Yes, we DID finally carve our pumpkins!
To be honest, I was quietly hoping to get away without carving pumpkins at all this year, especially after Halloween came and went without the kiddos making a peep about Jack-o-lanterns. However, last week my older daughter, passing by the gorgeous whole pumpkins decorating our front porch, suddenly seemed to notice them for the first time since early October. She did an actual double-take, then shouted, “Hey! When are we going to carve our pumpkins?!?”
Fortunately, the kiddos were perfectly happy with my suggestion that we carve the pumpkins into something appropriate for Thanksgiving, not Halloween, and that’s how we ended up with our leaf-carved pumpkins. They’re festive without being spooky, use real leaves as stencils, and are, thankfully, just as fun to carve as Jack-o-lanterns are.
Here’s how to make them:
1. Collect autumn leaves. Go on a leaf walk around your neighborhood, and collect some nice samples of the autumn leaves around you. The best leaves will be supple, not brittle, and medium-sized or smaller; we did try one giant sycamore leaf on one pumpkin, and although it looks really cool, it’s WAY too big and lets too much light through.
2. Hollow out your pumpkin. Don’t forget to save your seeds to roast or make dehydrated crackers with, and to compost the guts or feed them to the chickens.
Years ago, my Aunt Pam also taught me a neat Jack-o-lantern trick: use a fork to score the underside of the lid piece of the pumpkin, and rub cinnamon into the cuts. The heat of the candle inside will waft a cinnamon scent across your porch every night, and knowing what I know about herbs and oils these days, I wouldn’t be surprised if that cinnamon helped preserve the pumpkin a bit, as well.
3. Stencil the leaves onto the pumpkin. Hold each leaf to the pumpkin and trace around it with a Sharpie. The more leaves you can fit on, the more festive your pumpkin will look, in my opinion, although my kids didn’t carve a ton of leaves, and I still think their pumpkins look pretty cool.
And if you’ve ever been faced with a half-finished Jack-o-lantern and a kid who insists that her hand is just too *tired* to make a mouth, whine whine, you’ll appreciate the fact that you can just as easily be done carving after one leaf as you can after twenty.
4. Cut out the leaves. Yes, that’s my kid wielding a steak knife. I can’t bring myself to buy any of those plastic Jack-o-lantern knife thingies, even though I’ve heard they work great.
Know what also works great? Steak knives.
5. Shine on. We popped our pumpkin back out onto the porch with a rolled beeswax candle inside, and we LOVE how it looks. The kiddos got to carve their pumpkins, I didn’t have to do it with all the other million things that I had to do before Halloween, and it looks like we actually did them Thanksgiving-themed on purpose.
Here’s hoping that next year, I don’t have to come up with a Christmas-themed Jack-o-lantern concept…