I heart Halloween

When your birthday is Nov. 1, you pretty much have no choice but to embrace Halloween. I always have and I always will. Mike makes fun of me for how I excited I get when they first start putting out pumpkins at the grocery store.

Over the years I’ve gotten really into pumpkin carving. When I had my DIY projects column in Boulder, I did a Mr. Peanut on a pumpkin that seemed made for it.

And then I did one with my own face! To make the pattern you just take a photo of yourself and make the contrast really high in Photoshop until you have clear chunks of black and white.

Of course, I love the extra hard patterns in the back of carving kits.

I tried Martha’s method for a glitter pumpkin, too.

I’m terrible about costume planning, but one year Mike and I got really creative and decided to go as toys from our childhood. We rigged up Christmas lights and a giant battery so I could be a Lite Brite and he was a Slinky.

Last year Mike shaved off his beard (the only time he’s ever done that in our relationship) to go with his hilarious Larry King costume.

Even Reggie got in the game once, much to her humiliation.

This year, all we’ve done so far is carve pumpkins, and pretty simple ones at that. But it was a good opportunity to put together a tutorial, so just in case you need it, here’s how we carve pumpkins:

Start by clearing off a table and covering it with plastic (a trashbag slit open is perfect). Layer newspapers on top of that.

Get some of those little carving tools, your pattern, scissors, tape, a Sharpie, and the most important tool of all: an ice cream scoop. Also have a wet towel on hand to wipe the goop off your fingers.

Clean any dirt off your pumpkin and decide which side you’re going to carve. The side that’s usually the most flat also tends to be the most ugly because it’s been on the ground. But if your pumpkin is just going to sit in the dark, don’t worry about that.

Some people use a big knife to cut a lid on top, but I prefer a little saw carving tool. Since it’s bendy you can get a really nice curved edge. Or, if you want the top to stay in tact, you can cut your lid out of the bottom.

Trace a circle around the stem with the Sharpie and carve out the lid.

Here’s where you get your first glimpse of all the goop!

Start by shaving all the strings off the lid.

You don’t want them hanging over a candle flame and burning. I find the best way to remove all the seeds and goop inside the pumpkin is just to roll up my sleeves and scoop it out with my hands.

Get yourself a garbage bowl for the goop, instead of slopping it on the table. You can heave it in the compost when you’re done, or use the seeds for cooking.

Use the ice cream scoop to get the rest of the stringy stuff out. Scrape the sides all the way around the inside.

Make sure your pumpkin is dry outside, and tape on your pattern. I find it helps to trim the corners on an angle so I can fold them in. Then I put tape all around.

There will be some spots where the pattern doesn’t lay flat because the pumpkin is round, so try to fold them over neatly instead of letting them crumple.

Next, get to poking. Put little holes all over the lines. Then remove the pattern, keeping it somewhere in view where you can still refer back to it.

Then start carving along the lines.

Sometimes you might have to cut lines into the large chunks to make them easier to remove. It’s best to push them outwards to avoid tearing the pumpkin. But sometimes I think it helps to push it a little bit inward first, then push it all the way out.

When you’re finished, you will probably still be able to see some strings hanging in the back. Remove those with your fingers. Again, they will burn and smell funky.

Voila.

Light and enjoy. It’s nice, too, that you can get those fake candles and avoid flame altogether.

By the way, Mike is from Wisconsin. You can probably guess his feelings toward Brett Favre.

What did you carve this year?