Hey There, Pumpkin

We’re back!  A fun-filled week at Disney World, a 3:30am alarm, a 4:00am departure, and a 6:00am flight, left us feeling pretty woozy and exhausted, but there was no time to rest just yet! (In my opinion if you don’t feel exhausted after 5 days at Disney…you’re missing out).

On Friday I promised to be back with some fun and festive treat ideas. Well…my plans changed a little.

All week I dreamt of creating a delicious candy corn concoction. I imagined candy corn bark, candy corn fudge, or even making my own homemade candy corn.

(For those of you who knew me in college, the next sentence might shock you).

At the end of the week, candy corn just didn’t sound good to me. (I know!!)

You see, I had an obsession (possibly an addiction) with candy corn and mellocreme pumpkins in college. I even dressed up as a piece of candy corn for Halloween ballet class (did I ever mention I was a dance major?).

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Yes, I made that photo quite small in a feeble attempt to save my pride. (Meh. Everyone thought I was a dressed up as a dunce in ballet class that year, so I don’t see my pride being saved anyway).

Perhaps, I’m just feeling the pressure to be a supportive wife and respect my husband’s request for a post-vacation diet (he has ZERO self-control), or maybe I’m finally growing out of my sugar fiend phase.  Regardless, I decided to opt out of making an ooey-gooey Halloween treat.

All I needed now, was some other sort of autumnal inspiration.

Luckily, my brother and sister-in-law texted me this photo of their annual pumpkin rebus a couple of days ago:

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How’s that for inspiration?! (Can you guess what it says?! – They are too clever for their own good).

I knew I could never live up to that pumpkin carving handiwork, but it did remind me of a couple of pumpkin carving projects I’d been dying to try!

Now to find some pumpkins on the day before Halloween…in NYC. The task that was not as easy as I’d hoped.

My gourmet grocery store had been selling over-priced pumpkins for a month and I was sure they’d be marked down and begging customers to attempt to walk those gigantic puppies out the door, down the block, and up 3+ flights stairs. (aka: “Back to your Apartment”)

Would you believe it?! They were SOLD OUT! Some suckers customers paid (by the overpriced pound) for the privilege of carrying those things home! I was devastated. Now what?

There is only one grocery store in my neighborhood (without getting on the subway) and my backup option (the surprisingly well-stocked convenience store/bodega) was out too.

As usual, I called my mom to complain while I panicked about the Great Pumpkin Shortage in LIC, and she suggested I head to my old neighborhood (the land of inexpensive groceries and delicious Greek food) – Astoria.

Really? I had to head 10 stops further into Queens on the subway and transfer? – just for pumpkins?! Yep. I did it. I brought my sturdiest tote bag and decided that a “real” pumpkin was out of the question from here on out.

Six subway stops later (so I exaggerated a bit earlier), I crossed my fingers and hoped I’d picked the right stop to find my perfect pumpkins. After an unsuccessful grocery search, a U-turn, and 3 more blocks, I found them:

Cue the heavenly chorus!!! So many to choose from! And only .99 a pound! (Was that a good price? A better price than my over-priced neighborhood gourmet grocery? I dunno. Who cares at this point?!)

I avoided the large warted pumpkins, since I couldn’t carry them home anyway, and began pairing the littler ones to find the perfect combination.

After an embarrassingly long period of time spent “pumpkin pairing” I ended up with these guys:

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At 6:15 it was finally time to start my carving party.

Since I’ve never been very good at hand-carving pumpkins, I had two new techniques I wanted to try out:

1. Cookie Cutter Pumpkin “Carving”

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2. Drilling patterns into my pumpkinsdrilled pumpkins

First, I cut the lids and cleaned out all the goop at once. (No sense in getting all cleaned up and un-goopy just to get re-goopified later).

Next, I picked out my cookie cutter and grabbed my rubber mallet (which proceeded to break shortly thereafter).

I picked the biggest blemish, so that if things didn’t work out I’d rid myself of an ugly spot that would be on the backside of the pumpkin anyway. :)

Getting the cookie cutter started was the hardest part. I finally managed to get one point of the star wedged into the pumpkin, and then I worked in a circle on the other points until it was flush with the pumpkin. (If your husband is working late and unavailable to assist you, I recommend holding the pumpkin still with your feet).

Once it was finally flush, I was hoping the cookie cutter would be the same thickness as the pumpkin rind and pop right through. Of course, I wasn’t quite that lucky. Fortunately, my inferior mallet skills started forcing the inner star into the pumpkin, and with a bit of pressure I was able to pop the star through anyway!

Ta-da! Now Repeat!

(Feel free to skip the part where your mallet breaks and spins every time you attempt to hit cookie cutter, causing you to smash your fingers between cookie cutter and mallet…repeatedly). Ouch.

For my next pumpkin, it was time to bring out the drill. (My fingers needed a break).

I tested out a few drill bits on scrap pumpkin stars before I decided on the 1/4 inch bit. After that, I just went for it. The drill moved through the pumpkin like butter! This technique is a dream!

I decided to combine the two techniques on my last pumpkin, but used a smaller drill bit (for variety’s sake).

Here’s what happens when your pumpkin rind is much deeper than your cookie cutter. Whoops. But don’t worry, it still works out – and it even made a clean crescent moon that I didn’t need to clean up with my knife afterward!

Then I attempted to drill a galaxy of sorts around my moon.

Here’s how all three look lit up!

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The biggest surprise came when I saw how the star pumpkin acted like a projector, shooting stars all over the room. I just love it!

After seeing the pumpkins lit, I definitely prefer the cookie cutter method. I need to experiment with the drilling method more, and plan things out a bit better next time. It was certainly the easiest pumpkin carving I’ve ever done, but I’m not sure the payoff is as rewarding as a traditional jack-o-lantern.

And…because no blog entry is complete without me messing things up a bit:

My baby pumpkins are now topless, because the lids started burning shortly after I finished taking photos. So…that’s the biggest disadvantage of choosing mini pumpkins and scooping out less pumpkin goop. Lesson learned.

Happy Halloween!

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