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Twelve Days of Pumpkin – First Day: It’s the Great Pumpkin!

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I have been inspired by Stu Mills of CBC Ottawa Radio One, who vowed to air a pumpkin story daily until Halloween and I credit him for ensuring all his stories were based in local lore.  I decided to write and post my own little series of the Twelve Days of Pumpkin.  He aired his last one today and this is my final piece… The First Day of Pumpkin –The Great Pumpkin.

***

It’s official.

It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown takes highest honours and the top spot for my pumpkin stories.  It’s one of my favourite holiday movies, perhaps second only to A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Based on the Peanuts comic strip by the late, great Charles Schultz, it first aired on CBS in 1966.

There are few movies I can admit to watching annually for (gulp) the 45 years it’s been shown on TV.  OK, I can think of no other movies I’ve watched as often as It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, except perhaps A Charlie Brown Christmas.  A 30-minute show with commercials was probably pushing the limits of my three year-old attention span back then and tests the limits of this 47-year old’s spare time to this day, so when they say it’s suitable for all ages – it takes the pumpkin cake!  Some in our household may currently hold The Simpsons Halloween special in higher regard (who went so far as to parody It’s a Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown with It’s a Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse), but I seriously question if Marg and Homer can hold a pumpkin-scented candle to Snoopy and Linus.

When Charlie Brown received a rock at every house he visited, I realized that there might be worse things in a five-year old’s life than having to wear a snowsuit over my Halloween costume.

I was inspired by Linus’s endearing but perhaps misguided devotion to the imminent arrival of The Great Pumpkin, and long held on to my assertion that The Bay City Rollers were the best band ever (also a misguided devotion).

Having grown up the daughter of WWII displaced persons, Snoopy’s heroic but unsuccessful battle with the Red Baron and Schroeder’s ensuing musical tribute allowed me to laugh, once a year, at the mocking of a terrible war.

I can thank Violet’s for inspiring me to host annual Halloween parties for my kids when they were younger.

Finally, I’m sure I’m not the first to silently (or not silently) think, “You go, girl!”,  as Sally unleashed her disappointment after falling prey to another boy’s whimsical dreams and missing out on her own fun.  I can only hope there is someone in my midst today worthy of being called a “blockhead”.

Whatever it was … it still is.  Despite all these years, I still find some unfailing connection to this seasonal TV special.  I’ve passed Snoopy-lovin’ on to my daughter (but really, how hard can that be?) as a result of his enduring presence in our lives.

Thanks to the magic that was – IS – Charles Munro Shultz’s, The Great Pumpkin is my last day of pumpkin!

***

As a post script, I would also like to add that I now know that I

a)      Will be seeing the colour orange until Christmas; and,

b)      Have greater respect for writers who maintain daily entries to their blogs.  It’s a devotion I do not possess.  It was not only a significant challenge to find enough stimulating pumpkin stories without resorting to the World Largest Pumpkin Pie, it was demanding to make time to write and post them daily.  I am almost relieved to return to the previous commitment I made to myself of posting weekly.  I know those who read my post about pumpkin décor are breathing a sigh of pumpkin-scented relief.

I wish you all a wonderful Halloween, and a great Pumpkin season!

Third Day of Pumpkin – Pumpkin Decor

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Inspired by Stu Mills of CBC Ottawa Radio One, who has vowed to air a pumpkin story daily until Halloween, I’ve decided to write and post my own little segment of the Twelve Days of Pumpkin.  This is my tenth piece… The Third Day of Pumpkin –Pumpkin Décor.

 ***

My quest to write pumpkin daily has strayed as far away from a cookbook as a teenager from laundry basket.  Despite how much I love to cook, there are far too many pumpkin recipes for a small Twelve Days of Pumpkin series.  I can say, however, that I am probably the worst interior decorator known to home décor-respecting women.  There is an antimartha, and dustbunny be thy name.  I have a “I should do something about that” attitude about my priceless porcelain vase which holds court with a vase decorated by one of my kids for a school Mother’s Day craft.  Or my kitchen table lazy Susan adorned with beautiful candle votive holder next to a bottle of ketchup.  And what to do about my front foyer is adorned with a lovely print of the Toronto harbour at the turn of the century, next to my kids ski school pictures.  My je ne sais quoi style is truly je ne sais doodlé.

However, that is all about to change.  This sad reputation I carry will soon be cast off now that I know all the incredible creations I can make using pumpkins!  Leaving the art of pumpkin carving itself and store-bought Halloween decorations aside briefly, I have totally turned the corner now and my home will soon be Living-magazine-perfect in all its pumpkin glory.

Floating Pumpkin Candle Holders:

Collect a few miniature pumpkins at your local market; trace the outline of a tea light candle on top; scoop out just enough of the pumpkin such that the tea light candle can sit nicely inside (and can I tell you I found lovely pumpkin-scented tea lights at Bed, Bath and Beyond?); fill a decorative bowl with water and voila… a truly lovely seasonal centrepiece!

Pumpkin Bird Feeder:

Well, I admit I do have to credit my friend Martha for this one:  lovely carved out pumpkin filled with birdseed; strategically hung where only the birds can admire and enjoy its contents and not the many squirrels and mangy crows .

Pumpkin Air Freshener

Clean the insides of a small or medium pumpkin; cut holes in the sides using an apple corer; rub your favourite spice (cloves, nutmeg, anise, etc) on the inside; use a beeswax candle and, what a mmmmmmmagnificent aroma!

Pumpkin Beverage Cooler:

Scoop the insides out of a big pumpkin and fill with ice and crushed ice; use as a cooler for your next Halloween party!  Probably float too!

Bowl of Pumpkins:

Attach a variety of patterned ribbon to double stick tape and wrap around miniature pumpkins.  Imagine what I can now do with all those rolls and rolls of hockey tape we have lying around.

Miniature Pumpkin Wreath:

Transform a plain plastic form wreath into a lovely Fall door ornament by attaching miniature pumpkins to the wreath using florist wire and filling in the gaps with sheet moss.  If you live in a warmer climate, the pumpkins probably won’t last as long and may start to decay 😦

I implore you to give these a try.  If you do plan on giving these a try, I also implore you to seek out your own and probably better instructions (because heaven knows if any of this will actually work – given my reputation!)!

What’s the neatest home décor piece you’ve ever made using a pumpkin?

 

Fourth Day of Pumpkin – Petrifying Pumpkin Prose!

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Inspired by Stu Mills of CBC Ottawa Radio One, who has vowed to air a pumpkin story daily until Halloween, I’ve decided to write and post my own little segment of the Twelve Days of Pumpkin.  This is my ninth piece… The Fourth Day of Pumpkin – Petrifying Pumpkin Prose.

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Peter Peter pumpkin eater,
Had a wife and couldn’t keep her!
He put her in a pumpkin shell,
And there he kept her very well!

In trying to come up with ‘pumpkin’ themed posts for this series, this rhyme popped up.  While oldEngland is typically known for its nursery rhymes, this one actually originated in North America because pumpkins are not indigenous to England!  As I researched its origin, I learned that there are a number of theories out there as to what exactly this Peter and his wife are up to – and none of them are particularly cheery!

Some say it has to do with a man whose wife is not exactly devoted to him.  In fact, she’s a trampy wench.  He decided to use a pumpkin as a sort of chastity belt in order to quell her wanton ways.  Oh what we poor women had to endure in the middle ages [sad face]!

I read another version of its meaning in that the nursery rhyme had to do with taking the story about Peter’s wife’s faithlessness a few steps further.  He found out about her disloyalty and murdered her.  He kept her body parts in a pumpkin shell to stave off its deterioration [shudder].

Yet a third version of its meaning is that it’s about Peter the Great of Russia.  His wife and sister plotted to overthrow him thus ending his tyrannical rule, but they failed.  He had them committed to a prison – the pumpkin shell representing the penitentiary.

It’s true that one does not have to go far to find a nursery rhyme that has its basis in some sinister or gruesome historical event (i.e. Ring Around the Rosie), but this was the first I heard of the origins of Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater.  Dreadful.  How very a propos for what is, by and large, a  sinister time of the year.

Did I tell you my husband’s name is Peter?

The Fifth Day of Pumpkin – Peter Pumpkinhead

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Inspired by Stu Mills of CBC Ottawa Radio One, who has vowed to air a pumpkin story daily until Halloween, I’ve decided to write and post my own little segment of the Twelve Days of Pumpkin. This is my eighth piece – Peter Pumpkinhead.

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The Fourth Day of Pumpkin – Peter Pumpkinhead!

I am stretching my creative artistic license from the pumpkin patch to the music crypt. I know I mentioned the Smashing Pumpkins in a previous pumpkin post but I came across this old music video from the Crash Test Dummies … one of my favourite bands from the ‘90’s. This song, The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead, is one of many great tracks from the album The Best of the Crash Test Dummies but was also featured the soundtrack from the movie Dumb and Dumber, giving this Canadian band from Winnipeg some notoriety outside Canada. I can’t say I actually saw the movie (though I am fairly certain some of my Punkin Chunkin fans have), but I hazard to guess that the scapegoat that was Peter Pumpkinhead did not match the characters of the movie played by Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels… but you be the judge:

The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead

Peter Pumpkinhead came to town
Spreading wisdom and cash around
Fed the starving and housed the poor
Showed the Vatican what gold’s for
But he made too many enemies
Of the people who would keep us on our knees

Hooray for Peter Pumpkin
Who’ll pray for Peter Pumpkinhead?

Peter Pumpkinhead brought to shame
Governments who would slur his name
Lusts and sex scandals failed outright
Peter merely said, “Any kind of love is all right”
But he made too many enemies
Of the people who would keep us on our knees

Hooray for Peter Pumpkin
Who’ll pray for Peter Pumpkinhead?

Peter Pumpkinhead was too good
Had him nailed to a chunk of wood
He died grinning on live TV
Hanging there he looked a lot like you, and an awful lot like me!
But he made too many enemies
Of the people who would keep us on our knees

Hooray for Peter Pumpkin
Who’ll pray for Peter Pumpkinhead?
Hooray for Peter Pumpkin
Who’ll pray for Peter Pumpkin?
Hooray for Peter Pumpkinhead
Oh my, oh my, don’t it make you want to cry, oh…

Despite the song’s title, the song never became mainstream Halloween music (possibly because it’s tragic connection with the movie?).

I lament today that there are not more songs about pumpkins or having ‘pumpkin’ in their title. Can anyone think of any?

So, before I leave you with the fabulous video of the Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead, I thought I would also share with you my Top 5 Favourite ‘seasonal’ pumpkin (aka Halloween) songs:

  1. Thriller by Michaek Jackson – am not a huge MJ fan but he got me to the dancefloor more than once with this song!
  2. The Time Warp – from The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack
  3. Pyscho Killer – by the Talking Heads who came up with some of the weirdest songs and wildest lyrics of the ‘80’s!
  4. The Monster Mash– what Halloween repertoire is complete without this Bobby Picket classic?and finally, the song that to this day creeps me out …
  5. Tubular Bells – the Exorcist them song by Mike Oldfield (I still have not watched the whole movie in one sitting!)

Give a look and listen to one of a favourite pumpkin piece of mine that has absolutely nothing to do with Halloween! What are your favourite Pumpkin songs??

The Sixth Day of Pumpkin – Punkin Chunkin

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Inspired by Stu Mills of CBC Ottawa Radio One, who has vowed to air a pumpkin story daily until Halloween, I’ve decided to write and post my own little segment of the Twelve Days of Pumpkin.  This is my seventh piece … Punkin Chunkin!

At the dinner table last night I confessed to my family that I might be perhaps … just maybe … possibly … running a little dry on the pumpkin stories.  I told them I had a few more topics … trying to save the best for last … yadayadayada … but what I had left was pretty lame.  I mentioned this little anecdote I was working on and asked, “Have you ever heard of a thing called pumpkin chucking?”

Three sets of male eyes (ages 14, 15 and 47) brightened, turned to me and said with unanimity, “Hell, yeah!” and “Best sport ever!” and “Totally awesome!” and then all talked at once and over each other about this exceptional event.   Wow.  Honestly you would have thought I just told them the Sport Illustrated Swimsuit Edition just arrived, they were so excited.  My 11-year old daughter looked at me and shrugged, “Boy thing”.

So clearly I’d hit upon the golden pumpkin here, and took notes as they educated me.

First of all, I stood corrected as it is called punkin chunkin and The Discovery Channel does a huge special on it annually.  Oh yeah.  A farm in Delaware will be hosting the 2011 World (yes, I said World) Punkin Chunkin Championship.  I pause briefly to consider what exactly needs to be achieved in order to qualify for the Worlds.  Does a Punkin Chunkin Champ need first win The Regionals?  Be All-State?  Win the Provincials? The Nationals?  And only then can they be allowed to come to the World Championship?  I wondered.

While I’m sure there are competitions for pumpkin tossing by human power, this particular event takes the toss several steps farther.  There are 16 different classes in which to enter this event.  One of them is called Adult Trebuchet Class:  a medieval-like trebuchet is constructed to catapult the designated pumpkin as far as it can go.  There are rules too.  Apparently the pumpkin has to remain in tact throughout its flight and no explosions are allowed (so I have to wonder why the team at Mythbusters is even remotely interested).  If the WCPCA (um, that would be the World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association) cannot find your “tossed” pumpkin, it will be declared a Lost Pumpkin.  Oh my God!  Doomed to spend an eternity in the writing salons ofPariswith the other Lost Pumpkins Gourdtrude Pumpkinstein, Erza Poundkin and Butternut Hemingway.  

I have recently discovered – and chose NOT to share it with my boys – that a real, live pumpkin trebuchet exists not more than half an hour’s drive away in South Mountain, Ontario.   However, if your travels over the November 4-5th weekend happen to take you through Bridgeville, Delaware, do stop into the Royal Farms and catch this event with the other 20,000 who’ve paid $10 a piece to do the same.  Alternatively, you can catch the rebroadcast on The Discovery Channel Thursday November 24th at 8pm.  You might possibly be a little busy eating turkey and pumpkin pie right about that time – so call me – as it would appear some in my household are poised to PVR it – again.   

Coming up next in my series?  Let there be light!!

7th Day of Pumpkin – Pumpkin Picassos

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This is the sixth piece in my series of the Twelve Days of Pumpkin inspired by Stu Mills of CBC Ottawa Radio One, who has vowed to air a pumpkin story daily until Halloween.  Here is the Seventh Day of Pumpkin … Pumpkin Picassos!

As I readied for my work day today, the morning radio host (no, not Stu Mills.  Am seriously not trying to steal his stories!) talked about a local graphic artist who has a gallery for his pumpkin art. 

Pumpkin art??? 

I mean, really.  Two triangles for the eyes, another for the nose, and a single, buck-toothed, wide-mouthed grin.  Stick a candle in it and – voila – you’ve  got yourself a Halloween pumpkin!  That’s all there is to it, isn’t it?  How artsy can a pumpkin actually be? 

Well.  As you can see from some of the pictures posted here, pretty spectacularly artsy, in fact (and yes, I did resist writing spooktacularly!). 

John Vickers of Pumpkin Art of Oak Bay, now living in British Columbia, has hundreds of pumpkins are on display at local Oak Bay merchants (a west coast seaside village about 10 minutes from Victoria on Vancouver Island), with part of the donations from his admirers going to various charities, including UNICEF, the Stephen Lewis Foundation and the New York City Firefighters Fund.  There are more you owe it to yourself to check on the artist’s Facebook page (search Pumpkin Art)!

I’ve experimented with some pumpkin stencils, to varying degrees of success.  “What IS that?”  my dear son asked me about my work of art last year.  “It’s a wolf, howling at the moon.” I reply, proudly.  “Kinda looks like an anteater throwing up, Mom.” 

Okay.  Anteater.  I can go with that too.

In any event, Mr. Vickers’ masterpieces are pretty impressive.  I may be inspired (operative word – “may”) …

What are your favourite pumpkin “art” stories?

 

Eighth Day of Pumpkin: My Chariot Awaits…

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Magically transforming a pumpkin into a mode of transportation is something that only happens in fairy tales.  Or so I thought.  Welcome to my fifth piece in my segment of the Twelve Days of Pumpkin, inspired by CBC Ottawa Morning’s Stu Mills.  

Once upon a time, 11 years ago, a very special Regatta took place on Lake Pesaquid, just outside Windsor, Nova Scotia.  And, I’m not saying “special”, as in, clasp-your-hands-to-your-heart-type-special, I’m talking, seriously-dude-what-are-you-smoking-type-special.  This regatta stipulates that your only means of flotation must be – just as you might have guessed – a pumpkin!  Naturally, this would not be your average pumpkin selected with pride, pleasure and plenty of photo ops at the neighbourhood pumpkin patch.  We’re talking about only those kinds of pumpkins that four-time Guinness Book of World Records holder and developer of massive pumpkins, Howard Dill and similar folk, can produce.

Now in its 11th year (that’s right, this is not a fluke in the universe), there are three (3) divisions in which one can enter their – er – personal vegetable craft (PVC):  motor, experimental and paddling.  Paddling remains the favourite event because no one has figured out exactly what “experimental” means, or if it is in fact, legal.  This past Canadian Thanksgiving, close to ten thousand spectators came out to watch 43 entrants paddle the 800 metre (1/2 mile) course.  It would appear that only 33 PVCs completed the course, however, adding to the danger element of this event.  No doubt the waiver includes wording like, “Event organizers are not responsible for any harm or wrongdoing resulting from The Kraken rising from the deep …”

Two things you really want to know about this event:

  1. After nine years as the reigning pumpkin regatta champ, Leo Swinamer must have finally spring a leak in his pumpkin (that could be Maritime-speak for he kicked the bucket, I’m not exactly sure), for he has not won since 2007.  Headmaster of King’s-Edgehill School, Joe Seagram won in 2011 (so clearly the message here is that we seriusly need to know what goes on during “free periods” at that school!).
  2. Martha Stewart, herself, entered this race in 2005.  No, really!  She did!  Here is a picture of the very Stewartesque pumpkin that was entered.  She was not able to attend, however, partly due to inclement weather but also because of passport processing delays resulting from her incarceration.  I would seriously reconsider my Thanksgiving plans if she were to enter again – and I think my family would understand!

So ladies and gentlemen, mark your calendars for October 14, 2012 for next year’s Pumpkin Regatta in beautiful Atlantic Canada.  In fact, why not enter your own craft?  It’s only $25.   BYOP of course – and get there before midnight, otherwise your pumpkin will morph into a beautiful horse-drawn carriage.  And frankly, what good will that do you?

I swear to God, this installment could have been titled Leave it to those Canucks!

Coming up next in my series?  I seriously have no idea what other weird pumpkin stories I can come up with but clearly, they’re out there!!

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