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Saturday, October 05, 2013

Jack-O-Lanterns for Dummies

I'll be the first to warn you ahead of time. Today's blog topic is going to be a little bit on the brief side. I suppose for some of you who don't like reading a lot of words, this news might be welcomed.

A part of this is because of the fact that my Saturday is (for once) jam-packed with activity, and I will have very little time for writing. That's why I'm typing up this blog entry on the Friday morning before my shift begins at work. I'm more than determined to keep this blog going by continuing my one entry per day rule, and I also want to challenge myself. Can I do a blog in a deadline?

No, seriously. I'm really considering a lot of options in my life (first and foremost going back to take some higher education of some form), and in order to make those options a reality, I need to bone up on some skills.

Most notably, the skill of time management.

And another reason why I am coming up with a shorter than normal topic is largely because I am having a bit of a difficult time with choosing a topic for today. You see, the first Saturday in October is usually reserved for discussions on toys and games...but the only toy and game that I know of that is Halloween themed is the Ouija Board...and I already did a blog on the Ouija Board last year.

So, I decided that instead of a Halloween themed board game or toy (of which there aren't very many), I thought about this...what if I decided to do a blog on a Halloween activity that so many of us took part in as children?

And, I'm not talking about trick-or-treating either.

I briefly talked about it yesterday when I discussed Garfield's Halloween Adventure, and how the opening scene of the special had Jon carving a jack-o-lantern happily...well, until Garfield scared him so badly that the jack-o-lantern ended up on his head!

Well, I can't say that I've ever worn a hollowed-out pumpkin on my head...but I do have lots of memories carving pumpkins throughout my entire childhood.

And, that's the subject for today. Jack-o-lanterns and the people who make them!

Now, I'm sure that most of you out there have carved at least one pumpkin in your lifetime. It's simultaneously one of the easiest and hardest things that go into preparation for your perfect Halloween look.

The whole idea of planning what your pumpkin will look like is the easy part. The only thing you really needed was a black Sharpie (or back in the days when I was a child, a generic black marker as Sharpies did not exist back then).

I know...a world without Sharpies. Seems hard to believe, huh?

Anyway, all you'd have to do is take your marker and draw whatever design you wanted to on the front of the pumpkin. In my case, I only did simple faces. Some faces were smiley faces, and others were sad faces, and others were spooky faces. And some artists really take pumpkin carving to a whole new art form. Just have a look at some of the beautiful examples of jack-o-lanterns that were carved by artists that are certainly a lot more crafty than I.

Aren't some of those pumpkins beautiful?

Of course, the art of carving the actual pumpkin once you have your design all plotted out was the tricky part. And, for kids, it was downright dangerous to leave them unsupervised with a carving knife to let them carve the pumpkin themselves.

Well...unless you really wanted to have the true Halloween experience by having your pumpkin covered in blood that is.

Anyway...whether you carve the pumpkin yourself, or had an adult carving the pumpkin for you, one can agree that the job wasn't exactly the most glamourous or easy-peasy. No, you had to get down and dirty when it came to carving the perfect jack-o-lantern.

First things first, you had to lobotomize the pumpkin by making the pumpkin flip its lid. Literally. The only way you could carve a pumpkin correctly is to take a knife and cut the stem completely off the pumpkin.

And then things get really messy. You see, you can't very well leave all of the seeds and orange gunky stuff inside the pumpkin when you carve it. For one, you would never be able to get a candle or light source inside of the pumpkin. For another, after a few days, that pumpkin would go rotten and stink up the joint. And if you've ever smelled a rotting pumpkin before, you know how disgusting that stench can be.

So you had to reach in with spoons, scoops, or just your bare hands to rip the guts right out of the pumpkin so that you could easily carve a face onto it. And let me tell needed a lot of newspaper and possibly a pair of gloves to get the job done because gutting a pumpkin is easily one of the most grossest experiences that one can have.

I still remember being in school and some of our teachers would bring in a pumpkin to carve inside of our classroom. All of us would take a turn reaching inside of the pumpkin and pulling out its guts – seeds and all. Most of us welcomed the opportunity (even I had fun reaching into the hollowed out pumpkin to rip out its insides).

Yeah, that didn't sound disturbing at all, did it?

And, of course, the question that arises once the pumpkin has been disemboweled is what do you do with the gunk left over? Well, there's a couple of options. I certainly wouldn't recommend eating pumpkin gunk raw. I tried it once, and it is probably one of the grossest things I've ever put in my mouth. But if you took that pumpkin gunk and baked it into a pie, you have a classic Thanksgiving day staple. I imagine that lots of people use pumpkin gunk to bake pies, tarts, and muffins from scratch, and what better way to keep the baked treats coming than by carving a pumpkin!

And, don't discount the oversized pumpkin seeds either. Although I will be the first one to admit that I don't like pumpkin seeds, I will state that pumpkin seeds can be considered a nutritious snack. All you have to do is rinse them off, bake them in an oven, add a little bit of spices, and you have an instant snack. And given that the average pumpkin has at least five hundred to a thousand seeds festering inside of them, I would say that you could have enough pumpkin seed snacks to last you right through the month of October and half of November!

But again, that's only if you like pumpkin seeds. I can't stand them myself.

The end result? A hollowed-out pumpkin – perfect for carving a jack-o-lantern.

So, now I turn the control over to you. I want to hear your jack-o-lantern stories. If I find them interesting enough, I might post them in a future entry!

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