27 October 2009

Tips for carving a turnip lantern


Pumpkins are not widely available here in Armenia, and I only found 2 nice ones at the farmers' market in our neighborhood. I didn't want to carve them up -- at least not yet -- so today Nathan and I had a great time carving this traditional old Irish jack o' lantern from a turnip instead...that is to say, I did all the carving, while he happily munched on the pieces I removed! Nathan didn't understand what I was making until I carved the entire face. Once it was finished, he began to laugh, saying the turnip had a silly face, and he spent a few minutes imitating its spooky grin for the camera. Then he put on his smock and we painted the turnip with orange food coloring.

This was my first time carving a turnip, so I don't claim to be an expert by any means...I'm not even good at pumpkin-carving, for that matter. However, I plan to try making more turnip lanterns in the future. For those of you who have never carved a turnip before, you might want to give it a try, too! I can't yet discuss long-term results, but for now, here's how I would compare it to pumpkin-carving:

CONS
  • Turnips are smaller than pumpkins, which can mean a difficult and potentially frustrating job if you have big, clumsy hands.
  • The inside is solid, so it's a bit of a challenge to hollow it out -- I used a couple different sized kitchen knives and a dinner spoon. Please use caution!
  • No roasted pumpkin seeds as a reward for your hard work.
  • If you want to adorn your front porch with your little veggie lanterns, I imagine it would be difficult to appreciate them from a distance.

PROS
  • Turnips are smaller than pumpkins, which can mean an easier job if you have small, nimble fingers.
  • They're cheap.
  • You can make a bunch of cute little lanterns in less time.
  • No slimy, stringy pumpkin guts all over the place.
  • No gross pumpkin guts smell.
  • You can leave them ghostly white, or paint them any color you like -- green for a witch, black for a cat, or orange for a pumpkin!
  • A little tea-light candle fits inside perfectly.
  • Turnips were probably the original jack o' lanterns, since pumpkins are a North American crop, and Hallowe'en originates in England and Ireland.
  • It's just different!
Have a happy Samhain/All Hallow's Eve/Snap-Apple Night/Celtic New Year/Hallowe'en!

26 October 2009

QSIY Fall Festival 2009: A little slice of Americana

Armenians don't celebrate Halloween, and not many people here are familiar with the holiday. We have a big celebration at the school, obviously, and a few other Halloween parties take place at the U.S. Embassy, the U.S. Marine House, and a couple of clubs and tourist venues downtown, but that's about it. Nathan's Armenian nanny, whose 23rd birthday is on October 31, brought Nathan to the school on Tuesday evening for the festival, and she said it was the first time she had ever seen such an event. Another Armenian, a part-time teacher at QSI, asked Cheryl, the 9 year-old class teacher, "Why do Americans like getting scared?"

Annoyingly, this year's Fall Festival took place earlier in the evening than last year's (the sun was just setting when everyone went home), but it was still a tremendous success. We had plenty of fun activities for kids of all ages, including a new skee-ball style game created by Jarred's combined 10 & 11 year-old class,

a fortune-teller,

an egg walk,

the always popular "Whack the Teacher" game, organized by the high school students,

and more. Here you can see two of my 8 year-old boys hiding out and eating popcorn instead of assisting with our class game.
Apparently, Power Rangers costumes now come with built-in muscles...either that, or these are the beefiest 8 year-olds I've ever seen.

As usual, Grand Candy generously supplied the school with sweets for the trick-or-treat parade through the school building, and the PTA brought in a ton of food and prizes for everyone.

All the students line up for the parade.


The dessert table: SUGAR OVERLOAD!

We had an amazing display of costumes, with more students and teachers getting into the spirit than last year.
The director and his wife are quite the odd couple in this getup.

Old wedding dress from a thrift store: 5000 dram. A few packets of red food coloring: 900 dram. A bouquet of red roses (hung to dry for 2 weeks): 1500 dram. A fabulous zombie bride costume that can be used for years to come: priceless!

Ms. Maria the mermaid

Three of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Pestilence (Josh Olson, center), War (Steve Donatelle, not pictured), Famine (Jarred, left), and Death (Eric Bousman, right).

Famine goes a little nuts.

Even non-QSI students (younger siblings of students and children of teachers) came dressed to impress.
Avery, one of Nathan's playgroup friends and younger sister of two QSI students, is undoubtedly the cutest little witch ever!

Baby Ari's first Halloween...he makes an adorable teddy bear, doesn't he?

And of course, I simply must post photos of the absolute most charming little baseball player in attendance at the festival:


I'll be putting lots of photos in the October Photobucket album: more Fall Festival pictures, my class trip to Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory, and Nathan's playgroup Halloween party... so keep an eye out (don't take me too literally, guys and ghouls).

Oh, and happy 18th birthday to my brother Galen!