Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Great Pumpkin Carving: Part 2

This Halloween, I was reminded of how easy it is to host a pumpkin carving.  These parties naturally lend themselves to great success with minimal effort.  They can be as fancy or as simple as the host desires while innately offering entertainment for all ages.  Here is how we did it if you would like to throw a pumpkin carving yourself:

THE GUESTS:  We hosted the carving at our home.  Because we don't have a lot of space, we limited the invitations to our closest friends.  In considering who to invite, remember that, especially the first year, about 1/4 of the invitation list will not come.  But, if your carving becomes a tradition, be aware that people will often plan ahead for it and your number of guests may increase. 

THE TIME:  You should begin your party before dark considering that you will need time for guests to arrive and carve pumpkins ideally finishing around the time of dark so that you can sit back and admire the lit pumpkins. We usually begin around 4.  This allows 30 minutes for appetizers and late arrivals then another hour or so for carving before the sun begins to set. 

THE FOOD:  While a potluck would work beautifully for this party, I always cook safe food for parties where we will have a number of children.  I do this because it is impossible to watch what the kids are eating then touching or what parents feed the kids before they play with a toy.  I try to keep our house a safe-haven for our angel.  A place she can live and play freely without worry.  By cooking all of the food and planning safe foods for everyone, we all enjoy the party much more.

This year, we had Bacon-wrapped Asparagus, Smoked Salmon Crepes, Ham and Chives Wraps and an Edible Arrangement for appetizers.  All of these foods were free off all major allergens including corn.  I will post recipes for these in weeks to come.  For dinner, we had Pork and Pumpkin Stew over rice.  I had whole, washed fruit out as edible decorations and water, apple juice, beer, tea and coffeee to drink.

THE ENTERTAINMENT:  The pumpkin carving is the highlight of the party.  Guests are asked to bring their own pumkin and carving tools, although I always have extra in case someone forgets theirs.  Before the guests arrive, I gather pumpkins, large tarps, a few bricks, carving tools and stencils, a seed bowl and trash bags.  I place these in a bucket or wagon so that they are ready when we are. 

When it is time to carve, the guests help place large tarps in the driveway with bricks to hold down the corners.  I place a variety of carving tools from saws, knives, wood carving instruments etc on a tray.  You may print jack-o-lantern stencils off of the internet for those who need a little help but I have found that most people go at it the old-fashioned way.  I provide bowls for the seeds and trash bags for the extra parts.  Then, I help everyone find work space and the fun begins.  I have found that most guests are timid at first.  However, once the hosts get down and dirty on the tarp, the guests soon feel at home and dig in. 

THE GAMES:  The little angels will help with the pumpkins for a little while, but eventually their attention turns elsewhere.  This year, I prepared an outdoor relay to help the angels burn up some energy before dinner then some crafts to keep their attention while inside.

For the relay, I had enough legs to the race so that each adult could man a station while one took pictures and I oversaw the process.  This relay works best for ages 2-7 with the adaptions for ages 5-7 in parenthesis. 
  1. Grab an oversized t-shirt from the bag and put it on (pants, too, with socks on their hands).
  2. Jump through hula hoops lined up on the ground (on one foot).
  3. Roll a pumpkin to the wagon and put it in the wagon (carry the pumpkin on your head to the wagon).
  4. Get a "wart" - large jewel sticker - from an adult, chase the "witch" -an adult wearing a witches hat - and put the "wart" on the "witch" - the witch may run ("witch" runs more for older kids).
  5. Take off clothes and put in bag.
Not surprisingly, the kids didn't eat much and they were soon ready for crafts!  I gave the kids a giant pumpkin cutout and told them about "The Great Pumpkin" as seen in the movie "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown."  Then, I gave them a basket full of harvest themed stickers, glue, scissors,  and a big sheet of paper so that they could decorate their pumpkin, a pumpkin patch and even cut out jack-o-lantern faces to put on them.  I had  also had a basket of masks and decorative headbands for the kids to play with when they finished their pumpkins.  Once that was done, I turned on the movie "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" so that they could hear the whole story. 

THE RESULTS:  Everyone enjoyed the outdoor activities and the adults got into the relay race as much as the kids!  The indoor activities worked out well also.  While the adults were enjoying conversation, I could engage in the conversation while periodicaly slipping out to re-engage the kids.  I think these crafts were the real "saver" since a party with small kids can often be crazy as they search from something new to entertain them or an adult to direct them.

The food also seemed to be a hit.  However, I underestimated how hungry people would be when they arrived and after pumpkin carving. The appetizers were polished off and most of the Edible Arangement eaten.  At dinner, the soup went over well, but I felt that something heavier was needed.  In hind-site, I might offer the soup as an appetizer, too.  It would warm everyone up before heading out to work on their pumpkins.  After carving, I would again offer the soup but would probably add something heavier to the mix like chicken fingers and potato wedges with a salad.  For dessert, I think that the fruit was fine but I would also probably offere a bowl of safe candy for those with a sweeter tooth.

As we said goodbye to our guests and headed back inside, my husband and I agreed that the party went off without a hitch.  Every time that we do a pumpkin carving, we have the same feeling.  People enjoy themselves, we don't have to do as much work as for other parties and we can easily imagine doing it again.

It was a great party!  We had such a good time carving pumpkins, playing games and eating good food.  The Great Pumpkin Carving party will probably become a tradition for us here just as it did in the midwest. I know that we are already looking forward to the next year.

1 comment:

  1. sounds like a blast! We loved your carving parties and every other party/eating time! :-) Glad to see old traditions still alive with a few new twists!!