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I have a confession to make. And it’s a hard one to even say out loud, much less commit to the permanent record of the interwebs. I used to be one of those people who would eschew Halloween.

You know, that Australian who would loudly proclaim: “Why are there Halloween decorations in the shops? This isn’t America!”. That was me. How embarrassing.

It was all because I was a stubborn killjoy who thought it was embarrassing that tiny little Australia was trying to emulate America. Like when your little sister wears your clothes way before she’s old enough for them.

But now I understand. I’ve been through my first Halloween in the US and I’ve seen the light. Or the spooky darkness?

It holds a special place on the calendar – signalling the beginning of the downhill slope to Christmas and New Years’. It’s less than a month from Thanksgiving and a glorious four-day weekend!

It’s no secret amongst my family that I LOVE decorating for Christmas. Even when we were never home to see the decorations and putting the tree up was more hassle than it was worth, I’d still con at least one brother into helping me drag the tree  and tinsel out of the garage.

But Halloween adds a whole other level of fantasmagoricalism. I get to DIY my own decorations from scratch and devise a costume. Plus, I’ve carved my very first pumpkin.

Even though I’m writing this before I even begin carving, I already know it’s going to be a wonky disaster. But I’m proud of it anyway, because that’s how I roll.

For all those newbies out there who, like me, thought pumpkin carving was a pretty straight-forward task, I’ve put together a little “how to” to show you, that there a a few things you really need to know before you begin.

UPDATE: I’m now in my second year of Halloween pumpkin carving, and I have more tips to add. Sit tight, things are about to get a little easier. This year’s additions have been bolded.

Happy Halloween Everyone!

How to Make Your Pumpkin Last Longer

Last year’s pumpkin grew mould and disintegrated in a couple of days. I was very disappointed, so this year I looked up a remedy for that.

Soak your uncarved pumpkin in a solution of two bottle caps of bleach to one gallon of water for 20 to 30 minutes. Allow to dry completely. Carve your pumpkin using the steps below, then fill a spray bottle with the same solution of bleach and water, and spray the inside of your pumpkin and all of the open cut sides.

How to Carve a Halloween Pumpkin

  1. Choose a pumpkin that’s got a relatively flat bottom so that it doesn’t roll around.
  2. Choose a simple pattern to begin with. I used Abner from The Pumpkin Lady.
    That was last year. This year I bought a cheap pattern book from a craft store, that came with some tools to help the carving process. 
  3. It’s best to use a serrated knife for the carving.
    Or the el cheapo tools you bought. 
  4. Cut out the lid on an angle so that it doesn’t fall in when you replace it later.
  5. If you’re a fan of roasted pumpkin seeds, take those out first.
  6. Scrape out all of the stringy bits with a spoon. I found that the larger the spoon the easier this is.
    Mr M did ours this year, look how clean it is!
    Halloween pumpkin hollowed
  7. You can also use an ice cream scoop to remove some of the flesh on the side that you will be carving. This will make it easier to carve. I don’t have an ice cream scoop and I’m lazy, so I didn’t.
  8. Draw on your template. You can print it out and trace the rough outline onto your pumpkin using a knife. I’m lazy, so I didn’t.
  9. It’s much easier if you get a template that you can wet and stick to the pumpkin, then cover in cling film.
    Halloween pumpkin pattern
  10. Hold the pumpkin on your lap – this makes the carving process easier.
    If the paper starts to disintegrate, add another layer of cling film, hold your pattern firmly as you carve. 
    Carving Halloween pumpkin
  11. Be patient, go slowly and remember, you can always cut into the positive space, but you can’t take back the negative space, as Mr M helpfully reminded me.
  12. Clean up any stringy bits that are hanging down from the cuts you made.
    Cleaning up your Halloween Pumpkin
  13. Place your candle inside and light it up!

    Halloween cat pumpkin

  14. If you want the top on while your pumpkin is lit, put it on until you see a brown mark forming on the lid then cut a small chimney in that spot.
  15. Enjoy!
Carve a pumpkin | pumpkin carving | first Halloween | Halloween for expats | Aussie | Expat | Aussie Expat in US | expat life
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