When it’s time to break out our coziest sweaters and warmest boots (even in California—promise!), we know it’s also time to throw a good old-fashioned pumpkin carving party. It’s our favorite way to kick off fall and a great excuse to have a few friends over. Whether you’re a pumpkin carving newbie or a regular Michelangelo of squash sculpture, it’s always fun to revisit this childhood favorite and really get into the spooky feeling of the season. All it takes are a few basic items, and maybe some Halloween-inspired snacks, to make your guests feel warm, cozy, and like fall is definitely in the air.
What You’ll Need
The Pumpkins!—The most important part! Some parts of California have awesome pumpkin patches like the ones I used to go to as a child, but here in Marin there are only a few, and they’re nothing to write home about. They also tend to close early, so if you’re working a basic 9 to 5 schedule, it’s likely you won’t make it before the pumpkin patch closes for the day. So we discovered it’s best to buy them from our local grocery store. Not only are they cheaper there, but the selection of odd shapes and sizes available is comparable to that of a patch full of pumpkins. We also decided that they seem to last longer coming from the grocer rather than the pumpkin patch. (One year ours were diseased, so by the next morning they were already rotting.) This year we got our pumpkins pretty cheap from CVS, where they have a decent selection.
Carving Kits—The best ones are from Home Depot. They include sturdy tools that don’t break on you halfway through.
Guts Bag—Enough said—this is just a plastic or paper bag to put the pumpkin innards into.
The Good Ideas:
Newspaper or Cardboard—Spread newspaper on the floor or whatever surface you plan to carve on. I think it goes without saying, but this helps make the cleanup a breeze.
A Halloween Movie—We always have an old Halloween movie playing in the background while we carve our pumpkins. This time we went with The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Addams Family.
Spiked Apple Cider—For me, this is a must. My recipe uses spiced rum, like Captain Morgan, mulling spices (usually found near the tea section in the grocery store), and fresh apple cider (usually found near the produce; if you can’t find fresh cider, bottled cider works too). To spike your cider, simply combine the cider and mulling spices in a pot and let steep, following the directions on the package of spices. Then add rum as desired. Optionally, you can also add a splash of caramel-flavored vodka for a taste of a childhood favorite. It’s nice to make a big batch of this cider in a slow cooker and set out a ladle along with the booze for people spike to their own liking. Plus, the slow cooker keeps the cider warm without the hassle of making it in batches or having to reheat it.
Extra Pumpkin Accessories—Just take a walk down the holiday aisle of any drugstore like CVS or Walgreens, or a craft store like Michael’s, to find fun new things to add to your pumpkins, carved or not. We’ve had fun with strobe lights, flashing evil eyes, wigs, and more.
Seasonal Candles—Because we love the fall so much, as soon as the fall-scented candles hit the shelves, we stock up. Our favorite candle is “Leaves” from Bath and Body Works.
Decorations—We put up a bunch of our fall decor and some extra Halloween decorations, which you’ll find on our other 10 Nights of Pumpkins posts!
And this pumpkin carving party is just the beginning of our 10 Nights of Pumpkins countdown to Halloween. Coming up you’ll find more tips and tricks for making the most of this fun and spooky holiday. In the mean time, let us know your carving party tips, or maybe even some of your favorite pumpkin carving designs. When it comes to decorating pumpkins, the sky’s the limit!