Thursday, October 23, 2008

Carving Out Traditions

"When witches go riding, and black cats are seen, the moon laughs and whispers, 'tis near Halloween."
~Author Unknown

Allie looking out at the jack-o-lanterns. Elk Grove. 2006.

Back in the early days of our marriage, we weren't huge fans of carving pumpkins. But Brett would dutifully scoop out the goop and guts and we did our best to chisel the obligatory triangle eyes and nose and the three-tooth smile. We'd illuminate it on Halloween night to greet the trick-or-treaters, then off it went, without a second thought, into the morning trash.

Then -- I can't quite remember exactly when it happened, probably when Blake was 3 or 4 -- we discovered the snazzy template books you can pick up at any Target or Walmart. I bought one and we did a couple. They really are quite simple, just sometimes a bit time-consuming and finger-numbing. The fancy jack-o-lanterns have been a Halloween-must in our house ever since.

Brett and Blake work on poking the pattern. Elk Grove. 2003

It's even become somewhat of an unspoken competition in our household. Each year when we're done, we light them up, turn off all the lights and give our opinions on "the winner."

The template books typically have three or four levels of carving difficulty. So there's always a bit of strategy when we each choose our design. If you choose one of the harder ones, you risk botching it up, which can happen if you have skinny pointy things to carve (like tree branches or details of a face). If you choose one that's too easy, it might not have the "wow" factor that your competitors family members have with theirs.

"Grandma from Minnesota" helps Nicky. 2003

Nick works on his masterpiece. Arizona (note the tank top during the Halloween season). 2007

Zach and Blake scoop out the guts (before we had those ugly purple kitchen walls painted to our current sage green). We love to roast the seeds and toss them with cinnamon sugar. Arizona. 2007

This year presents a challenge because Halloween falls on a Friday. We usually carve the Sunday before Halloween, then lube up the carved areas with Vaseline, wrap them in plastic wrap and keep them cold in the garage (well, that worked in Elk Grove, not as cold here in AZ at night). That would work for 2, maybe 3 days tops. Otherwise, that lovely, fungusy, lightweight web-like stuff starts growing. Yuck!

So ... I suppose maybe we'll clean them out Thurs night and then carve Friday after school/work. We'll figure it out. And of course, I'll post this year's "winner" and runners-up :)

Some of our jack-o-lanterns from the past:

"Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight, make me a child again just for tonight!"
~Elizabeth Akers Allen

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