Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pumpkin Decorating 101

Is there a bright, cheery, orange pumpkin sitting on your doorstep? Have you decorated it yet? Halloween is just a few days away. I’ve got some ideas for you to try.

Choose a healthy pumpkin or two. Go to an orchard, pumpkin patch, farmer’s market, or grocery store. Choose one that is ripe or orange – no green – and free of nicks and scratches. Choose a pumpkin based on what you want to do with it, otherwise just pick the one that you like. If you will be using store bought stencils, a medium size pumpkin is best. Small pumpkins are good for general carving and work up fast so you could do a bunch of them. Large pumpkins make good centerpieces and are the best for complicated designs.

Resin pumpkins are sold at Joann Fabrics, Michaels, and other craft stores. They come in a variety of sizes and some are can even be carved. No mess and you can keep them for next year.

An uncut pumpkin will last several months if kept cool. A cut pumpkin will shrivel up and die quickly so you will need to wait until a few days before Halloween to cut it. You can try to preserve it by washing all the dirt off before and after cutting. Spray the inside of the pumpkin and cut areas with a solution of 1 tbsp. bleach in a quart of water. Let the solution penetrate for 20 minutes; then wipe all cut areas with petroleum jelly. Wipe off the excess.

Now for the fun part – decorating your pumpkin. Have fun and be creative!!!

Plant pokes. The fastest and easiest way to decorate a pumpkin is to use plant pokes. There are kits in the stores to make black cat and witch designs, etc. I like to arrange leaves on top of my pumpkin and stick a scarecrow pick through the top. An ice pick or nail or Phillips screwdriver will make a good hole for sticking in the picks, otherwise they might break off when you try to poke them through. Pumpkins have a tough, thick skin. This is a cute and festive way to decorate a pumpkin and you can still carve it later on.

Painted Pumpkins. Painting a pumpkin is nice because it allows small children to participate. You can be very creative. You can make a character, use stencils, kid’s handprint, stickers, or anything you think of. They can be very simple or be an intricate scene if you have the talent. Make sure pumpkin is clean and dry and at room temperature. Paint your design on with acrylic paint. Try putting a little paint on the bottom of the pumpkin and letting it dry to see if your kind of paint will stick. A first coat of sealer or varnish will help the paint stick and will also preserve the pumpkin if you want it to last longer. After the paint dries, you can add fake fur and hair, sticks for arms, small hats and jewelry, feathers, etc. You can use a variety of paints and stencils. Michaels has dozens of pumpkin decorating ideas. You can find them on their website ( or in the store. Gold painted pumpkins are very elegant.

Beaded Pumpkins. Push beads on extra long pearlized pins into painted or unpainted pumpkins. You can make some awesome faces from beads.

Shimmery Pumpkin. You can make a shimmery pumpkin from a finished painted or unpainted, cut or not cut, pumpkin by spraying on spray adhesive and sprinkling with clear glitter. Beautiful!!!

Carved Pumpkin. Spread out some newspapers. Cut a hole large enough to fit your hand in the bottom of the pumpkin and make sure the pumpkin is level. A pumpkin carving tool works best. Pull out the “guts” with your hand or a spoon. Save the seeds for roasting. Draw or transfer a design on the best side of the pumpkin with a pencil or washable marker. Cut all the way through the pumpkin following the design you have marked. Push the cut pieces out and discard. Place a votive candle on a saucer and place the pumpkin over it.

There are many carving sets, stencils, and books you can buy in the stores to use on your pumpkin. You can get them for pennies the day after Halloween and use them the following year. Target has some really cute ones this year. They have sports teams like the Miami Dolphins or the Green Bay Packers for around $10.00.

You can create anything with a carved pumpkin. Make a person or creature, spell out BOO, make a birdhouse, etc. Put two or three pumpkins together to make a head and a body for a black cat or snowman or to spell out a sentence. Embellish with carrots and sticks.

White lights pumpkin. A lighted pumpkin can be mad with a ¼ drill bit and a set of battery operated white lights. Hollow out the pumpkin and drill a lot of holes. Slip a little white light in each hole. This looks really spectacular in multiples along a sidewalk.

There are many other uses for pumpkins in decorating. Large to medium pumpkins can be used for centerpieces or as a soup tureen. They can be cut into a basket shape and filled with flowers – see Martha Stewart’s pumpkin basket at her website: ( or hollow out and arrange some fall flowers in them. You can also plant mums in them for a pretty fall decoration.

Small pumpkins or even mini pumpkins can be used as soup bowls. Carve them out a little and insert a candle for a pretty fall candle holder. Group together with some fall leaves and nuts on a cake stand for a pretty centerpiece.

Scented Pumpkin. Cut out the top of pumpkin and save for a lid. Remove pulp and seeds. Carve little round holes all around the pumpkin with an apple corer. Rub pumpkin spice or cinnamon or insert cloves on the underside of the pumpkin lid. Place a lighted tea light candle inside and replace lid. It will give off a wonderful smell for hours.

Here’s a great little recipe for Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds from the Gooseberry Patch:

Sweet and Spicy Pumpkins Seeds

1 cup pumpkin seeds
5 Tbsp. sugar, divided
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 ½ Tbsp. peanut oil

Lay pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet lined with was paper; bake at 250 degrees for one hour or until dry. Cool. In a bowl, combine 3 tbsp. sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and pepper. Set aside Heat oil in a skillet; add seeds and remaining sugar. Cook for 45 minutes or until sugar melts and pumpkins seeds begin to carmelize. Transfer to bowl and stir to coat. Cool. Makes 1 cup. Delicious!!!

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