Family travel with flair

5 ideas for carving Halloween pumpkins

TweetI love doing Halloween with my daughter here in the UK, especially since it’s still in its infancy. There’s a bit of trick or treating, there are a few parties but the celebrations aren’t over the top, like what can be a consumer-fest in the U.S.  I also find the whole super-gruesome costume thing that adult revelers have embraced creepy in the extreme. But one thing I am glad that has caught on here is creative pumpkin carving. I’ve never been particularly skilled in this regard. You have to get one of those little pumpking carving kits – knives can be unwieldy for fine work. In our neighbourhood I’ve been seeing some impressive versions. Here, my Halloween pumpkin gallery and 5 tips:   Tip 1: Use the natural contours of the pumpkin to create your design. Don’t worry about getting a perfectly shaped gourd. Unusual features can make it more interesting.   Tip 2: Two jack-o-lantern heads can be better than one for a front garden display   Tip 3: Carving a big face that covers a large part of the pumpkin lets out a lot of light for a dramatic display   Tip 4: You don’t need to restrict yourself to traditional faces. Ghost scenes, cats, witch’s hats — all look great carved into your favourite Halloween gourd.   Tip 5: The important thing is to have fun. A simple jack-o-lantern (triangular eyes, blocky mouth) is the easiest to carve with kids. You can always add a scar or a tooth or two.  ...

How to make Halloween sensory boxes

TweetSince I am The American in our circle of friends, certain things are expected of me. I must talk loudly and slap everyone on the back. I’m expected to start wars then appear on aircraft carriers declaring them won. It’s taken for granted I will ruin the world economy. But in addition to all that, it’s a given that I have to kick ass at Halloween. After all, Halloween is one of America’s most recognisable cultural imperialist exports. I can’t just fill a bucket with candy and throw it at passing funny-looking kids who might or might not be in costume. But the whole Halloween in full flower thing, with grownups in really scary costumes and elaborate haunted house set-ups, can be pretty overwhelming, as other Americans will know. Too many adults take this holiday way too seriously. That’s why I was delighted when a friend suggested we organise a joint, low-key kiddie party on Sunday. It just, you know, worked. We started at my house, where 5 girls – 4/5ths of them dressed as witches – ate tortilla chips, tried to take a bit out of an apple hanging on a string (fun for the adults watching too) and danced to Monster Mash, which really should trend on the Top 40 chart at this time every year. The best part were the “scary bowls”. These were like sensory boxes where you stick your hand in and grope whatever you touch. We made up bowls of “worms”, “maggots”, “dried scabs”, “miniature mice” and “veiny eyeballs”, covered the whole thing with a sheet and let the squealing commence. After that, we adults took the girls running-and-screaming trick-or-treating, which just filled me with love for my entire neighbourhood and its pumpkin carving skills. We ended up at my friend’s house, where the dad had made special Halloween cupcakes and we all danced to Lady Gaga. I was also told that my blonde wig looked quite realistic, so I might just take to wearing it all the time. As Ministry says “Everyday is Halloween”. Sensory boxes for Halloween: * Worms – cold cooked spaghetti tossed in olive oil * Maggots – cold cooked rice * Dried scabs – crushed potato chips * Veiny eyeballs – peeled grapes * Miniature mice – pussy willow buds, off the branch Please also note the “scary banana” in the middle of the table, on which my daughter wrote “Booooooooooo”....

The hair-raising world of kids' Halloween costumes

Tweet It's officially autumn: we bought our first bit of Halloween paraphernalia today at the local pound shop. My daughter has been carrying around her string of skull lights all afternoon before setting them up on her bookcase for bedtime. (We then had to turn them off because they were a bit too spooky.) In the past on Alpha Mummy I've written about distasteful "sexy" Halloween costumes for kids. But this year what I'm noticing is just how bizarre some of the costumes are. Forget about "witch" or "cat" or "vampire". Now you have Spider Fairy, Bat Witch, Devil Fairy, Queen of Flames and loads of other permutations that throw in everything vaguely "spooky" with something girly, all manufactured from highly flammable synethic fabrics, and call it a night. Boys costumes tend more toward the old reliables – Werewolf, Pirate, Grim Reaper – but you do occasionally get the completely bizarre, like Skate Punk Zombie. (The most adorable are the baby costumes. The only time your can dress your child like this or this is when they are too young to stop you, so enjoy it now.) Maybe we should blame it on the short attention spans of the young multi-tasking set for the rise of the mash-up Halloween costume. Maybe I'm now just part of the older generation that doesn't get it. I suppose I should just be thankful that, for right now, we have some time left with the inscutable costumes before my daughter advances to the indecent ones. That's when it really gets scary.  ...

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