In the mood for some Halloween decorating? Start with a pumpkin.
Those familiar bright orange (or white or red) squash create (almost) instant Halloween ambiance, especially with a little carving or other added decoration. And some carvers take their jack-o'-lanterns to extreme.
Gene Granata, carving expert for Pumpkin Masters' Halloween supply company, suggested these tips before attacking your giant pumpkin:
Create a safe workspace. Set out your carving materials on a well-lit, dry surface. Make sure everyone has the tools they need right in front of them, and that kids can reach the space easily. (No standing on chairs.)
Choose the right tools. Using household kitchen knives can be dangerous, especially for children, Granata said. He recommended carving tools specifically designed for kids. For example, Pumpkin Masters Kids Carving Kit (available at crafts stores) includes a "DuraSaw," which has a larger handle that makes it easier for little hands to grip and maintain control. Or let the kids draw the design on the pumpkin (and scoop out the pumpkin guts), but have an adult handle the sharp tools.
Point the blade away. No matter which carving tool you're using, point the blade away from you as you carve. If your hand slips, you're less likely to get hurt, Granata said.
Saw, don't slice. Instead of using a sweeping movement, such as slicing, try gently sawing through the pumpkin as you carve. Go as slowly as you need to avoid slipping. Serrated knives work well for this task.
Watch your hands ... and others' hands, too! Be mindful of where everyone's free hands are when carving. Whether you're doing the carving yourself or you're holding a pumpkin for someone else, keep one hand on top of the pumpkin instead of on the side. That way it's within sight, which will decrease the risk of poking or slicing through the pumpkin -- and into someone's hand.
Pumpkin Masters offers free patterns and other tips on its website. The company also is hosting a national pumpkin carving contest with a grand prize of $5,000. Deadline is Halloween. For details, click on www.pumpkinmasters.com .
(c)2013 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)
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Original headline: Halloween how-to
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