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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!

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!!

On the Ninth Day of Pumpkin … Preservation!

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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 fourth piece … Preservation!

Here goes:

***

On the Ninth Day of Pumpkin …

Mother Nature is going to help me look years younger this Halloween.  Everyone else in my life is bent on doing the opposite, so I’m counting on her.  I’ve been giving a great deal of thought and attention lately to finding more natural, organic and ethically manufactured skin care products, given that my pores are just soaking this stuff up.  My sister is currently working a project which may, in fact, make these products a little more accessible, but until then, I’m doing a little of my own homework … and handiwork.  So before you let those teenagers smash those pumpkins all over the driveway, save them, and consider my next installment of the Twelve Days of Pumpkin:  pumpkin facials.

Pumpkins are high in Vitamin A (good for skin healing), Vitamin C (a good anti-oxidant) and Zinc (known for its healing powers and as treatment for acne).  No, that’s not me in the picture, though I wish it was.  Next time you’re in the mood for a luscious spa treatment but have no time, no energy and no money, give this a go (oh – and try not to eat it, ok?):

 

Basic Pumpkin Facial Masque (credit to  Care2MakeaDifference):

2 teaspoons cooked pumpkin, pureed (one pumpkin should yield a year’s worth, no?)
½ teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon milk 

For dry skin, add ¼ teaspoon heavy whipping cream

For oily skin, add ¼ teaspoon apple cider or ¼ teaspoon cranberry juice

Combine the ingredients you need and apply to your face (not to your mouth, though I know you might be tempted), avoiding the eyes.  Leave on for 10-15 minutes.  Relax.  Go scare the poop out of your kids or whoever just rang your doorbell.  I just wonder if this will all still work with all that melted candlewax and tossed candy wrappers, I find in my pumpkins the morning after Halloween?  Whatever.  Rinse with warm water … and voila!  Freddy Kruger!  Oh…wrong movie.  Oh well.  Enjoy!  You look marvelous!

Next up for the Eighth Day of Pumpkin … random factoids.

The Tenth Day of Pumpkin … Pickled!

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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 third piece! 

***

We all know we can toast pumpkin seeds and eat them as snacks.  We all know we can whack the meat of a pumpkin to a fine pulp and put it in a pie.  In my series of pumpkin stories, I bring to you today, yet another great idea for pumpkins that you might not know:  Pickled Pumpkin.  

And you thought this was going to be a sordid little drunken story about me … shame on you.  Sorry to disappoint!

My mom shared this recipe of one of my childhood favourite side dishes, but she then confessed she stole it from Madame Benoit. 

Madame Benoit. 

Now, there’s a name I hadn’t heard for decades.  Madame Benoit was not the proprietor of some bawdy house in New Orleans as you might think; she was Jehane Benoit, the Queen of Canadiana Cuisine.  Outside of Canada, Mme Benoit is virtually unknown, but I grew up hearding her name regularly.   She was the French Canadian equivalent of Julia Child.  While she was famous for many French Canadian classics like French Canadian pea soup, pork and beans (made with maple syrup, of course),  cretons (a pork-based meat spread) , and tarte au sucre (hope you have a dental plan), I remember her best for her reputation for her classic Tortiere (meat pie).  When I was about six years old, I recall visiting her farm in Quebec once and cuddling with the little lambs on her farm, only to be crushed upon being told by Monsieur Benoit that Madame was experimenting with lamb recipes for a new cook book (and if I remember correctly, there ensued one of my many solo imprisonments in the big ol’ familyFord LTD).  This was a women whose recipe for meat loaf involved wrapping it in bacon and adding a spicy glaze of brown sugar and spices (it was “you had me at ‘bacon’” good).  Don’t you mock her – she lived to the ripe old age of 83!  Mercifully, before seeing poutine dubbed as Canadiana as toques, beer and hockey.

But alas, I digress.  Pickled Pumpkin is a wonderful accompaniment to tortiere, cretons and Mme Benoit’s meat loaf, but I’m sure you will find other suitable main dishes for yourself.  Enjoy!

Pickled Pumpkin

Ingredients:

16 cups cut-up pumpkin, (3/4 in.chunks)

4 cups sugar

2 cups vinegar

2 cups cider vinegar

3 cups water

6 oz. frozen orange juice-concentrate; thawed

2 cinnamon sticks

1 tablespoon whole allspice

1 1/2 teaspoons whole cloves

  • In a large kettle combine sugar, vinegar, water, orange juice concentrate and spices (tie spices in cheesecloth, if desired).
  • Heat mixture over high heat until boiling, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves.
  • Stir in the pumpkin chunks and reheat to boiling
  • Reduce heat to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until pumpkin is just barely tender, about 10 minutes
  • Ladle into hot jars to within 1/4 inch of tops, spooning in the hot liquid from kettle
  • Run a slim, non metal tool down along the insides of jars to release any air bubbles. Add additional hot liquid to within 1/4 inch of tops, if needed
  • Wipe tops and threads of jars with a damp clean cloth.
  • Put the lids and screw bands in place as per manufacturers’ directions
  • Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Coming up next in my series … pumpkin skin care …

The Eleventh Day of Pumpkin …with The Smashing Pumpkins

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I was never a huge fan, but how could I write a Twelve Days of Pumpkin series without mentioning the alternative rock band, The Smashing Pumpkins? The band was formed in the late ‘80’s with frontmen Bill Corgan and James Iha.  Jim Chamberlin, D’arcy Wretsky, Jeff Schroeder, Mike Bryne and Nicole Fiorentino have also been or are still band members.

The band achieved most of their mainstream success during the years I was getting married and paying down student debt, so not a lot of free cash to throw around at rock concerts.  In 1995, I was pregnant with my first child and The Smashing Pumpkins had sold almost 18 million of theirs!  By the new millennium, when my third child was born, The Smashing Pumpkins announced their break up.  As their front man, Bill Corgan, once announced to his fans, “Welcome to Pumpkinland; this is what it will sound like on Planet Pumpkin”, I was probably singing something similar though by Raffi or The Wiggles.

I rediscovered a couple of my all-time favourites while writing this post:  Disarm and 1979.  As is the case with so many bands, their demise was born from their success.  Too much internal fighting and drug use eventually led to their break-up.  However, what’s left of the original band is playing tonight in Boston as part of their 12-city reunion tour showcasing their album Teargarden by Kaleidyscope.  You gotta admire a band that will release one track at a time for free over the Internet.  Clearly, financial success is no longer the band’s modus operandi.  Time will tell if they’ll reclaim the fame or the fans they once enjoyed, but for now I fondly reminisce with my favourite song, Disarm (can’t seem to embed from YouTube, sorry).

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