Pumpkins are one of those things that make me feel great about fall. Somehow they manage to convey this feeling of cheerful warmth that really makes this idea of fall (and the end of summer) an acceptable thing. Back when I was a college student my route home used to take me past a huge field of pumpkins being grown for a Mrs. Smiths Pie plant nearby. It was always quite a sight just before they were picked.
Now we have to go to Fred Meyer instead of the back yard or the farm stand, but at least we still get the pumpkins. This year M and I went and selected several good ones. Choosing a good carving pumpkin is not a task to be taken lightly. Color, skin texture, flat spots, grooving, stem, and heft are all parts of the selection process. Plus, you have to make certain that the pumpkin actually sits flat on the ground and doesn't flop over. Some people prefer the more oblong shapes because they are more head-like, but I always go for the classic squat ones becuase they look the most traditional. Having a nice curling stem is definitely a bonus.
Once we'd chosen our bunch we took them home for carving. The nieces were kind enough to join us for this task, so it was one pumpkin per person with Grandma L there for moral support (I think Grandma L has already had her lifetime supply of pumpkin guts, so she was quite happy not to have her own).
First we cleanded; then we carved. Little niece informed me (with a serious gleam in her eye) that cleaning is fun "because of the squiiiiiish." She needed a little help with cutting the top open (that does take muscle on a big pumpkin) but then she was off and away. Big niece used the BIG knife to cut hers open all by herself (thank you very much) and she actually did a great job. One of the nice things about her is that she is safety obsessed, so you don't have to worry quite as much.
Carving was a good time too, and everyone approached the task a little differently. M had purchased a pumpkin carving kit, so he and the nieces had all sorts of interesting tools to work with. I stuck with the paring knife for mine. Over all the results were quite good. M created a work of squash art while the rest of us made silly faces. A good time was had by all.