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Monday, November 03, 2008

Halloween Redux, part four: jack o' lanterns

  jack o lantern group photo lineup by Steven Pitsenbarger

Thanks to Janet, Ian, Jill, MacKenzie, Donald, Helen, Bryan, and Steven for their creativity!

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:24 PM

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Halloween Redux, part two

  strangely lobed winter squashIt's been a very long week! In more ways than I can tell you... The festivities included not one but TWO pumpkin (jack o' lantern) carving parties, costume making, Halloween celebrations at work, Halloween wanders after work, dinners with friends, greeting a friend flying in from abroad, an All Souls Day party, and, coming up, a wedding reception.

I am so tired. But I am also very well fed.

Jack o' lantern: blow-by-blow.

first face of jack o lantern carved into strangely lobed winter squashsecond face of jack o lantern carved into strangely lobed winter squashthird face of jack o lantern carved into strangely lobed winter squashThe photos I am attaching here are of a three-faced jack o' lantern that I carved at my cousin's home. I had run out of pumpkins by the time I was supposed to go over to his house, and asked him to pick up something "strange" for me to carve. He and his friends found this enormous, irregular squash, which I suspect is a combination of blue Hokkaido and... an alien.

If you do a lot of cooking with squash, you know that some of these are just plain solid: you cannot actually get the stem center out, let alone hollow out much of the rest of the squash. Also, these types of green-to-white fleshed squash often have a lovely, sweet, melon-like scent, which is really pleasant.

I am a skilled pumpkin carver, but even I had a heck of a time getting the stem piece out of this squash. I had to carve out one of the mouths on a lobe and work my hand into the hollow of the lobe, and then work the stem out from beneath. (With my hand up past the wrist in the mouth of the lobed squash, I had to make jokes about obstetrics, were generally moaned over.) The clearance in the center of the squash was very limited, but each of the lobes had a hollow beyond the very thick walls of flesh that I was able to clear out enough so that a single candle could light all three lobes. (One of the nice things about making multiple faces on a single squash is that, if you happen to be a photographer who can take long exposures on your camera, you can have one or more of the faces pointed at your camera, and the rear faces pointing toward a nearby wall, where the rear faces will be projected in candlelight. It's a great effect!) Note that these whitish squash bruise easily: those aren't pen outlines around the cuts, but are bruises that the knife made by piercing the skin.

Aside: Yes, there are more photos from the carving at our place, but those haven't been shared with me yet.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:40 AM

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!!

  jack o lanterns

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posted by Arlene (Beth)11:30 PM

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Happy Halloween!

Jack-o-lantern group portrait by Steven PitsenbargerThe lovely image of carved, glowing Jack-o-lanterns is by Steven, and shows the results of our annual pumpkin carving party. Special thanks to all who came and carved: Ollie, Tim, Zoe, Larry (2 pumpkins!), Peter, Janet, Jill, Ian, Janae, Kathy and Jason.

Our dinner menu this year included:

-Pumpkin curry (really a combination of kabocha and delicata)(vegan)
-Pumpkin quesadillas (really a combination of butternut and delicata)(both lacto-vegetarian and vegan versions), on flour and corn tortillas, with a sauté of baked squash, sweet red and green peppers, garlic, and spices, served with guacamole and a choice of red or green salsa
-Pumpkin pie (butternut)(vegan)
-Blood orange tea (what a perfect name for a Halloween party!)
-olives (no eyeball labels required)
-cherry tomatoes
-Plus an array of treats that our guests brought: fresh mozzarella, crackers, sliced cheese, fresh papaya, chips, red pepper hummus, pumpkin ice cream AND lychee ice cream from Mitchell's (thank you Peter!), ginger snaps, several kinds of wine and beer, and other wonderful delicacies.

Arlene in costume as AutumnThis was the first year in recent memory that I had my Halloween costume ready PRIOR TO some ungodly hour of morning on Halloween. One of my enormously fun colleagues held a Halloween party on the Saturday night prior to this year's Wednesday Halloween, and so I had to actually PREPARE early.

I originally planned to be Totoro, the enormous, furry forest spirit star of Tonari no Totoro, the supremely delightful Japanese cartoon. A quick poll of the IT department at work demonstrated that current/modern IT people aren't in the same demographic they once were, and that I would have to spend a lot of time explaining my costume. Just the same, I went out and purchased enough fabric to transform myself into a large-headed, madly grinning woodland creature. With a ghost-bunny accessory made from organza and large googly eyes. I was *excited.*

Then the air conditioning system at work failed completely. It had been on the fritz for a long time, but the heat became even more unbearable than usual. And it occurred to me that I would spend all of Halloween lying on the floor and panting in my costume, moaning about death rather than being a bubbly, somewhat intimidating beastie.

So I decided to be Autumn. I planned out a dress (modeled after a favorite summer dress that no longer quite fits for some mysterious reason involving my chest circumference), purchased fabric leaves and fake fall leaf garlands from a craft store, and made my costume on the day of the party. The dress design failed almost immediately: I had failed to account for some darting on the dress, and my lack of formal sewing training quickly became evident around the collar... I tossed the failed dress mock up aside, and instead made a sort of leaf-covered bodice, which I could both tie onto myself and fasten to a bustier that contains me properly. I cut back some leaf arrangements and clipped them onto my head, sewed a leaf necklace onto some ribbon, draped the garland around myself, and I was ready to go.

Autumn is probably my least ambitious and most successful costume in years. The best satisfaction was that nearly everyone I encountered immediately knew I was autumn: women on BART, women on the Emery-go-round, my office colleagues, people on the street... I won praise from adults and small children.

As an added bonus, I won compliments on my current hair color from several people. :-) I don't know how many of you are old enough to remember this, but there was a color theory back in the 70s and 80s that there is a season (based on the four season system) that describes you, and you should wear the colors associated with that season. I had been evaluated as a "summer" at the time, and so was advised to wear a lot of lush, bright, fresh greens. I chafed under that designation, always insisting that I was a Fall, with periodic bouts of Winter. I think this is the costume (and hair color) that establishes me as a Fall/Autumn once and for all.

So, I think I learned a lot about costume concepts this year. In the future, I'll try to be more... direct.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

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