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Prepare for pumpkin carving before Halloween

By Jessica Rodrigo
Oct. 23, 2013 at 5:23 a.m.


It's almost time to start carving those pumpkins.

The pumpkin patches are filled with rows of orange globes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. There are the cute variety that are small with long stems and, of course, the large, shapely pumpkins with curves and deep grooves. No matter which pumpkins are the pick of the crop, there are a few things to remember when carving out those ghoulish grins or scary scenes.

Jena Wright, 31, perused the neatly organized rows of pumpkins at the First United Methodist Church, looking for the right size to serve as the canvas for her family's Wreck It Ralph carving.

"We usually do characters," she said. "Last year, we did Trogdor."

Wright admitted that she and her husband, Shaun, are comic book and video game nerds, so Trogdor the Burninator - an animated Web character from the "Homestar Runner" series - was a perfect first-time pumpkin carving project with their 17-month-old son, Ethan.

This will be their second year carving pumpkins for Halloween, Wright said, and she hopes it will become a tradition for years to come.

She looked through each makeshift aisle of pallets piled with pumpkins for one that was not too big but not too small.

"I'm usually the one who has to clean it out, so I look for a medium-sized pumpkin," she said. "After a while, you get tired of cleaning out the seeds and insides."

Armed with kitchen utensils and the handy-dandy pumpkin carving tools for sale at almost every retailer selling Halloween material, she said she hollows out most of the pumpkin flesh to help ease the carving process. The less flesh you have in the inside of the pumpkin, the easier - and safer - it will be to carve out whatever face you have in mind.

She also use stencils that come with the carving kit or those found online.

"We tried free-handing it, but it didn't go well," she said.

Their first try also yielded a rotten pumpkin that didn't last long on their front porch. The South Texas climate doesn't aid in the preservation of carved jack-o'-lanterns - it does quite the opposite. Once the pumpkin has been carved, it will begin to oxidize, and the bacteria and mold will transform the pumpkin into a slurry of spores and a juicy mess.

Plan for carving your pumpkin just a day ahead or day of Halloween. If you plan too early, Mother Nature will do her worst.

To combat this, use a bleach and water solution on the inside of the pumpkin, she said, and it will slow down the process of decomposition.

If carving pumpkins isn't the right hands-on tradition for the family, then go another route. Iva Fuzzell, 63, has been decorating pie pumpkins with her grandchildren, Gracie, 5, and Jaden, 9, for eight years now.

Instead of carving pumpkins, they have a kit that turns their cute little pie pumpkin into a Halloween spider.

"It has eyes that glow," Jaden said as she looked through costumes at H-E-B.

The girls build their pumpkin spider with their "Mimi" and "G-Pa" every season, and once it's decorated, the spider sits on the front porch swing and greets all the trick-or-treaters, Fuzzell said.

Most importantly, Wright said, it's important to have fun.

"It shouldn't be too much work," she said.

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