Halloween Part 1: Getting our freak on!

It’s 8.30 pm on a school night. The boys and I are slumped exhausted at our dining room table. We are surrounded in all directions by an alarming amount of stringy, pulpy orange debris.

The kitchen has fared even worse – the orange crap is on the floor, the benches and is clumped wetly in the sink. It looks as if Fat Cat has exploded all over the kitchen.

For those who don't remember, Fat Cat was the mid-numbingly boring non-verbal cat that passed for children's entertainment in the late 70's and early 80's.  Definitive proof, if such was needed, that not everything old school is cool.

For those who don’t remember, Fat Cat was the mid-numbingly boring non-verbal cat that passed for children’s entertainment in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
Definitive proof, if such was needed, that not everything old school is cool.

But rather than wreaking havoc on hapless costumed creatures of my childhood, we have instead been carving pumpkins into Jack’o’lanterns.

We had a Jack’o’lantern for the first time last year. Brook had done an awesome job of it – one of the great things about having a chef for a partner is their handy knife skills!

As ours was the only one in the street it was a real draw card. It gave our place a kind of spooky prestige and greatly impressed the Halloween punters.

Max and I being zombies next to last year's Jack'o'lantern.

Max and I being zombies next to last year’s Jack’o’lantern.

This year we were determined to up the ante so I bought 2 large pumpkins PLUS 3 mini-pumpkins for the boys to have a go at carving.

In addition I also volunteered Brook and his knife-skills to carve 4 pumpkins for the Halloween Party at the Royal Children’s Hospital. If you ask Brook he will tell you that the great thing about having a partner like ME is that I volunteer him for things and then tell him about it afterwards!

Seriously though, he went all out with the designs and his pumpkins look AMAZEBALLS. But this set a high standard for the remaining two large and three small pumpkins that I was in charge of carving.

As we sat down to our task tonight the boys were beside themselves with anticipation. We soon made the following discoveries about pumpkin carving…

Things I did not know about pumpkin carving before now

1. Pumpkin carving is messy
Seriously next time I will put a tarp on the floor and dress the whole family in disposable raincoats. Prepare to get seeds and strings and pulpy crap EVERYWHERE. Including under my nails which was quite revolting

Pumpkin guts! This is but a small portion of the total mess.

Pumpkin guts! This is but a small portion of the total mess.

2. Pumpkin carving is tiring
Once you’ve got rid of the majority of the seeds etc. you then have to thoroughly scrape out the inside of the pumpkin to get rid of all the flesh and stringy fibres. This takes AGES and is bloody hard work. The boys were fine to get the seeds out but the scraping needs someone with a fair amount of dexterity.

Or, in this case, me.

3. Pumpkin carving is creatively satisfying
We all had so much fun googling designs, debating the merits of happy faces versus scary faces and whether to put give them teeth, eyebrows or scars. They all got to have a go at carving (under supervision and with a pretty blunt knife) and we only had one minor nick.

Anyway here are the results of out endeavours and we’re all pretty pleased with them. Now I just have to remember to buy candles to put in the bloody things!

I think the collective noun for a group of Jack’o’lanterns should be a “seance”. Or maybe a monster of Jack’o’lanterns? What do you think?

Jack'o'lanterns in all sizes!

Jack’o’lanterns in all sizes!


31 comments on “Halloween Part 1: Getting our freak on!

  1. Alison says:

    I’m going to pre-empt any “Oh the Americans can keep Hallowe’en” comments by copying in part what I said on another blog elsewhere this week. What I say regularly, every year.

    Hallowe’en is Celtic. The Scots have been celebrating it for many hundreds of years. The only thing the Americans added is the annoying “trick or treat” phrase which involves sweeties with menaces, that toilet papering thing, plus their usual penchant for making it gawdy and expensive (sorry American chums but sometimes cliches are there for a reason).

    For many hundreds of years Scottish children have been saying “The sky is blue, the grass is green, are ye daeing Hallowe’en?” and going door to door. You then have to “do a turn” involving a joke, song, or something similar and in return you get sweeties or money etc.

    If you are of Celtic descent and are celebrating All Hallow’s Eve you are taking part in a festival your ancestors have been involved in for countless generations – since long before white people first stumbled upon America. http://www.rampantscotland.com/know/blknow_halloween.htm – so feel free not to like it, but, but not because it’s American.

    Oh, and we used to use turnips instead of pumpkins 🙂

    I’ve done guising (the proper word for going door to door begging sweeties) parties at my house and Fright Night at Movie World, and am kind of over the Hallowe’en thing now, but your enthusiasm is nice, have a brilliant time 🙂

    • Rachel says:

      I wholeheartedly agree and gave a slightly less extensive version of this spiel to my boys. Except the bit about the turnips – I didn’t know about them. What in god’s name did you do with them? Hurl them at people? It’s nice to know that someone found a use for them 😉

      • Alison says:

        Well, with turnips we used to eat them mashed with mashed potatoes (tatties and neeps and butter are really good.) But on Hallowe’en we carved them into lanterns. We didn’t call them jack o lanterns, but we certainly carved them into scary faces.

        Our favourite game at Hallowe’en was dooking for apples. You’d fill a basin of water and float apples in it, the idea was to grab one with your teeth. Much harder than you might think. If you didn’t want to get your face wet you’d hold a fork in your teeth and try to aim it to hit one of them. Oh, and you’d give the water a good swoosh first, to make things even harder. Nothing beat Hallowe’en sweeties.

        i have very fond memories of roaming the streets in packs with our plastic bags full of tooth rotting deliciousness, in the dark with our breath misting out in the cold. Sometimes even the fog would oblige. Good times 🙂

  2. Me says:

    GReat job with the Jack’o’lanterns – they look fantastic !!!!
    I hope the kids in our area are up to getting fruit because we don’t have lollies in our house !
    Have a great evening !

  3. Katyberry says:

    Cool! Very good work. The best that I can manage was taking the girls op shopping for witches dresses – we have ended up with a lot of VERY glamorous (think off the shoulder, sequins, lace and chiffon) rather than scary witches, but the girls are happy and looking forward to tomorrow night’s Halloween party (that someone else with way more energy has organised)

    • Rachel says:

      They’ve got the right idea your girls. By all means go with a witchy theme but never lose your sense of glamour. I’m going as a bad fairy and I intend to be HOT – or my version of it at least 😉

  4. You are amazing – I don’t have the patience or skill to gut a pumpkin – do you put candles in them?? Or those pretend candle thingees?? What a great mum your boys have Rach – I have some cobwebs and freaky stuff to hang out the front door and hopefully kids will have fun getting ghoulish and trick or treating – nice to see a blog from you – I keep visiting in the hope of seeing one and I was finally rewarded 🙂 xxx

    • Rachel says:

      Oh Em you are lovely! I’ve been busy and in a bit of a ‘funk” regarding writing but hopefully that’s all finished now. We will put candles in them and put them out the front of the house. Hope your lot have lots of spooky fun and no sugar-induced meltdowns 🙂

  5. The pumpkins are super impressive. The one on the far left looks scarily like Richard Callandar (a very rotund and annoying horse racing personality). Will “Richard” be left out tomorrow night in Herston and, if so, do my kids have permission to hack at him with a knife?

    • Rachel says:

      Not being a racing aficionado I had to google your man Richard Callander. What can I say except that your are absolutely correct! More worrying though is the fact that “Richie”, as I have decided to call him, will NOT be going to Herston to terrify the kids at the hospital. No, he is the one that will be adorning MY front yard in Norman Park. So if I see two satirical looking youngsters armed with knives advancing on my property I will know they are the fruit of your loins come to vanquish their father’s unreasonable animosity towards pumpkin faced racing identities!

  6. Mumabulous says:

    Yay – you’re back! I tried to do something similar to a honey dew for Halloween two years ago. Twas a squishing green mess. Have a frightfully good night tomorrow.

    • Rachel says:

      I am back! Faffing has been at peak levels recently but balance is in process of being restored thank god. I am behind on my reading as well which I intend to rectify this weekend. Honeydews would have a least smelt quite nice while you were doing the scooping. I don’t eat pumpkin at all (much prefer sweet potato) so I found the pumpkin-y smell a bit gross after a while.

  7. Ness says:

    I don’t really care where Halloween originated from I just CAN’T BE BOTHERED with it. Ahem. You did a great job, though. Well done. My boys are seriously deprived. Then again there was a Halloween disco at their school and they didn’t want to go, so my negativity and anti-social ways must be rubbing off on them. Awesome. Shut up…

    • Rachel says:

      First of all this is MY blog so you can’t tell me to shut up. So ner!!! Secondly I only started bothering with it last year after some Americans moved into our street and kicked off the festivities. Prior to that I just pretended I was deaf when the boys asked about it. Thirdly my boys are also very “faddy” about discos. Sometimes they are desperate to go and other times I couldn’t drag them there. I have no idea what causes it so I just roll with the punches!

      • Alison says:

        It’s become quite big here in the last decade. I recall when I was the only person with any Hallowe’en decorations, I lent them out to a friend who wanted to have a spooky birthday party, and I had to go to one specific shop in Runaway Bay to buy them. I even made some of my own the first time I had a party for my kids and their friends – this was only maybe 10 years ago. Now they’re everywhere! I don’t love that about it, I must say. Low key was definitely more fun for everyone. Less is pretty much always more for me.

        And I’m with Emily, it is lovely to see you blogging again – which is why I am comment stalking you, natch 🙂

      • Rachel says:

        There’s been a distinct upswing in popularity in the last 3 years for sure. We only started doing it last year and that was only because we had some Americans move into our street. They invited everyone to tie a balloon to their letterbox if they were interested in being involved and it worked like a charm.

        And the comment stalking is very comforting. I feel a bit forlorn without it actually 😉

  8. Kim says:

    THey look awesome Rachel. GOOD mama you. Your guns must be RIPPED after scraping out those babies. And the tongue – your man’s got skilz. I’m finally going in for the Halloween thing after years in hiding. The girls are hell excited, but I’m going to keep it to only a few houses to keep the diabetes-factor manageable. She’s got carrie-style rage at the D-thing this week, so I guess all-in-all it’s quite good timing… !?

    • Rachel says:

      The guns were sore after all that scraping! Don’t bless her for getting a bit Carrie about the big D – if even adults think its unfair how unfair must it seem to her? Although I saw from your FB that she ended up LOW – seriously WTF? You do such a great job managing and helping her manage it xx

  9. ann says:

    Wow very clever!

  10. Renee says:

    Love your dedication to carving up those pumpkins. I must admit I’ve always wanted to have a go, but know I’ll probably only end up cutting myself. Pumpkins are so hard to cut! It’s going to look great out front of your house tonight.

  11. They look awesome! We haven’t done anything for Halloween..haven’t even left the house today lol! Although my house at the moment is a bit scary, and finally the cobwebs have a purpose.

    • Rachel says:

      Thanks T! And don’t think for a second anyone got past the front stairs. My place looks like a bomb has gone off inside it and I’m not even joking…

  12. Wow, they look amazing! I’ve seen a few people doing watermelons instead of pumpkins this year. I wonder if they’re any less messy? Good on you for giving it a go. I’ve never been brave enough!

    • Rachel says:

      I think watermelons would be a little easier – less scraping and a much more pleasant smell. But they do look so awesome I’ll probably allow myself to be bagged into it again next year 🙂

  13. Bek Mugridge says:

    Looks so wonderful!
    We carved pumpkins, had lanterns and spooky windows, baked muffins and had a bowl of treats by the door, balloons and the girls all dressed up, candles everywhere and then not one single trick or treater, the girls were so dissapointed.

  14. Wendy Parks says:

    I remember when I was five and living in the US my mum spent hours carving pumpkins for us for halloween, and they looked amazing.
    Great effort to both you and Brook.

  15. we carved our very first pumpkin yesterday- and I agree , it’s a whole lot trickier and more hard work than I anticipated. But fun!! Thankyou for the spiel about the origins.. I blogged today about what was positive in our street last night, All the nay-sayers can get stuffed, it’s a chance for our kids to be frivolous and silly, what is so wrong with that? Well done, awesome Pumpkins!

  16. Annie says:

    I am going to get you to carve my pumpkins next year! I saw a photo where people drew faces with black marker on oranges (quite cute) and lined them all up on the porch, so that is a cheats way to get mini Jack O Lanterns!!

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