Pumpkin Projects

This Halloween I was challenged to a pumpkin carving competition.

With the gauntlet thrown we each set about with uncompromising secrecy to create the ‘classiest pumpkin lantern’ and fashion ways to use all the entrails productively.

I turned to my secret weapon, the Pumpkin King of Bolton.

Marie's Florists Bolton

Marie’s Florists, Bolton

PUMPKIN KING

If you’ve walked down Wigan Road or Deane Church Lane recently you may have seen his work at Marie’s Florists (309 Wigan Rd, Bolton, BL3 5QX). If you haven’t been yet you really should check them out before they go all mushy. Seriously, look at his Alien Attack carving below… His work is amazing.

Mars Attack - Maries Florist Bolton - Manchester Meanders

See Mars Attack and 12 others by The Pumpkin King at Marie’s Florist in Bolton

I knew I could never compete with his awesome carving skills but it didn’t stop me asking for his lantern advice and for a photograph or two to intimidate the competition with.

As he’s such a great guy he wrote me an essay of carving instructions with hints, tips and photos from last year. I considered sharing these with you before Halloween, but knowing that at least one of my opponents reads this blog (you know who you are) I couldn’t risk them getting any ideas, such was the competitiveness between us. (There was a bottle of red wine at stake you know!).

I won’t reveal all his instructions but here are a few tips that made things easier:

PUMPKIN ADVICE

  1. Buy the pumpkins early. When they
    Competitors Guinness Pumpkin lantern - Manchester Meanders

    A happy Irish pumpkin submitted by one competitor

    appear in the shops they’ve already been off the vine for about a month and you don’t want to risk them going mouldy (or selling out). PK and I both bought ours from Asda for £1 each.

  2. Forget your kitchen knives. Invest in a craft knife plus either a saw blade (for cuts) or scalpel blade (for peels). Remember it’s a lot easier and safer if you use sharp blades. (I bought a £3 set from the Works in the Arndale Centre).
  3. If you’re lighting your masterpiece with a candle try coating the lid with a pinch of each of the following spices: ground cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice and nutmeg. It smells fantastic when the lantern is lit.
  4. To stop the carvings from drying out coat the flesh with Vaseline / petroleum jelly. It’s a messy job and the jury’s out on how effective it is but it’s worth a shot if it might make them last longer.
  5. Lastly, (and possibly most importantly) if you’re carving ‘cut though’ don’t push anything through until you’ve done the whole carving. Those little pieces stop it from distorting and damaging anything delicate whilst you work.

MY CARVINGSOwl pumpkin lantern by Sammy Dee Manchester Meanders

The first one I carved was this owl.

I was astonished at how well it worked out. I didn’t expect the spooky glow around the moon and branches, which was caused by the thickness of the remaining flesh. I had assumed the flesh would need to be thin to make it work so I’m glad I didn’t ‘finish’ carving it before viewing it with the lights off.

Witches Brew pumpkin lantern by Sammy Dee Manchester MeandersEYE OF NEWT

A few nights later I carved a witch making a newt brew. I hollowed and carved this design quite aggressively so it only took half the time of the owl lantern. I only needed to submit one pumpkin to the competition so in my mind it didn’t matter if it wasn’t neat. I could have done more with it but as it was an extra I hoped it wasn’t necessary.

TECHNIQUE

(In case you were wondering how I created the two tone effect it’s done by switching between the cut though and peel techniques. To make the face darker and spooky I peeled the pumpkin’s skin off rather than cutting all the way through).

PUMPKIN IN A PUMPKIN

Headless horseman pumpkin lantern by Sammy Dee Manchester MeandersFinally, getting a little bored with the project I roughly carved a headless horseman thowing his flaming pumpkin head.

I know I should have tidied the flesh up a little before taking the photograph but by this stage I was just glad it was coming to an end. I bought 4 pumpkins so I had to use them all. I hadn’t expected my first attempt to work so well.

I enjoyed the competition but it was a lot of hard work. It took me 5 hours to carve the owl; 2 and a 1/2 hours for the witch and finally 90 minutes for the horseman. That’s 9 hours of work excluding research and planning. I don’t know how the Pumpkin King has the patience to carve 13 (or more) lanterns each year.

Pumpkin Gingernut Parfait by Sammy Dee Manchester MeandersPRODUCTIVE ENTRAILS

Of course the carving was only part of the project: The rules stated that all of the entrails had to be used productively.

So for the next month we’ll be eating pumpkin soup, pumpkin curry, pumpkin pie, pumpkin chutney, roasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin gingersnap parfait (pictured).

PUMPKIN GIN

Brewing Pumpkin Gin / Pumpkin WineIn the unlikely event that we didn’t have enough pumpkin in our diets this autumn another friend suggested I make pumpkin gin. It all sounded simple enough: cut off the lid, remove the seeds, fill it with sugar, re-seal the lid with paraffin wax, leave it for 30 days then crack the pumpkin open and enjoy.

Two weeks have passed and I haven’t seen or heard a single bubble from the airlock. We’ve been advised to view the pumpkin gin bomb with extreme suspicion. The Pumpkin King says it’s waiting for me to turn my back on it before it detonates and coats my kitchen in yeasty smelling orange goo. I’ll let you know how it turns out…

And just so you know, I did win a bottle of wine 😉

Did you carve a pumpkin this year? How are you using the pumpkin flesh? Are you trying to make pumpkin gin or have you tried it in the past?

All comments are welcome 🙂

My Manchester in 52 words

Our balcony overlooks the Northern Quarter; a heritage site, the original Victorian centre. Red brick buildings and rooftops interspersed with flourishing trees give way to high-rises beyond. I glimpse the Pennines and wind farms in the distance. I smile. Sometimes we watch fireworks or glowing paper lanterns. It’s peaceful here: Quiet.

SammyDee, 23 Feb 2012

52 WORDS

NQLovesYouEdgeStreetChris Smith and Liz Peel from Finding Manchester are embarking on the mammoth challenge of visiting 52 Manchesters in 52 weeks in 5 continents. It’s a fantastic project inspiring people to reach out and connect with other communities around the world, as well as encouraging people to share their own experiences closer to home.

Chris interviewed me at the Manchester Museum earlier this year, so Manchester Meanders could be ‘placed into the Manchester Box’. This ‘Box’ will travel with them around the world help them explain what it is like to live right here, right now, in Manchester UK.

Contact Chris Smith

Follow Finding Manchester on Facebook and Twitter.

I’m already in the box but there is an opportunity for you to get inside the box too: by entering the 52 word challenge.

The challenge is simple…In 52 words, what does your Manchester mean to you?

You’ve read my first attempt at the challenge and you can read a few more of my ideas below.

But first, here are the rules:

CLAIM A PLACE IN HISTORY

The competition is open to everyone. Thirteen entries will be selected from each of the four age groups, so there will be 52 winners in total.

Entries can be short factual stories, poems, parables, songs or anything else as long as they are exactly 52 words in length. (For simplicity, hyphenated words count as two words).

The winners will claim their place in history by having their reflections entered into the Manchester City Archive Repository for perpetuity. How often does an opportunity like that come along?

Will you write something? Go on, try it. How hard can 52 words be?…

Here are three more of my quick attempts:

When I joined the Duck Race I imagined real ducks, not yellow plastic rubber duckies. I should have guessed. How could they herd thousands of birds along the River Irwell? They’d fly away, surely? Spectators line the banks of Spinningfields, laughing, watching them bob. We cheer for wind to float them along.

SammyDee, 23 Feb 2012

Manchester’s first Duck Race was held on a scorching hot spring day. There was barely a breeze so we cheered for 40 minutes getting sunburned whilst they barley moved 10 meters. At one point they even moved backwards.

Manchester Duck Race

Photo: Thanks to MEN Media

The Duck Race is a fun but bizarre family-friendly day out with decent Manchester based prizes. Sponsoring a Duck costs from just £1 per duck (more for businesses) and the money raised goes to a children’s charity. This year they DID herd real ducks! (Technically, they were geese). Did you sponsor a ducky?

Whose idea was Pub Golf? A cocktail here, a pint there: I don’t normally mix my drinks. I’d rather sit and chat if I’m honest. It’s a good way to see new bars I suppose. Drink up: next venue. An eight-hole ‘course’ and I’m seven over par. The costumes are overkill.

SammyDee, 23 Feb 2012

Pub Golf is on my Day Zero list but I’ve been putting it off. I’m fully resigned to the idea of coming last: Who wants to get so drunk they can’t stand up anyway? It’s the [optional] dressing up, having a giggle with friends and visiting new bars that counts. I will play it, one day. Probably.

Festival season again: So much to see and do! Parades, Markets, Street theatre, Concerts: I want to do them all! I plan the weekend meticulously. It’s the only way, I think. There’s never enough time. I’ll probably get side tracked as the crowds swallow me up. I rarely stick to the plan.   

SammyDee, 23 Feb 2012

Manchester Galleon at the Manchester Day Parade

Manchester Day Parade

Regular readers will know my my plans change frequently. (Fantastic Frantic Festival Season, the £50 weekend challenge and my attempt to follow the Art Crawl are a few examples). It’s good to have a plan but you don’t have to stick to it. Plans get you out of the house and into scenarios where you can be spontaneous. Does that make sense?

So, in 52 words, what does your Manchester mean to you?

All comments are welcome 🙂

(Enter the competition here)

Mini Challenge (Win a prize!)

101 in 1001 LogoSince beginning the Day Zero Project on the 7th August last year I have completed 22 challenges.

Twenty-two Challenges!

In theory I should complete a challenge every 10 days, which puts me four challenges ahead of schedule. That’s not bad seeing as I didn’t complete any for two months in the middle.

(OK, so I progressed some of the longer challenges during that time, I just didn’t complete any).

COMPETITION TIME!

ManchestersArtisticSon has his own Project Day Zero List but he’s in a slump. In an attempt to motivate himself to complete his tasks he has posted a competition to let readers have a go at some of his challenges.

The 10 challenges are: 

  • 3. Have an art exhibition. (Even if it’s just in your own home). 
  • 9. Make and encouraging / motivational banner and anonymously put it up. 
  • 23. Interview someone and write a story / poem about their life / experiences. 
  • 25. Cook a soufflé. 
  • 26. Make some Street Art. (We’re not encouraging you to break the law!) 
  • 54. Go on a demonstration / protest and if there isn’t one make one. 
  • 66. Set off Chinese Lanterns. 
  • 70. List a hundred things that make you happy. 
  • 74. Complete a colouring book.
  • 95. Have a T-shirt printed which advertises HIS blog (ManchestersArtisticSon)

Readers who undertake the challenge should record them in an interesting way then blog about it, adding a link in the comments on his blog. Alternatively you can email the entries to him at admin @ Manchestersartisticson.

The submission which makes him laugh / smile / cry the most will win. (Be sure to read the small print!)

We have until Sunday 12th February to have a go.

None of these challenges are on my own list so I plan to attempt a couple at least, just to change the pace.

I’ve already bought a colouring book and some felt tips… Do you think it would be cheating if I completed the book then put the coloured pages on display? Hmmm, it probably is… although it didn’t mention that particular scenario in the small print. 😉

Beetham Tower by Dave Schofield

Beetham Tower by Dave Schofield

THE PRIZE

  • A 6/8 print of the picture of your choice from his 365 project at http://365project.org/chewyteeth/365
  • And “Nobody belongs here more than you” by Miranda July, which is a great collection of short stories.

Go on, have a go! It’ll be fun!

All comments are welcome 🙂