Thursday, October 9, 2014

It's a Hodgepodge Kind of Day...but mostly...PUMPKINS!

Let's talk Halloween...and (of course) pumpkins.

The last couple of days have not been project friendly. I've been working on a pile of Halloween and fall themed projects to share, but ran into a snag on Tuesday night. Apparently, I am impatient. (I know, right? Who knew?) When you spray a second coat of spray paint over a not quite dry layer, bad things happen. And then there is cursing, much cursing.

This is where I sat as of last night. I needed to sand and paint the second coat (on two separate pieces, mind you), but I totally lacked the energy. So instead, I sat down and watched the rest of the final season of How I Met Your Mother. It was lovely. Oh...and I cried. Drat.

Then I received a little bit of a pick me up. I was getting ready to shut down for the night, but took a quick detour to Facebook. It was there that I found Erin had tagged me in a post. It was a pumpkin post, but I didn't think anything of it at first. I love pumpkins and everyone knows it, so my friends frequently tag me in stuff they think I'll like.

I clicked over.

Imagine my surprise to find that our very first pumpkin display (from way back in 2011) had been selected as one of the "17 Insanely Creative Pumpkin Carvings That Will Blow Your Mind" over at Can You Actually. Three years later, this crazy bit of fun is still cruising around the web. I love it.

Planning is still heavily underway for this year's theme of The LEGO Movie. I need to start picking up pumpkins over the next week so that I can decide just how big scale we get to go. We'll have at least 28 pumpkins to work with, but if the budget allows then we'll have a few more sprouting up in the design. (I have too many ideas...if only there were unlimited funds for this fun.)

For now though, how about a few answers to the most popular questions about our Halloween displays?


1. By far the biggest much does this cost you?

The total varies a little bit from year to year, but we try to keep things within reason. The average expense for the whole display is around $50. I shop for the deals on the pumpkins and typically don't pay more than $0.13 per pound. Last year, we only paid $20. I got some from my aunt and uncle's place, some from my own yard, and then made a spanking deal with one of the local farms and got 20 pumpkins for $20.

Beyond pumpkins, we do have some miscellaneous supply costs each year. This includes the dowels to construct the pumpkin characters in the yard, spray paint for special coloring, and miscellaneous pieces and parts. These pieces typically get recycled from year to year. (The spray paint often gets used for other projects throughout the the three currently sitting in my garage waiting for a sanding.) This year we'll have a small additional expense ($15-20) for a few upgrades we're taking on, but they should last us several years. Totally worth it.

2. How long does the carving take you?

The preparation and assembly typically takes about a week. I start gutting pumpkins around 5-6 days prior to the big event. Before that, we're usually working on non-perishable parts. Once pumpkins are gutted, I draw all of my faces/body parts/etc. for carving. I typically don't start cutting until the majority of this is done. The longer I can wait to cut into them, the better they look on Halloween night. Each individual carving can take as little as twenty minutes to nearly two hours. Remember Jack? He took a long time.

3. How do you keep the pumpkins looking good?

Like I said earlier, I minimize the aging of my pumpkins by carving them as close to Halloween as possible. However, we always like them to stay looking good for a few days after so any stragglers can come by and see them. To do this, I'm a firm believer in petroleum jelly. I've tried a few things over the years, but this seems to work best. I coat any exposed surfaces (inside and out) with the jelly. If the pumpkin isn't going up in the yard just yet, I try to keep it wrapped in a garbage sack afterwards to minimize air exposure. Typically, I reapply the petroleum jelly as needed every other day or so. Our pumpkins usually look pretty good for about 7-10 days. After that, things start to sag and wilt.

4. How do you choose the themes?

It's all pretty random. The first year was just because of an obsessive love of the Calvin and Hobbes snowmen comics. After that, we took to polling family and friends. The second year was a suggestion from Katherine at my office. Last year was my choosing, just because. This year...well...we just really like The LEGO Movie. Darian is obsessed with LEGOs and I got the added bonus of getting the song from the movie stuck in my sister-in-law's head for a few days, so that was fun.

5. Does this increase your trick-or-treater volume?

We've seen a small increase in trick or treating at our house, but nothing major. Our street stays pretty busy since we seem to get kids bussed in from all over the area. In a typical year, we go through about 4-5 of the large bags of candy from Costco. It can get a bit nuts.

6. What do your neighbors think?

Our neighbors actually love it. The first year, the neighbors across the street came over to tell me that I shouldn't expect them to keep up with us. Since then, they all come over to check out the progress on the days leading up to the big reveal and they all stop by on Halloween night. This year, we have some new neighbors who moved into crazy neighbor's old house, so we'll see what they think. They're pretty awesome, so I think they'll enjoy it.

7. Why do you do this?

Halloween is my favorite holiday. Seriously, I love it. More than Christmas and more than my birthday. I get excited for Halloween beginning in about June. I'm giddy just thinking about it.

It's also the day that Collin and I had our first eight years ago. We love doing this as a family and it's really fun to see it all come together. It's nice to have family members who enjoy it as much as I do. I'd probably do it even if we only had a small handful of trick-or-treaters each year. I just enjoy it so much.

And now that I'm totally psyched about Halloween, I'll get back on the horse and finish up some of those projects tonight. The work day needs to go quickly. I'm ready to get my craft on!

Do you have any questions about our pumpkin carving craziness? I'm happy to answer them. Oh, except revealing more about this year's plan. That...well...that you have to wait for.


  1. I love that you do this! And thanks so much for the petroleum jelly trick-we enter our school's pumpkin contest every year and our pumpkin always looks so wilted :P I'm going to try the jelly this year!

    1. Good luck! You'll have to let me know if it works for you.

  2. hi elle!! :) it's awesome that u're son is a reader. I feel like it takes work on mom's part to make him /him a book lover. looks like u're doing okay with ure son!!! So, I am running the Book Blog awards this year and wanted to let you know nominations have been extended and are now open until october 12th. There are 13 awards up for grabs. You may nominate your own blog or ask your readers to nominate you. Readers vote on November 15th.

    Please leave a comment on my blog or tweet me @emancipatedmimi to get the badge to add to your site. You may use it to encourage your readers to vote for your blog on Nov 15th. The awards are intended to be fun and exciting, and get your blog some exposure as well. Hope you will join =) I'm usually on twitter so tweet me anytime with questions or comments =)

    official announcement video:
    NOMINATE here:
    VOTE HERE on Nov 15:

    1. Thanks for visiting! I've been really lucky with Dar being so great about reading. Now...if only he were as good about doing his homework without putting crap off until the last minute...

    2. haha I feel ya :) I've taught for 6 years I know how it can be!! if you put the work in and be consistent he'll do fine :)

  3. I like this post! Really, for the extent of your displays, $50 doesn't seem excessive to me at all! Thanks for answering all those questions. Some of them I had actually wondered about. Petroleum jelly? Who knew!

    1. That's totally what I think! This is our one big blowout for the year. Now...we'll see if I pull it off this year.


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