“Boo” Baskets & Pumpkins

Although I don’t get into costumes, spooky movies or cat, witch and goblin decorations – I do find lots of fun things to enjoy in October with the coming of fall and Halloween!  One of our fun family traditions is to “BOO” our neighbors, and we love to carve pumpkins!  I had never heard of being “Boo’ed” before moving to the Midwest, but my kids love it!  Last year Jason and I drove the kids around the neighborhood after dark to ring doorbells and drop treats.  Carter would ring the bell and sprint to the car about 2 seconds before I would drive off.


Last year I was reminded of some not-so-safe scavenger hunts in high school when I would drive crazily through town with friends jumping in and out of the car in a race to complete all of the required tasks before the other team – if you don’t know, I’m a tad competitive!  One year I actually ran over a friends foot – not a proud moment – but he was fine!  I promise I was much more careful with my son, and there were no casualties.  Nonetheless, it was a thrill for all of us – in a quiet, Midwest, suburban family kind-of-way!


We plan to deliver our “Boo baskets” tomorrow and hopefully get a little fun started in our neighborhood this week!  If we ring your bell – please pretend you don’t know who it is!  If you want to start some “Boo” fun in your neighborhood, here is a printable sign and poem that explains how it works.  I looked around online for the poem I like with a cute sign, and could not! find one.  So, I made one up that I think is Halloween fun – instead of Halloween spooky!


If you don’t live in the Midwest or just have no idea what I’m talking about, the poem tells you everything you need to know.  The family that starts the “Boo’ing” simply gives two families treats, along with a copy of the “We’ve Been Booed” sign and the instructional poem.  Click either image below to download a pdf with the sign and the poem to use in your neighborhood!


The “Booed Card” for recipients to display by their door…





And a “You’ve Been Booed” poem for recipients to know how to keep the fun going!






Although I don’t love all things Halloween, I do love pumpkins!  My son asked me this year if I was going to get “a bunch of those little ones that go all over the table”.  There is something about all the colors and shapes of the cute little gourds at the grocery store that makes me want to buy at least 2 dozen of them!  The problem, accessorizing of any kind is not my strong suit and I never make them look nearly as cute as I thought they were going to in my head.   So, I haven’t bought my little gourds yet, but we have carved pumpkins and are enjoying the “seeds” of our labor.


Here are the super fun pumpkins my family carved last weekend – and no, I did not carve them all!  It is really easy and really fun to carve detailed images on your pumpkin – promise!




First things, first!  Here are my kids getting ready to carve their pumpkins.  Yes, two of them are still in their p.j.’s (so am I actually, but I was smart enough not to put myself in the photo!) and no I don’t have some magical way of making the process of carving pumpkins neat or pretty!



Addison is holding up her Minnie Mouse template that she picked out to carve this year.  My favorite source for templates is the Disney site “Spoonful”.  I frequently find really cute craft and holiday specific ideas for kids on this site.  Here is a link to their printable (free) Pumpkin Carving Patterns.  They have some great Disney characters for boys and girls, and general Halloween stuff, like the ghost  my 8 year old picked – gone are the days of Lighting McQueen and Buzz Lightyear.  🙁


Spoonful patterns come with instructions, but I’ll give you a few tips that I think are helpful.  First, what I gather before getting started…


1)  A set of the super cheap carving sets that are 97 cents at Walmart for a “scooper” spoon and cutting tool.  The cutting tool works amazingly well, and I don’t worry about my kids hurting anybody with them.


2)  One template per child and some scotch tape.


3) Two large bowls for the pumpkin innards – I’m guessing that’s the technical term.


4) A grocery sack for trash.


We start by cleaning out the pumpkins really well – now I’m not sure that’s even necessary but it’s one of my OCD things – I can’t stand a stringy pumpkin!  We separate the seeds, clean them off pretty good and set them in a bowl of water to soak – more on those in  a bit.





Here is Carter’s pumpkin ready to carve.  As you can see I cut the pattern down to get rid of the excess paper.  I also make slits toward the middle of the image to help the flat paper lay against the round pumpkin.  I then attach the paper to the pumpkin with scotch tape.  hint: the scotch tape is hard for kids to cut through, so try to keep the tape on the white portions of the pattern – the area you are not cutting.



I usually help my kids get started with the first hole, to get the tool through the pumpkin.



Here is Carter working on his ghost.  At 8 years old he is was able to basically carve his entire pumpkin himself.  Jason helped him do a little at the very end to finish it up, but that was all.





Addison and Jase did a great job on their Minnie & Mickey Mouse patterns, but had a harder time than Carter.  I learned a few things this year, that I actually learned last year and then forgot about – so I made the same mistakes twice!  The Mickey and Minnie templates are hard because there are so many thin lines.  They could do the ears, but I had to help with most of the rest.  I know it is partially because they are younger, but Addison did Hello Kitty last year and was able to do a lot more all by herself, even though she was only 4 years old.


I would say it takes about 30 – 45 minutes to carve the pumpkins, depending on how detailed the pattern is.  Here is my very proud Addison with her Minnie…





And all three of them side-by-side…





And here they are all lit up again!






The only bummer is that I like to carve pumpkins (color Easter Eggs, decorate a gingerbread house…)  early – because otherwise I have super disappointed kids when we don’t end up doing it.  So we just do our pumpkins early, and then they can sit on the porch and we can enjoy them all month long – or so I thought until last year.  The problem with pumpkins is they get moldy and icky and dry with faces that shrivel or cave in.  Last year my kids worked so hard on their pumpkins only to come down the next morning to find them misshapen and a mess.


This year I set out to preserve those bad boys, I was thinking mummify them – kinda appropriate for Halloween, right!  I did a little research online and decided to wax our pumpkins with furniture paste wax – since I had some on hand from all my Annie Sloan projects!


The next morning we came downstairs to perfectly preserved pumpkins – yeah!!!!  However, after just a week they look really sad – shriveled, moldy and ready for the trash.  I can’t bring myself to throw them away though, so please don’t judge if you see my front porch!  I would say the wax was a mild victory – far from what I was hoping for.  Next time I’m thinking a good coat of clear lacquer –  any of you have a great way of preserving your pumpkins?


Well, the pumpkins may have been a mild failure, but the seeds were not!  I LOVE pumpkin seeds.  The first year I told my husband we were saving them to roast and eat like sunflower seeds he thought I was crazy.  I was pretty sure I would get all of them to myself, because he wasn’t going to try them.  Unfortunately he did try them, and he loves them!  Seriously, if you’ve never roasted the seeds when you carve your pumpkins you MUST try them – they are yummy!  And, store bought pumpkin seeds are pricey! and I would argue not nearly as yummy!


This is all you have to do…


After you clean your seeds, leave them in a bowl of salted water for at least 24 hours.  I usually soak mine for 2-3 days – some say soaking them longer makes them better.  Honestly, it just usually takes me that long to get to roasting them!





After they have soaked, lay them flat on a jelly roll pan and spread them out as much as you can.  Salt them, and then you can let them sit again, or bake them immediately.   I love that they are not time sensitive and they are hard to mess up.





I let mine sit in the pan overnight – so that was day 3 after carving our pumpkins.  Look at all of that salt – yummm!!!!





To bake the seeds (this is when they get crunchy and the salt flavor really bakes in!) preheat your oven to about 300 degrees.  You can bake them at 350 degrees, but I think they are better if you have time to roast them nice and slow.  I have even dropped the oven to 250 degrees before.  Slower roasting is better, but it depends on how long you have to tend to them and how many are in your pan.






As they bake, remove them from the oven to stir and salt them about every 20 minutes.  You don’t have to salt every time, but I love salt! and it helps to cover them evenly as you stir.  I baked my seeds for 60 minutes at 300 degrees this year, but again your bake time will depend on how many seeds you have and the temperature you are baking them at.  You will know the seeds are done when you stir them and all of the moisture has been baked out.  They will be crunchy and have some light brown areas.  You don’t want to overcook them and turn the outer shell brown, as this will cause the inner seed to overcook and not taste good.


Here is the finished pan, which is almost completely consumed.  Hey, if any of you have seeds you don’t want from your pumpkins, I’ll roast them!!!!





I hope you are enjoying your fall, and making some fun family memories of your own!