More pumpkin carving ideas and tips
Reader's Digest: Quick and easy lit up star pumpkins
Martha Stewart: Carving expert Michael Natiello demonstrates Celtic knot jack-o'-lanterns
The Pumpkin Wizard: Patterns, instructions and more
Country Living: Ideas for different ways to use pumpkins
Extreme Pumpkins: Ideas for scary jack-o'-lanterns
I love Halloween. I guess it goes back to when I was a kid growing up in a suburb where there were a lot of small homes near each other.
As a trick-or-treater, you couldn't ask for anything better. I would start trick-or-treating at 6 p.m. and wouldn't stop until 9. The amount of candy I would get was staggering.
It is interesting that the only thing I still have from my childhood is the plastic pumpkin I used to trick-or-treat with.
But as an adult I enjoy the holiday just as much. One Halloween I built a robotic talking trash can that emitted smoke and could shoot water from its mouth more than 20 feet. (I especially enjoyed using the squirting water feature on high school kids who thought they could get candy without dressing up).
On another Halloween I built a talking pumpkin. I'll never forget a small, shy, 4-year-old boy who came up to get some candy with his father and ended up staying and talking to "Mr. Pumpkin" for some time. Later that evening the boy returned to give Mr. Pumpkin some candy since he didn't have any legs and couldn't go trick-or-treating himself. Great memories.
I hope you find these tips useful, and I hope you have a great Halloween!
The pumpkin essentials
You need to start by picking the right pumpkin. There are really only two things you need to look for: 1) the pumpkin shouldn't have any bruises or cuts. 2) The stem of the pumpkin shouldn't be brown or dried out.
Try not to carve your pumpkin more than three days before Halloween. If you do, you run the risk of it getting moldy and disgusting. If you have no choice and have to carve it earlier, then this is how you can preserve it. Cover all of the carved areas with clear tape and plastic wrap. Make sure that you also tape the pumpkin where you made the cuts for the lid. The bottom line is that you want to make sure you minimize the amount of air getting inside the pumpkin. Put the pumpkin in the refrigerator and you're good to go!
It's a recent trend for people to cut very intricate patterns into their pumpkins. It's extremely easy to mess up and accidentally cut off a piece of pumpkin that you had not intended to cut. If you do this, the fix is simple. Get a toothpick and break it in half. Insert the toothpick into the piece that broke off and then stick the piece back onto the pumpkin. It'll look as good as new.
Always cut your pumpkin's lid on an angle. If you don't, the lid will fall into the pumpkin. Make sure that you include a notch on the lid when cutting it. (Don't make a perfect circle). This will make it easier to determine how the lid goes back on.
If you've ever carved a pumpkin using a very detailed pattern, you know the hassle involved with transferring the pattern onto the pumpkin. The old method was to tape the pattern to the pumpkin and then make small holes along the outline of the pattern. Well, there's an easier way. Just take the pattern and apply rubber cement to the back of it. Place the pattern on the pumpkin and begin cutting. When you're through, carefully remove the pattern from the pumpkin.
After you've carved your pumpkin, put a candle in it and light it. Put the lid back on the pumpkin and wait about two minutes. Lift the lid off and you should see a slight burn mark on the underside of the lid. Cut a hole in the lid where the burn mark is. You've now added a chimney for your pumpkin.
To help keep your pumpkin from drying out, spray all of the cuts you made to it with WD-40. The WD-40 basically seals the cuts.
After carving your pumpkin, wipe your pumpkin down with a mixture of water and bleach. You can also just spray it with Clorox Clean-Up Cleaner with Bleach. Bottom line: the bleach helps prevent mold, will kill bugs and will keep your pumpkin looking good longer. Make sure that you wipe the bottom of the pumpkin as well.
Before you light your pumpkin on Halloween, sprinkle some cinnamon on the underside of the lid. The pumpkin will have a pumpkin pie smell when the heat of the candle reaches the lid.
What do you do if your pumpkin is starting to dry out? Fill your kitchen sink half full of cold water. Place the pumpkin gently face down into the water. Wait a couple of minutes and then remove it. You'll be amazed at how good your pumpkin looks!
Do you hate the hassle of cleaning a pumpkin? Consider using a Funkin. It's an artificial carvable pumpkin that you can find at craft stores or you can order online. The nice thing about Funkins is that your carving efforts will last long after Halloween! Important: Don't use candles with Funkins; only use a small light bulb.
Pumpkin carving ideas
If you don't want to put the traditional face on your pumpkin, consider creating a "patterned" pumpkin. You can create some really cool looks with your power drill and also with cookie cutters. Use a rubber mallet to hammer the cookie cutters into the pumpkin.
Consider scraping some of the skin off of the pumpkin for a cool effect. You can use a vegetable parer or linoleum cutter to do this. You can create eyebrows, hair, even a mustache. You can even create your own doodling pattern on the pumpkin if you want.
You can create your own scary Halloween doormat. Start by buying a cheap, blank doormat from a home improvement store. They usually cost less than $15. Spray paint a spooky message on the doormat. You can either use a stencil or do it freehand.
Here's a great idea for decorating your house. Raise your garage door and cover the entrance with a large white sheet. Use duct tape to hold it in place. Borrow a computer projector from your office and hook it up to a laptop computer. With the computer projector inside the garage, aim it at the white sheet. Get a G-rated scary movie on DVD and load it onto your laptop. On Halloween night you'll impress the trick-or-treaters and your neighbors with your outside home theater. One suggestion: most computer projectors have a "rear projection" mode that you'll probably want to use. This mode flips the image and allows the people outside of your garage to see the film as if it were on TV.
Here's a cool decoration idea that you may not have thought of. Do a chalk outline of one of your family members on the driveway. Put some caution tape around it and you've created a CSI-like crime scene.
Here's a great tip on how to make your own Halloween candy bag. Get a paper grocery bag with handles and cover it completely in orange duct tape. You can then create a pumpkin face on it by using some black duct tape. Add reflectors and a flashlight to the bag with more orange duct tape. It's a great craft project to do with the kids and I guarantee that this bag won't fall apart!
Create a festive ice bucket by cutting off the top half of a pumpkin and cleaning it out. The bigger the pumpkin the better.
After you clean out your pumpkin, make sure that you save the seeds. There are several really good pumpkin seed recipes at Real Simple.
To create a spooky entrance to your house, consider changing your regular porch lights out for green or red lights. You can also buy a cheap screw-in device from your local home improvement store that will automatically flash your porch lights. Cool.
Finally, remember to change out your flashlight batteries and get some reflective tape for your kids' costumes.
Tips for the kids only
Remember to wrap one of your hands with duct tape, sticky side out. Now when you put your hand in a candy bowl you'll get three times as much candy!
In a recent survey it was revealed that more than 90 percent of parents sneak candy out of their kids' trick-or-treat bags. So remember, keep an eye on mom and dad!