you enjoy sharing with your kids? Do you take them trick-or-treating? Does anyone make adventurous costumes? I must admit that i usually do not have time in my schedule to make costumes for the kids. I often find someone who is making what I’m looking for on Etsy, or collect the essential elements through various stores and websites. This year, it will be easier than in the past few years. My daughter was a snow pixie princess last year, and I made her a crown of silver glitter foliage and ordered a custom tutu. This year, she wants to be Hermione Granger. All I need do is put her in the robe and she’s there (I’ll probably braid her hair before she goes to sleep the night before to get the perfect Hermione hair). My son did not appreciate my suggestion that he would make a great Draco Malfoy. Instead, he would like to go as a knight. Haha! He already has the appropriate costume! Renfaire FTW! I must, however, figure out what I will be wearing for the annual Halloween pumpkin patch at the school. I was a kitchen witch last year, and a Hufflepuff the year before. I am thinking I would rather like to be a rag doll this year, so I guess it is time to figure out how to make a wig out of purple yarn and where to get a pink and purple frock with matching apron in my size on such short notice… someone please come remind me how to sew! It turns out it wasn’t like riding a bike, as I can no longer remember what I learned on the costume crew in Summer Youth Theatre!
I must also mention that, if you enjoy watching all of the spooky TV programming around Halloween, check out Zombies: A Living History on the History Channel October 25th! I had the awesome opportunity over the Summer to be a part of the makeup crew and a giant zombie crowd scene. It is going to be awesome!