Monday, October 24, 2011

The Art of Pumpkin Carving

Hello readers,
So, it's been a very busy October.  I was going to get to this last week but it just flew by like the Wicked Witch of the West.  :)

The last post was about pumpkins.  Today, let's talk about carving these beauties.  Let's make something clear from the beginning though.  I have absolutely no talent when it comes to this hobby.  I stink at it.  For one thing, I do not have the patience.  By the time I am done cleaning out the pumpkin, I'm ready to throw it out into the garden for compost.

Luckily, my husband has a knack for this particular thing and does a beautiful job. The first years we were married he amazed me with his BYU cougar pumpkin, Garfield, Batman symbol and one of my personal favorites, The Trucker Flap Girl.  Unfortunately, most of these were carved before the digital age and I don't have readily available pictures of these.  That is one reason we have gone to carving artificial pumpkins so that I can enjoy these year after year AND the girls can take theirs when they have their own homes.   

So the first thing I would recommend when carving pumpkins is to have patience.  Of course, my husband is a very patient man.  (He is married to me after all.)  Next, it's important to pick the proper shape and size.  It really depends on your pattern.  I think all growing up the only pumpkins I ever saw were the usual smiley or angry face ones.  It wasn't until later that patterns became available and it became an art form for anybody willing to pick up a toothpick and a knife.  Over the years, it has become more complex and amazing and now there are whole sites devoted to the patterns etc.  If you want to have some fun, just check out these sites.  For a donation or small fee you can have the pattern of your choosing.

You can buy a kit which includes the scraper, toothpick and knife and also a book of patterns for less than $10.  Once you have picked a pattern and printed it, you just clean out the pumpkin and scrape whichever wall of the pumpkin you want to place your pattern as thin as possible.   I've heard this allows for a cleaner design.  You cut the sides of your pattern in order to bend it around and then tape it to the appropriate side.  You can brush some flour over the image to make it show up a little better.  Begin with the small pieces and work your way to the bigger ones.  A smooth action with more speed and less pressure while sawing up and down is best.  Holding the pumpkin in your lap is also a good idea in order to hold it steady.  Please supervise your young children and be careful if using real knives. 

You can pick up the artificial ones at your local craft store.  The same suggestions apply here except that you do not have to clean it out.  These pumpkins also tend to create more "dust".   

This Halloween tradition has been super fun and memorable for our family and I hope it will be for your family too.

Just a note,
I am donating $2 from each sale of my Breast Cancer Awareness magnets to the Susan G Komen Foundation. 

Until next time,

Crazed Momma aka Naquai

Saturday, October 15, 2011

It's Pumpkin Time!

So right along with my post from last week come this week's post about something I really am crazy about too.  I really like to grow pumpkins.  They make me happy.  Of course, you have to start growing pumpkins in all its glorious forms in May or June, but now is the time that these wonderful plants come to fruition so to speak.

There are many reasons why I love to grow them.  They are easy for one thing.  It may be where I live, but growing pumpkins in Utah hasn't been that difficult.  You just place seeds in the ground and as long as you water it (and the squash bugs don't consume the plants) you should end up with some fun decorations for Halloween and maybe even Thanksgiving.  As usual, in honor of these awesome fruits (yes they are fruits) here are a few fun facts:

Pumpkin Facts

  • Pumpkins are grown primarily for processing with a small percentage grown for ornamental sales through you-pick farms, farmers' market and retail sales.
  • Around 90 to 95% of the processed pumpkins in the United States are grown in Illinois.
  • Pumpkin seeds can be roasted as a snack.
  • Pumpkins contain potassium and Vitamin A.
  • Pumpkin flowers are edible.
  • Pumpkins are used to make soups, pies and breads.
  • The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.
  • Pumpkins are members of the vine crops family called cucurbits.
  • Pumpkins originated in Central America.
  • In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.
  • Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites.
  • Pumpkins range in size from less than a pound to over 1,000 pounds.
  • This year's largest pumpkin weighs a whopping 1810 pounds!!  (Picture at top)
  • The name pumpkin originated from "pepon" – the Greek word for "large melon."
  • The Connecticut field variety is the traditional American pumpkin.
  • Pumpkins are 90 percent water.
  • Pumpkins are fruit.  See I told you!  :)
  • Colonists sliced off pumpkin tops; removed seeds and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. This was baked in hot ashes and is the origin of pumpkin pie.
  • Native Americans flattened strips of pumpkins, dried them and made mats.
  • Native Americans used pumpkin seeds for food and medicine.

A couple of other reasons I personally love them is because they spread easily and cover a large area with beautiful green leaves.  I use them in my front flower bed for just this reason.  I also love pumpkin pie, pumpkin carving, pumpkin bread with chocolate chips, and the pumpkin spice smell.  It's a very essential part of Autumn for me.  Stay tuned for my next blog which covers one of our favorite things to do in October which is pumpkin carving.  My husband is a pro!

Until next time! 

Crazed Momma

Here's a new set of Fall magnets!