Category Archives: craft

jack o lantern


Some people are into delicately carving elaborate designs into hollowed out pumpkins to create the seasonal exterior lamp we call a “Jack-O-Lantern.

rfierce dinosaur jack-o-lanternWhile these can be spooky in the dark, or beautiful works of art, I’m old fashioned. For me, the traditional jack-o-lantern wears a face. That’s why we call it “Jack.”

If you’ve ever tried to light a candle out of doors, you probably understand that a lantern shelters the flame from the wind that would otherwise extinguish it. Glass was at a premium in Canadian pioneer days, but pumpkins were thick on the ground.  Since bringing in the harvest made for long days, hollowing out these large squash plants made a simple lantern that could be use out of doors when night starts falling early in the autumn months.

Hallowe’en has long been my favourite holiday, and we always had plenty of pumpkins to carve from the garden.   We used to have great fun carving our scary faces into our pumpkins free style.  These days many people buy permanent jack-o-lantern substitutes made of ceramic, glass or metal.  My preference is always to make my own.

Make A Jack-O-Lantern

1. Cut open the pumpkin,

traditionally by cutting a circle around the stem, which then forms the handle of what will become your jack-o-lantern’s lid.   For more artistic designs, often people avoid having the light escape around the edges of the lid by cutting the bottom out of the pumpkin.  Depending on your pumpkin’s shape, this can provide more stability to a jack-o-lantern that will stay in one place.  If there is any possibility that you will want to reposition your pumpkin once it’s lit, it is best to put the hole at the top.

pumpkin guts... goopy strings and seeds2. Scoop out the pumpkin guts

using a large spoon.  This is a messy job, so I scoop out the seeds and the strings into a metal mixing bowl, being careful to scrape the interior sides of the pumpkin smooth.  The seeds can be baked in the oven later.
drawn on pattern of a face on the pumpkin3. Draw on the face

(or whatever design you plan to use) using pen or marker.  You will cut away the drawing as you cut out your pattern.   Note: The “child safe” pumpkin carving tool (pictured above) was not very good.
carving out a face in a pumpkin4.  Cut Out The Face or design.

If the piece you remove is large, you can do it incrementally.   If your child is old enough to carve a pumpkin, s/he is probably old enough to use a paring knife.  As you can see, this jack-o-lantern was opened and emptied from the bottom.
jack-o-lantern lit with a glowstickGlowstick Jack-O-Lantern . . .

If you plan to place your jack-o-lantern along the path where trick-or-treaters — who often wear flowing and/or flamable costumes are likely to walk, you might want to consider using a glowstick rather than a candle in your jack-o-lantern.

Jack-o-lantern lit with a candleCandle lit Jack-O-Lantern . . .

Especially if you plan on using a candle to light your jack-lantern, remember that it can be a fire hazard, so:

  1. don’t carve the pumpkin a week before so it dry out (I do it on the day)
  2. ensure that the interior walls are scraped clean of all the pumpkin strings
  3. don’t use a candle with a flame that burns high enough to touch the roof or walls of the jack-o-lantern

Tea lights — the small candles used to keep a teapot warm — are a good choice.

Have a safe and happy Hallowe’en.

post script

First,  I’ve changed my weekly blog posting day from Saturday to Sunday.

This article needed some photos I didn’t heave, so I found these licensed to share photos on flicker:

  1. fierce dinosaur by SamanthaChapnick
    Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License and
  2. pumpkin guts by Care_SMC
    Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License

doll house


doll house front

Several years ago I built this durable doll house to barbie doll scale. The wood was largely bits and pieces I had laying about in my workshop.


The bathtub feet are wooden beads; the mirror is a picture frame with silver foil paper inside. I used baker’s clay to mold the bathtub and sinks, and there’s a nice detail shot in the baker’s clay article. .


The wall paper and matching curtains came out of wallpaper books I got from small decorating store. The curtains were hung on craft dowels.

Living Room
A woven placemat became the livingroom carpet; a framed greeting card became the artwork.

Front Door
Picture hanging hooks served as the coat hooks beside the front door, as well as the front door handles.

Kitchen Sink detail

Miscellaneous fasteners and L-hooks became taps and faucets.


Scraps from my own kitchen curtain were used for the main floor curtains.
opening the front door

I would have loved this when I was a kid.

the back of the doll house

I made it up as I went along, and it was great fun figuring it out and making it.



Frisian Flag

Opa is still most comfortable gardening in his wooden shoes, or klompen. Wood or not, over time holes are worn right through the wood in the vicinity of the toes. When that happens, it means it’s time to get new klompen.

But what of the old ones?

make a planter

This works best with two wooden shoes, because they can be hung from the string that ties them together.

If you want them to last, start with a plastic bag ~ milk bags* work quite nicely. It works best to start with a seedling that will fit into the bag with a little extra soil, and then the bag can be inserted into the wooden shoe. I expect you could do this without the bag, but then the klomp will break down much faster.
Flag og Groningen
It is important to pull the tip of the bag through the opening worn through the toe. Once a corner of the plastic bag is outside the shoe, it can be punctured for drainage. When you water the plants (best done daily, and carefully) the excess water drips out the wooden shoe toe.  (As you might imagine, this type of planter is best employed out of doors.)

Naturally, they can be decorated any way you like. I chose to paint mine with flags from the Nederland provinces of Friesland and Groningen.
wooden shoe hanging planters

Milk bags* are the most common way milk is sold in Ontario. Originally, there were three 1 quart clear plastic bags of milk packaged together in a larger opaque bag. When Canada went metric in the 1970’s, they started selling 4 litre bags of milk, but they kept three interior clear plastic bags inside, now each holding 1 1/3 litres of milk.

In case you’re wondering how we get the milk out of the bag and into our cereal without making a horrendous mess, you’ll be pleased to know the milk bags fit inside handy milk pitchers. Once the sealed bag of milk is settled inside the pitcher, you cut off the top corner of the bag and pour from there. It works a treat. 🙂

As you can imagine, these bags are durable and if washed out immediately, can safely be reused as a freezer bag for storing food… or as a planter bag for your klompen.