Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Clean PumpkinMy experience carving pumpkins is at best limited, so I was a bit skeptical when my fiancé brought home a pumpkin carving kit. For the past few years, she as been making faces out of the plump fall fruit with her mother, but now that we share the same residence it was my turn to play Michelangelo. Below I’ll explain how one should take the knife to the round orange ball.

Step 1: Pick up your ingredients

A list of required goodies is in order. Pick up your basic pumpkin carving kit at your local supermarket or big box retailer (I think we purchased ours at Cost Cutters). It should include a special carving knife, a scooper to remove the pumpkin guts, a long narrow tool to poke holes, a little wheel with spokes on it for tracing, and some patterns on thin paper. You also need a pumpkin (duh), some paper towels, and a trash can for cleanup.

PumpkinStep 2: Clean your pumpkin

Next, wash the pumpkin with cool tap water. Chances are you picked your pumpkin from a patch so it’ll probably be a little dirty. Then dry off the pumpkin using paper towels or a rag.

Step 3: Scalp your pumpkin

Using the carving knife (or a more durable knife from your kitchen), cut around the top to create a lid. Make sure it’s big enough so you can get your hands in there to scoop out the pumpkin innards, but not too big as it may interfere with the sides of the pumpkin.

Step 4: Gut your pumpkin like a fish

PumpkinWell, not like a fish but like a pumpkin! Lift the recently-carved lid off the top of your pumpkin and, using your handy pumpkin scooper (technical term, I know), plow out the guts. It’s yucky and messy so try to dump as much as you can in the trash. I found that the scooper that came with our kit was too small so I used my bare hands.

Step 5: Mask your pumpkin

Pick the pattern of your liking and tape it to the side of the pumpkin. We taped ours to the side that had the largest surface area so we had room to work with. But so long as the pattern fits, you should be fine.

Step 6: Poke little holes in your pumpkin

pumpkin4.jpgUsing the spoke-wheel-thingy (another technical term), trace the pattern on the sheet of paper over the pumpkin. Press hard so the holes poke through the skin. You should see traces of punctured holes through the paper. After tracing all of the lines, remove the sheet of paper.

Step 7: Carve!

See the holes, now carve! Take your carving knife, hold at a 90-degree angle next to the outer perimeter of the pumpkin walls, and pierce anywhere around the line. Saw up and down until you’ve finished all the lines.

Step 8: Take a Bow

Congratulations, you’re almost done. Now take a lighted candle, stick it in the center, and turn off the lights. Enjoy your Halloween pumpkin in all its spookiness!



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Columbus Day has a way of creeping up on you. No one really plans for it and yet some of us are fortunate enough to have the day off. They have a parade in New York, but no one really watches it. In my opinion Columbus Day is a rung or two above Arbor Day in the hierarchy of American holidays.

Just don’t tell any proud Italian I said that. For some reason, Italians take their Christopher Columbus seriously. Never mind that Italian city-states Genoa and Venice passed on funding his voyage; or that it took him three voyages to even suspect he landed somewhere else that was not Asia; or that he carted a couple hundred Tainto Indians back to Spain as slaves; or that he was stripped of his Admiral of the Ocean Seas title and shipped home in chains. Without Columbus, none of us would have learned “1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue” in grade school.

I do find it perplexing that the Spanish don’t take as much pride in Columbus as do the Italians, especially when one realizes that his discovery shifted the focus of trade away from the Mediterranean (which the Italian city-states controlled) to the New World (which the Italians never acted upon). Columbus’s conquest jump-started Spain’s foothold in America and dominated the West Indies for nearly two centuries. Until the mid 17th century, Spain profited almost exclusively from the Caribbean sugar and tobacco plantations. Not to mention the purging of the Aztec gold coffers, as well.

Whether Columbus was a great man or not, I cannot say but he did change the course of history. And I’ll happily take a day off to celebrate that.

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