Home Again from the Carving Party

The pumpkin carving party was THE BOMB.

It was me, my mom, my sister, my mom’s friends Gail, Collin and Bonnie, Collin’s sister Celynn and Celynn’s two adorable dogs, Bruiser (well named) and Spider, a darling little feist. Plus Mom’s cats Scooter, Ivan and Gypsy, and Gail and Collin’s cats, Hobbit, Gandalf and Kramer, who weighs 22 pounds.

We all gathered at my mom’s big house by the lake, deep in the woods of East Tennessee.

It was an amazing drive along and over the French Broad river through a gorge with a bare rock face on one side (where long ago the skirt of a mountain was carved away to make room for a road), and on the other side an amazing view of a mountain in full-on fall color, seen right from its foot.

If I’d stopped the car and gotten out (and had some way to cross the river) I could have touched that mountain with a short walk.

It was a cloudless October day, sunny and neither cold nor warm. They say it’s peak color weekend, but things weren’t completely turned, as there was still a touch of green.

Still, the golds and oranges and reds, especially so close, and especially with a backdrop of azure, were a delight to drive through on an autumn afternoon. Asheville’s about 2 hours from my mom’s house, and it’s a lovely drive in October, through mountains all the way, and nearly an hour spent driving right through the gorge.

Mom went all out, with pumpkins for everybody, a tray of chicken wings in hot sauce, scary music and decorations including a little “graveyard” out back with plastic headstones and rubber heads on poles.

The cats wove around our legs and sniffed and licked at the pumpkin guts and seeds that landed on the floor as we hacked away. Bonnie got pumpkin in her hair.

I wish I’d taken pics. My sister took pics of the completed pumpkins; I’ll post them when she sends them.

We had, of course, good old Pumpkin Masters carving tools, which I swear by. The scraper tool is excellent for cleaning out pumpkin guts, and the little saws, which are just cheap enough to fall apart so that you need to buy a fresh set each year, really do carve detail well.

I am SO getting this next year.

I taught everyone my trick of cutting off the bottom of the pumpkin rather than the top, which makes your pumpkin both easier to clean as well as MUCH easier to get a lit candle into. (And if you want to help keep your pumpkin brightly lit longer, light your candle, leave it in for awhile, then take it out and cut a vent where there’s a scorch mark.)

We had a ball. I did the modified tiki pumpkin, while everyone else did Pumpkin Masters patterns. I prefer things that are creative and homemade, but DAMN did those Pumpkin Masters jack-o’-lantern patterns ever turn out beautifully.

All you do is follow the pattern and carve, and even my mom and sister, who are infamously not crafty and not good with detail, made wonderful pumpkins. The best was Celynn’s, who did a spooky devil face. SUPERB.

Really, and I know I sound like a commercial here, you just follow the directions from those kits, and even if you think your pumpkin looks kind of shitty in daylight, stick a candle in that bad boy and come darkness you will be amazed at your creation. Something magic happens when you put a candle inside.

It takes a lot to impress me, but these pumpkins really looked great.

I wished I’d brought an overnight bag with me, as the fun was clearly not over once the pumpkins were carved. We were going to build a bonfire and drink margaritas by the “graveyard,” but the wind picked up, and dry as it’s been, a windy bonfire was a very bad idea.

So we went back inside for Six Cubes and White Russians. I was bummed I had to go, but stayed for one game, which my sister won.

I headed home to feed my hungry cats. Waiting at the door was a package.

It held my latest book order from Amazon.com, The Queen of Bedlam.

You know me, I’m a genre girl from way back. Comics, sci fi, fantasy, horror. All the good stuff.

I just ordered the latest from Robert R. McCammon, the author behind three of the books I read in my 20s and most loved, Boy’s Life, Swan Song and The Wolf’s Hour. (Hell, I liked Gone South, too, and Blue World.)

I’m scared to go back to these books, for I fear I’ll have changed so much I won’t love them anymore.

But as I have changed, so too has McCammon, unsurprisingly. Now no longer a writer of horror and thrillers, he writes spooky historical mysteries set in 18th-century America. They have much the feel of Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, sharing a timeframe and a misty supernatural atmosphere.

Cross Sleepy Hollow with Caleb Carr’s The Alienist and you get McCammon’s recent works, Speaks the Nightbird and The Queen of Bedlam, just released.

If you’re looking for a Halloween read, you can’t beat this guy. His best older work is like a cross between the best of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King. His new stuff is just a good old fashioned good read, the kind a person is very happy to come home to on a cold October night.

3 responses to “Home Again from the Carving Party

  1. Hey Jennifer, I always wonder about people who wander serendipitously to my own blog so I thought I would tell you how I found yours and how much I have enjoyed browsing through it. I was doing a Google search on mathematics autumn leaves because I had just returned from walking my dog on this Greensboro autumn morning. I picked up a leaf (and studied several others on the ground) and wondered about the mathematics of leaves – Fibonacci numbers, tessellations, branching patterns, shape, classification, transformations, measurement… What would my third grade math club come up with if I bring in a bag of leaves for them this week? Anyway I’ve really enjoyed reading your mathematical reflections and the NC connection we share. Wish I was in the mountains this weekend!

  2. Hey Sue, thanks for the comment — and what a great idea, to leave a little not when you find a blog you like reading.

    I bet your third graders could come up with some great ideas, given a bag of beautiful leaves a and teacher who cares enough to want to stimulate their thinking in such a cool way.

    I used to live in Greensboro, and while there’s no mountains, it’s still a fine place to be in the fall. Good luck with your classes!

  3. I love Robert McCammon’s early books too! I didn’t know he was still writing. Thanks for the recommendation.

    Also, thanks for introducing me to Eric, the web/blog guru. I met with him this morning and learned a lot!

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