With Halloween arriving next month, many people are already planning or making their Halloween costumes. One of the things I often get asked by friends to come up with is ideas for couples Halloween costumes. So without further ado, here’s a list of a few classic (and a few not so classic) ideas for couples Halloween costumes.
It’s getting close to pumpkin carving day, so thought I’d share a few pumpkin carving tips I’ve picked up throughout my carving years. Continue reading
’tis the month of magic, so here are a few Halloween decoration ideas for the season. Continue reading
As someone who has carved more than 1,000 pumpkins over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at picking out which ones will make the best carvers. So here are a few tips for choosing the perfect pumpkin. Continue reading
Who doesn’t love apple cider? That cold, sweet fresh-pressed taste of homemade apple cider is a plus at any family gathering, but it’s even better when the cider itself is the gathering. Continue reading
The pumpkins are ripe, the leaves are turning, and the autumn equinox is just passed. Seems like a good time to break out the Halloween cards. Continue reading
I’m probably not actually quite as obsessed with the Hunger Games as I appear to be (I save that for Legend of the Seeker), but I have to admit that I am having a lot of fun with the mockingjay symbol. I realize it’s not exactly a Halloween image, but I couldn’t resist. It was so perfect, it was just screaming to be carved.
To make the pattern, just print out a black and white image of the mockingjay symbol, then add an extra circle around the entire pattern, leaving in the black and cutting out the white.
Anybody who ever watched Hocus Pocus probably recalls Alison telling how Halloween is based on “All Hallow’s Eve” to refute Max’s conspiracy theory of Halloween having been invented by the candy companies. But where did All Hallows Eve and the belief that it was the night when spirits roamed the earth come from? The origins of that date back even further to an old European Celtic celebration called Samhain.
Samhain (pronounced sow-in in Gaelic) literally meant “Summer’s End,” as the Celts recognized only two seasons, summer and winter. (Samhain’s counterpart Gamhain or “Winter’s End” took place in early May, a tradition which evolved into the current May Day celebrations). Samhain occurred when the sun reached 15 degrees Scorpio, known as a “cross-quarter day.” It was the last harvest festival and was considered the Celtic New Year.
The Celts believed that darkness was a beginning. Just as they held that a day began at sunset rather than sunrise, so too did they believe a new year should begin as the seasons were going into a time of rest and darker days (longer nights). Being the new year, the Celts also believed that on Samhain night, beings from the spirit world could come out and mingle with the living. Hence the legends of zombies and witches and such that are associated with our present-day Halloween. Continue reading
This is a slideshow of the 220 pumpkins my brother, sister, and I used to carve for our annual end of the harvest Pumpkin Fest; everything from witches and skeletons to Lord of the Rings and Jimi Hendrix. We’d also go crazy decorating our house with anything we’d seen in a magazine. (Yes, we were kind of insane back then). Unfortunately everybody in the family got busy and we had to stop having the Pumpkin Fests due to lack of time. It sure was fun though.
Originally published October 18th, 2012 by Amber Reifsteck
I know it’s still September, but does that mean it’s too early for Halloween soaps? I sure hope not, because I’m having way too much fun making these to stop now.
I found some new molds made of that flexible silicon stuff I am SO in love with (it’s so much easier than trying to work with plastic molds) and they are just right for the upcoming season. Plus I also had a request again for the “spider soaps” I made last year in October, so I figured as long as I was doing spider soaps, I might as well do Jack-o-lantern soaps as well. The two kinds together having a rather charming, albeit slightly creepy (we have the spiders to thank for that) effect.
We also started harvesting our Jack-be-little gourds and all the various hybrids with different names, (but which look quite similar to Jack-be-littles making it easier to simply refer to them all as “Jacks”). So I will be bringing my flowered gourds to Canandaigua this weekend if I have enough time to finish them between now and then. I know several people have been looking for them. So wish me time (I need it more than luck at the moment!)
I think my cows’ favorite time of year are the post Halloween weeks. Not only do they get all the moldy jack ‘o lanterns, but they also get all the left-over squash, gourds and pumpkins that weren’t carved or sold at the market. Before we make bovine meals out of the unused orange fruits, however, we always cut them open to save the seeds.
Seed saving is a great way to get a jump start on the following year, as it means not having to order from the seed company and wait for the seeds to arrive. Best of all, the seeds you save yourself are free. Seed saving can also produce some very odd squash and pumpkin varieties when seeds are saved from different types that were perhaps grown too closely together in a particular year. And if you save your seeds year after year, you’ll always know what type of pumpkins you have.
If you want pumpkins and squash that will be true to seed, try a quick internet search to be sure that the seeds from your particular pumpkin won’t revert back the mothering gene. As makes sense, take seeds from the pumpkins you want to produce. If you want big pumpkins next year, take them from big pumpkins this year, if you want smaller pumpkins next year, take them from smaller pumpkins this year. Of course growing conditions will always have a large affect on pumpkins, but it’s best to at least start with what you want if hope to have a chance of finishing with what you want.
To save seeds, fill a dish with lukewarm water. Cut a pumpkin in half and start pulling out the seeds with your fingers. Only take seeds that are plump and unsprouted, avoid any thin, papery seeds. Put the seeds into the bowl of water and knead them through the liquid to wash them free of the pumpkin gook.
Lay parchment paper on a cookie tray. Using your fingers as a strainer, pull handfuls of pumpkin seeds out of the dish and spread them across the cookie tray. Leave the cookie tray in dry area and stir the seeds around every few days to ensure that they dry evenly. Once completely dry, store the seeds in a canning jar until spring planting.
As an added bonus, when you’re saving seeds, you can also make a healthy snack of roasted pumpkin seeds, or wait until the seeds are dry and cover them in chocolate.
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf
When it comes to carving pumpkins, my brother, sister and I are maniacs. We spend the entire year collecting silhouettes that will make good new patterns, and carve dozens of the fruits come Halloween. This year was a little different, however. Due to time constraints we carved relatively few. I’ve only carved 5 pumpkins (a huge drop from the 200+ my siblings and I used to carve in a week), and only created one new pattern this year. Even so, I rather enjoyed the new pattern so I’d thought I’d share it.
Legend of the Seeker is the only television show I watch, but I’m basically obsessed with it, so I decided to do a Legend of the Seeker pumpkin. I took the poster silhouette of the confessor, the seeker, the mord sith, and the wizard all standing together and carved the space out around them to make a suitable pumpkin pattern. I thought it was appropriate considering I’m going as the confessor for Halloween. Here’s the finished product; I’m going as the one on the left.
Kahlan, Richard, Cara, & Zedd
This was the poster I used as the pattern; it’s one of the Save Our Seeker campaign posters (somebody please pick up this awesome show). I nixed the rest of the poster and just used the silhouettes of the main four characters as the pattern for the pumpkin. To carve it, just draw a circle around the people and carve out around the figures, leaving them standing in the pumpkin.
Everyone instantly recognizes the familiar signs: witches on broomsticks, black cats, spiders. We wait for the costumed trick-or-treaters to come knocking at our doors requesting sweets (well, out here in the country, we wait, but they never actually come). Carved jack o’ lanterns adorn every doorstep. This is Halloween, one of the most beloved Holidays in America.
For many people it is a day to step into costume and become someone else entirely. For others it is an excuse to show off their artistic talents carving squashes. And for still other it is an opportunity to perform mischievous pranks in effort to scare the living daylights out of another person. For most it is a holiday to celebrate the spirit of fun, though there are a few people here and there who condemn it as an evil holiday due to its emphasis on magic. Nothing could be further from the truth, however, as many of the more “evil” symbols associated with the holiday came centuries after the original celebrations.
Hundreds of years before Christ, the Celts ruled Europe. Like many of the ancient cultures, the Celts had holidays celebrating the changing of the seasons. Of all those holidays, the most import was the end of the year festival.
The ancient Celts recognized only two actual seasons, summer and winter. They also felt that the start of the day was at sunset rather than sunrise and consequently that the start of the new year should be during the darker months of the year. In the Celtic calendar, the end of summer, and thus the end of their year, occurred when the sun reached 15 degrees Scorpio. The festival was called Samhain, which was Gaelic for “summer’s end.” This date is roughly around October 31.
Samhain night was a time of remembrance of the dead, as the Celts believed that on the last day of the year, doors were opened into the Otherworld. This could also be a very scary time as the Celts feared that evil demon spirits might be able to pass freely through the open gates as well. In effort to keep evil spirits away, the Celts would dress themselves as demons and lead huge parades out into the hinterlands in hopes that any evil spirits would follow them and stay out of the villages, while the good spirits would easily be able to remember the way to their former homes. This custom eventually became the trick-or-treating we have today.
As the Celtic new year, Samhain was one of only two days that people could extinguish their hearth fires (the other day was Gamhain, now often known as May Day, which meant “winter’s end.”) It was considered unlucky to let the fire go out any other time of year. The druids (Celtic priests) would build huge bonfire on top of hills to give thanks for the bountiful harvests of the light half of the year and to encourage the sun to return after the dark half of the year. It was considered very good luck for people to restart their hearth fires with coals taken from the druids’ bonfires. The Celts would carry the coals home in hollowed out turnips. To keep any evil spirits at bay, they would carve scary faces in the turnips, a practice which eventually evolved into our current tradition of carving pumpkins.
With the coming of Christianity, the holiday began to change. The Christians originally planed to convert everyone and leave the old ways behind, but they soon found that some of the Celtic customs could not be so easily washed out. Knowing that the Celts would never embrace the Christian faith as long as they still held so closely to their own traditions, the Christians decided to meld the Celtic beliefs with their own in a sort of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” effort to ensure that the Celts would be converted. The two most notable examples of this were the greatly revered Irish goddess Brigid, who the Christians turned into their St. Brigit, and Samhain, which the Christians turned into All Hallow’s Eve.
Keeping with Celtic tradition, the Christian holiday of All Hallow’s Eve was the one night of the year when the spirits of the dead could walk the earth. However, they gave this holiday the set day of October 31 to remove the pagan astrological associations. They also labeled the druids as devil worshipers to prevent them from restoring the original holiday traditions. (There is no devil in Celtic belief) In time the new holiday’s name was shortened to Hallow’een (this spelling is often seen on vintage Halloween postcards), and eventually the apostrophe was removed altogether giving us the Halloween spelling we have now.
As time progressed, different generations and cultures have added their own traditions to the holiday giving us the familiar celebrations we have now. Perhaps this year as we carve our pumpkins and don our costumes, we should take time to reflect on those people so long ago who did the very same things. In doing so, we will be remembering those who have gone before us, and thus we will be celebrating the day just as they did so long ago, albeit without the fear of evil spirits.
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf
There is something absolutely irresistible about vintage Halloween decorations. They have a charm that no other vintage holiday trimmings can match. The best example of these delightful vintage Halloween items are not even decorations, but postcards of a lost time when people used to send as many Halloween (or Hallowe’en as it was spelled at the turn of the century) cards as Christmas cards. They represent the true era of Halloween, when the holiday was about parties, and trick or treating in costumes, and just fun games of the season.
There are no frightful demons, evil monsters, or psychopathic murderers, just good clean Halloween fun. Witches and black cats are often shown in a mischievous manner, but never in the evil ways horror films of today portray. The most well known Halloween postcard artist was Ellen Clapsaddle. She’s also one of the most popularly collected artists today, no doubt due to the absolutely adorable images of children, jack ‘o lanterns, and friendly witches.
While I don’t collect original cards (I would rather send the money to Heifer Project), I do love the images scanned onto the internet. Here are a few of my favorites that bring back a sense of good old fashioned Halloween, the way it should be.
“There are 3 things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.” Familiar words to anyone who likes Charlie Brown. Continue reading