Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.
I know of those who dislike Autumn, though I find that difficult to understand. They see leaves dying, landscapes turning gray. This has never crossed my mind! Fall is a riotous explosion of color. That moment when the party finally gets in full swing. An exclamation point. The Fourth of July spread over an entire month!
Autumn is the busiest of seasons for me, filled with hopes of quieter chilly days to follow. This year has been one of the most difficult of my 40 years. (Yes, I said it, forty!). Hands down the busiest, as if it was even possible to top the last several, but it did. Our son is preparing for college, finishing his Eagle project, and is as super busy as we are. My dear pumpkin hubby, although he is back to health now and working diligently to ensure a smooth pumpkin season, had a heaping hiccup with cancer at the beginning of the year. A million doctor visits and bills later, we are finally beginning to see light, and the doctors have given him a clean bill of health for which we are forever grateful. Our furry herd of felines has done their best to keep our spirits lifted and our toes warm at night. I’ve spent every other second working on a pumpkin portrait commission for a haunt show in St. Louis…and I do mean every second! Seven days a week for months! But it is finished, shipped and on display and I’ll be posting photos for you to see soon!
It is as though the calendar chugged a Red Bull this year. We blinked and almost ten months have passed. All of life feels like that, doesn’t it? Looks like year’s end will be just as busy! Healthier now, we are all moving full steam ahead, and on to new projects! I’ve loved the designs I’ve created for The Pumpkin Lady website, but I’ve longed to bring my creatures to life, and am now doing just that! I hope you will embrace our new sister site, Spinbob Studios! Spinbob Studios is happiness brought to life. It is all the crazy little doodles I’ve scribbled since childhood, sculpted into one of a kind folk art creatures. Each mixed media design is inspired by happy childhood memories of holidays past, furry friends, and just all the little thoughts that tickle me silly!
As you can see, it’s been a crazy year! Thank you for supporting The Pumpkin Lady, and I hope you will follow Spinbob Studios as well for doses of happiness from the playful personalities you’ll find there. Let’s pray that this is the best holiday season we’ve ever had!
I live an odd life. It’s early February. Valentine’s Day is less than two weeks away. Like many, I am thinking fluffy thoughts of love and little red hearts. A Halloween artist by trade, I do try to escape for a bit and celebrate all of the wonderful holidays we have…I’m truly addicted to them all! And yet, even as I embrace another, my warped little mind has to put a little Halloween twist on it! My hearts have bats on them. My Christmas tree has black cat ornaments. Easter has bunnies…with magicians! I dream in polka dots of black and white which naturally leads me to black spiders and white skulls, the perfect complement to any graphic pattern, right? I have Halloween in my heart, pumpkins on the brain, and magic in my step. I can’t help myself and, for that matter, don’t want to! My little world may be a little twisted, a little mad, but that’s exactly how I like it!
In my defense, I quote the movie Alice in Wonderland:
“…you’re mad. Bonkers. Off your head…but I’ll tell you a secret…all the best people are.”
Unlike so many others this winter who have had heaps of snow, we’ve had nothing. NADA! Not a flake, an icicle, or even the hopes of it! What we do have is dreariness. Damp to the bone cold. Drizzly days on a gray landscape. Although there’s always hope on the horizon for February snow, right now, I need a Wintervention!
With Halloween and Christmas eons away, and the flowers of Spring still buried under frosted ground, I turn to my artwork to banish the gray! I crave color, and light, the warmth of holidays and hidden surprises! So, it’s only natural that I use my art to fill my winter home. For YEARS I’ve wanted to take my pumpkin patterns and use them on something other than just pumpkins! And I’m excited to say that I finally have the time to do so! My dreary days are filled with punches of orange and white stars to light the blackened skies. Bats swirl and dip between polka dots. Owls fly across the setting sun and grinning skulls leap off of bot tops. I’m finally able to use my newest toy – an airbrush (thank you dear hubby Jack!) to make my designs come to life. Although I admittedly still struggle with paintbrushes, it’s like the airbrush has opened a doror for me, a whole new world to play in!
So, I’m spending these gray days with luscious color and holiday dreams. I’ve painting on the brain and ideas I’m trying to exhaust so I can begin working on paperclay sculptures next…the main reason I wanted the sirbrush! I have so many ideas I literally cannot sleep at night, and I usually find myself working til 3 or 4 in the morning! But that’s fine with me right now… a little insomnia just means more time to create!
So, creation is my Wintervention…what’s yours?
It. Has Been. A. Crazy Year. That’s actually an understatement! Last fall, I attended a local university full-time to continue my billion-year pursuit of obtaining a degree and, more importantly, learn new skills! On a positive note, I met some truly wonderful people. On the downside, I was literally there 7 days a week, putting in 80-100 hours a week on schoolwork. In the midst of chaos came my Halloween season. It started really well! But then, the website began having problems. Lots of problems! Haven’t been able to blog, site kept going down…honestly, if it wasn’t for wonderful, dedicated Pumpkin Lady fans, I might have thrown in the towel!
In the middle of craziness, have you ever wondered what if the most horrid, worst thing possible happened right then? Well, it did. The site went completely down on my biggest sales weekend of the year. Please understand, I love what I do, but without an income I can’t do it! I have a huge herd of cats to support! This, I’d thought, was always my worst nightmare. And now it was happening. But that wasn’t the most awful part. The stress of it gave my hubby a major health scare. Talk about being down and out!
But here’s the wonderful thing about having the worst thing you can imagine actually happen to you. You realize it’s not the worse thing. Don’t get me wrong, there’s been a lot of Ramen and Mac and Cheese meals since then, due to our income being reduced to nil. Truly scary! But after a trip to the doctor’s, my hubby’s illness was just stress, not the possible stroke we thought it might be. God gave us a warning sign. We are blessed. And my business? We spent the afternoon gnashing teeth, cursing far more than was ladylike, and fighting with hosting companies to no avail. Then we looked at each other, wiped away the tears, and asked, “What next?”
Giving up is not an option. Through it all, we had the most wonderful support from our fans and followers. They didn’t give up on us, so we didn’t either. It’s taken us time to regroup, but I want you to know that we’re still here! Still creating, still dreaming, and still putting the Happy with Halloween! Even better, a whole new wave of inspiration has hit, and design fever has already begun! I’m already creating new patterns for 2012, and taking the designs to a new level….3D! I’m using The Pumpkin Lady pumpkin patterns to create all types of decorative pieces, like the boxes and plaque in today’s blog post. And there will be Paperclay sculptures to show you soon! I hope they inspire you to be creative, be playful, and not be afraid to try something new! Oh! And most importantly, I hope they make you happy!
You’ve made it home from the patch and all your little pumpkins are sitting safe and sound on the porch. Then you open the screen door and the corner nicks the closest pumpkin. Your friendly neighborhood squirrel decides to take a nibble. Juggling your thermos and mail you drop your keys and it leaves a little tiny gash near the stem.
So much for safe and sound little pumpkins!
The second the pumpkin shell is nicked, bacteria starts to grow in the exposed area. Not a big deal the day before Halloween, but if you’re a sucker like I am and buy pumpkins the second their available (I’d buy them in January if I could!) those pumpkins will rot down to mush weeks before trick or treaters knock on your door. What do you do?
Nail polish! Cheap, clear, nail polish! Good for your mani-pedi, good for your little pumpkins! Seal those little gashes immediately and you’ll keep your pumpkin healthy for Halloween, even if it’s weeks away. And don’t worry about that little nick ruining the look of your Jack o’lantern…be an artist and tell people “It’s not a nick, it’s patina!”
We aren’t the only ones who need water…your little pet pumpkin carvings do, too! The second your pumpkin carving is completed it begins to dehydrate. You might not notice it at first, so you go to bed that first night after safely tucking in your little pumpkin, and wake up in the morning glaring at a shriveled up old man. That’s dehydration! All those little closely cut lines are sagging and disintegrating in front of your very eyes and your pumpkin carving bragging rights go down the drain!
However, there is something you can do to slow the process down. Water. Good old H2O. I keep a bottle full of it around during autumn, just for my pumpkins! I also add a few drops of bleach to it as well. First of all, the bleach helps prevent mold, which loves nothing better than fresh cut pumpkin. Second, the water helps rehydrate your carving, keeping those finely carved lines pleasantly plump. Give the carved area a good misting, morning and night…maybe even once or twice during the day if the weather is really warm where you live. Water is the closest thing to wrinkle cream you’ll find for a pumpkin!
Another way to seal in that moisture is to keep your carving covered when not on display. The minute the candle has been blown out, the smoke dispersed and the pumpkin cooled down, mist the pumpkin and then wrap it in plastic wrap! Keep the plastic wrap on until it’s time to either mist it again or place it on display. Plastic wrap seals in the moisture and gives a little longevity to your carving.
Check out other rules for preserving your pumpkin carving on my blog:
And stay tuned for Rule #5 Give Your Pumpkin a Mani-Pedi!
I live in the Mid-Atlantic. This means that during the last week of October, daytime temps could be 60 degrees…or 90! And some of my friends to the North can see temps plummet. Both extremes are harmful to your little pumpkin friend. Heat is a carved pumpkin’s worst enemy! During the day, keep your pumpkin OUT of the sun. A cool basement is best, a place of honor in your refrigerator, or, at the very least, keep it in a shady spot in the yard. Warm temps will dehydrate your pumpkin, making the carving cave, and can accelerate mold growth. And please note: if daytime or nighttime temps drop to freezing or below, get those Jacks inside! Pumpkins will freeze, and once they thaw you have a mushy, soppy, rotten mess. Heat? Nope. Freezing? Fuggeddaboudit. Channel James Dean and keep your pumpkin cool!
Ready for a few more tips? Check out tomorrow’s Rule #4: A Cool Drink of Water.
And if you missed any tips, they’re only a click away!
Welcome to Pumpkin Preservation, Day 2! All this week, we’ll be focusing on how to make your carved pumpkin last as long as possible! (If you missed Rule #1, click to read At the Patch)
Rule #2 It’s All In the Details
If you want a carved pumpkin to last, the pattern you choose can help or hurt the process. The more intricate a carving, the more surfaces are open to the air, releasing moisture which dehydrates the pumpkin. It also provides a greater surface area for mold to grow. In the case of a really detailed carving, let’s say a portrait, those fine little carved lines look fabulous, but will literally start sagging in an Hour! So, if you want a carving to last several days, choose a simple Jack o’Lantern smile or a more simple design. Carving a portrait of great Aunt Ida? Save it for Halloween day, or carve it just a few hours before your party to awe your visitors! If you’re going to spend a lot of time carving a design, you may even want to consider carving an artificial pumpkin instead, so your carved pumpkin will last indefinitely!
Here’s one more way you can “adjust” any pattern you choose to make the finished carving last longer. Instead of carving all the way through the pumpkin shell, use a wood gouge to shave the design into the pumpkin instead. When you expose the inside of a pumpkin to air, the rotting process begins immediately. However, when you only remove the surface of the shell, there is enough of the shell left to prevent the inside of the pumpkin from exposure. When I use this technique, I’ve had my shaved pumpkins last two weeks or longer! The down side is that you won’t be able to light the pumpkin. The upside is that your design will look great all day long and will still look fabulous under bright lights, when a lit pumpkin can’t show off at its best. If you’d like to try this technique, watch The Pumpkin Lady’s free demo video on Shading to get you started!
Be sure to read tomorrow’s blog: Rule #3 If You Can’t Stand the Heat…(or, Keeping Your Pumpkin Calm, Cool, and Collected!).
Every year, I get a LOT of questions about the same thing, “How do I preserve my pumpkin carving?” So, rather than addressing each question individually and not sleeping for the next three weeks, I thought I would just share with everyone! Over the next few days, I’ll share with you my rules for Pumpkin Preservation and what I do when it comes to preserving my own pumpkin carvings. I’ll also let you know what not to do. Let’s get started!
Rule #1 At the Patch:
The type of pumpkin you choose has a lot to do with how fast it will rot once it’s carved. When I choose a pumpkin, I feel the surface and thump it. Yes, I’m the crazy lady at the store or patch knocking on pumpkins! If I want a carving to last, I choose one that practically hurts my knuckles when I knock! It may almost sound like you’re knocking on a door. Press on a few areas of the pumpkin. Does it have a little give? This pumpkin shell is a little softer. It means that although it will be much easier to carve (esp. for newbies!), the softer shell won’t hold up as long once it’s carved and will rot much more quickly. (Warning: If you find a super soft or squishy spot, the pumpkin could be rotting from the inside out! Put it back and choose something else!) So,
Softer shell = much easier to carve (esp. for newbies!), lasts about 1 to 3 days carved
Harder Shell = harder to carve (some feel like carving a rock!), last about 3-7 days carved
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog about how the type of carving pattern you choose affects the life of your pumpkin: Rule #2 It’s All In the Details.
Yes, The Pumpkin Lady has pumpkins year round in her home. In fact, I still have four little white pumpkins around my wood stove, and one Giant 60lb Full Moon pumpkin in my living room. Strike that. I DID have one giant white Full Moon pumpkin in my living room. Until last night….
Certain aromas make one wake up and notice them. Having a herd of cats, the litter box can be one of them. However, myself and a few diligent family members make sure that is usually not the case. So, when around 8 o’clock I smelled something, well, let’s just say not too pretty, I asked my son to check up on his nightly chore of cleaning the litter box. Oddly enough, no surprises there that match the odor now wafting through my house. Literally following me room to room. I’d stop, and then this waft of air would pass, carrying with it the smell of something…decomposing? rotten? Did something die under the house? (living in the country and constantly trying to ward off raccoons, possums, and skunks from taking up residence under my house, this wouldn’t be a big surprise if it happened.)
Then I hear from my son, “Mom, when I went to take the trash out, I stepped in this huge wet spot on the floor, and it smells like vinegar!” Vinegar? Dear Lord, the Hairball Bandit has struck again? If only. We go into the living room and there, at the edge of the area rug, is an ever-growing seeping darkness. I touch it. Bubbles. Alas, no Hairball Bandit…but there is a puddle on the hardwood floor. I look over, and this little puddle is at the end of a Giant River, the Nile, the Amazon, flowing through my living room, where it becomes the Adriatic Sea with the Full Moon Island rising in the middle of it. Quick! Get the lifeboats! Bail, boys, we’re starting to sink!
I shout to my son to grab towels, all that he could find. Now I know that 50lbs of this 60lb pumpkin is FLUID GOO. There is an ocean of rotten pumpkin goo, and a half exploded pumpkin ten feet from the door. I reason that I could turn it on it’s side, and roll it out the door. NOPE. I touch it. It literally POPS. Splits like an alien life form from which I think some minion of The Great Pumpkin is going to pop out and eat my face. Rotten goo joins the ocean of liquid. The only thing that gets dragged out the door is the carpet and padding….did you know that I’m one of the only people in the world with a carpeted driveway? How’s that for luxury?
So, now I have the Sea of Stink, oozing across my floor, and five of seven cats completely fascinated, hurtling themselves in excitement onto the giant cat tree, to the top of the tv, back over the sea, only to begin the process again. The chase has begun. And the splashing. And the wet paws spreading oozy pawprints through the house. Sigh.
An hour, three trash cans, one destroyed carpet and pad, one roll of paper towel, two blankets and six towels later, my floors have been freshly scrubbed and my gag reflex is slowly calming down. I can now shut the windows safely. And seven cats are thrilled, because I had to lay their cat tree on the floor, to dry out the carpeting along the bottom…it has now become an obstacle course and a new game of King of the Mountain. I think I might even leave it that way for awhile.
I was to go shopping today for pumpkins for a new project to add to my website. Please accept my apologies and I hope you understand that it might be a few days before I can stomach the thought of cleaning out pumpkin goo, even if I AM The Pumpkin Lady!
Just wondering….why can’t the same stuff that makes pumpkin pie smell as NICE as pumpkin pie? Now, where’s my cinammon….
And today’s Picture? Sorry, didn’t get a picture of goo…but CVP’s expression over the whole thing? Yeah, that’s what we were feeling, too!