Picking and Carving the Perfect Pumpkin


 Dawn Bryan Founder of Qualipedia Offers Tips Far Beyond Pumpkin Pie and Jack-O-Lanterns

Pumpkin production, which climbed to more than 1.5 billion pounds in 2014, reaches its peak in October as Americans prepare to celebrate Halloween. As pumpkins have become ingrained into our Halloween and Thanksgiving cultures, the number of creative ways to use and enjoy them has increased.

Dawn Bryan, author of the best-selling book The Art and Etiquette of Gift Giving, the recently published Elite Etiquette, and founder of  Qualipedia™ the definitive source for making choices daily that count, offers the following tips including how to grow, pick, carve, eat, and store along with nutritional information and some wacky facts.

Pick a Perfect Pumpkin:  A mature pumpkin will be difficult to scratch, bright orange, have a green stem and be fully hardened. A shiny skin indicates that it was picked too soon.

  • For Eating: Look for a pumpkin which feels heavy for its size, as it will tend to have more dense, edible flesh.
  • For Painting: The best pumpkins for painting have smooth skin and shallow ribbing. The varieties Orange Smoothie, Cotton Candy, and Lumina are excellent for painting.
  • For Carving: Choose a pumpkin with structural strength, flat bottom, sturdy stem, and ability to last several days after being carved. It will sound hollow when tapped.

 Carve Pumpkins:

  • Carving pumpkins can be accomplished with a variety of tools such as regular kitchen knives.
  • However, in recent years inventors have patented tools made solely for this purpose; in addition to the cutting tools, some kits contain design templates and detailed instructions.
  • Choosing specialty pumpkins such as giant, miniature, unusual shapes, or white pumpkins (spooky) can add to the originality.  The most popular carvings are of the Jack-O-Lantern variety.
  • To carve a good Jack-O-Lantern, you need grease pencils for pre-marking; patterns — your own or those you can download from the internet; gutting spoons for scooping; a long, thin-bladed boning knife to cut out the top and other large pieces; and a very sharp small paring knife for detail work.

Growing Pumpkins:

·         A seasonal, warm weather crop, pumpkins require warm soil that holds water well and at least one bee hive per acre for adequate pollination.

·         Milk-fed Pumpkins: Feeding your pumpkin milk helps to grow a larger pumpkin. Although milk does not have any properties that directly increase pumpkin size, it keeps your pumpkins healthy and free of disease.

There are three ways to milk-feed your pumpkin:

  • Wick: Pour two percent milk with a tablespoon of sugar into a small covered pan or bowl, insert one end of wick or string into a small slit in the pumpkin stem and the other into the pan which is in a small hole next to the pumpkin.
  •  Injection: You can also use a syringe to inject the milk into the stem.
  • Pour: Use milk as fertilizer by mixing with manure or pour a cup of milk around the roots daily.

Pumpkins for Food:  

·         Pumpkins have become a part of the cuisine of many countries throughout the world: Roasted with other vegetables in Australia and New Zealand, in tempura in Japan, for ravioli stuffing in Italy, as a cooked vegetable in China, and served as a sweet dessert in Thailand, India, and the Middle East.

·         Eat only when ripe.

·         Fresh pumpkin can be boiled, baked, steamed, micro-waved, or roasted and is frequently mashed or pureed before combining it with other ingredients.

·         Desserts include pumpkin pie, crème brulee, mousse, gingerbread, cupcakes, and cheesecakes.

·         Other favorites include the pumpkin martini, pumpkin beers, pumpkin muffins, sweet and sour pumpkin, and pumpkin soup.

.          Pumpkin oil is frequently combined with other oils for cooking. Pumpkin blossoms are often batter fired or used to make fritters.

Store and Preserve:

·         Store in a cool dry place (45 to 60 °F) for up to a month or refrigerate for up to three months.

·         Extra pumpkin for eating can be frozen, canned or dried for longer storage. Freezing is the easiest and results in the best quality product.

·         Carved pumpkin will begin to dry and shrivel as soon as it’s cut. To slow down the dehydration process and deter the onset of mold, coat all cut surfaces as well as the entire inside of the pumpkin with petroleum jelly. Coat the eyes, nose, and mouth or any other design you have carved out.

Health Benefits:

·         Pumpkins:  Fat-free, cholesterol free, a good source of vitamin C and an excellent source of vitamin A; the bright orange pumpkin shouts that it is loaded with antioxidants.

·         Pumpkin Seeds are excellent sources of fiber and rich in vitamin A and potassium.  They are also packed with protein, iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, and vitamins E and B.

Wacky Facts

–Pumpkins can grow to weigh over 2000 pounds!

–Pumpkin seeds and oil have been used as a remedy for snake-bite and prostate problems, cure for freckles, and poultice treatment for burns.

Pumpkin burial is an age-old Halloween tradition. You can even find eulogies on the internet. Surely, the Great Pumpkin approves!

Back to School Gifts for College Students

It’s that time of year again for the college students to head off to school—this can be exciting, but also nerve racking. Help ease their minds and get them prepared for the year with some fun gift ideas from Dawn Bryan, founder of The Qualipedia.

Fund Their New Expenses:

  • Coin bank filled with quarters for laundry or parking meters
  • Car parking fee for the first semester
  • Gift certificate to school bookstore for books and supplies
  • Coupons for local carwash

Select Necessary Items for Their Dorms or Apartments:

  • Gift certificate to a shopping website or local store for bedding and other linens
  • Footlocker or chest for storage, which can also be used as a table
  • Laundry bag with supply of detergents
  • Cooking basics, such as frying pan, knives, and mixing bowls

 Help Them Keep in Touch:

  • Subscription to hometown newspaper or magazine
  • Framed photos of loved ones and friends
  • Calendar marked with birthdays, anniversaries, etc. of family and friends

Give Them Some Fun:

  • Season (or single) tickets to school games
  • Passes to local driving range, movie house, or concert
  • Membership to a local museum, sports club, or gym
  • First shares of stock, along with a subscription to investor news

Going off to college is a big transition for anyone, but with these thoughtful and fun gift ideas you’ll surely make your favorite student’s transition much easier.

Happy back to school shopping from The Qualipedia!


“The ideal gift communicates the appropriate and desired message about both the giver and the receiver.”
Although gay and lesbian couples have the same wedding gift needs and desires as do more traditional couples, there are ways to add more thoughtfulness and pleasure to your gift giving , while at the same time often spending less time and money.
Couple Considerations:

  • Recognize that the couple may have been living together for many years and thus have no need for many of the basic household items usually given at showers and weddings. However, they may be interested in adding to or replacing pieces of their crystal or silver.
  • Realize that many rainbow weddings are not planned months in advance ( including invitations and gift registries) because the couple has waited years to become married and wish to be a part of the joy surrounding the recent legality of rainbow marriage in their state.
  • Appreciate that couples may prefer gifts that recognize/celebrate/contribute to gay pride .
  • If possible, consider the entire family when selecting the gift(s), including children and pets.

Rainbow Register:
Some suggestions for ways to give your gifts that special rainbow aura:

  • Select same-sex gifts which show both pride in each other and in the relationship, ie set of two teddy bears dressed as brides or as grooms; his/his or hers/hers monogrammed towels, sheets, pillows, aprons, or crystal; matching cufflinks with new combined monogram; game such as Our Family, a board game which highlights the contributions of GLBT-folk throughout history; rings or other jewelry with interlocking Venus symbols. Check out the internet for many other gay and lesbian themed items.
  • Cater to their sensual side with silk sheets, matching PJ’s and slippers with monograms, aromatherapy, set of DVD’s, foot massages, a spa package, gifts of buffed metal or leather.
  • Relate gift to their special interests by giving a Netflix subscription; workout or sports equipment; Bose speakers; extra stemware for entertaining; movie gift cards to their favorite foreign film theatre along with a gift certificate to the coffee shop next door; tickets to a concert, play, opera or a museum membership; over-the-top new kitchen equipment for making fancy desserts or special cookware.
  • Give something which is significant to their relationship, such as a gift package or gift card from the place where they first met, whether Starbucks, Macy’s, Barney’s NY, Barnes and Noble, the local bar…; a bottle or case of their favorite wine or rum (Mt. Gay?); a framed photo or painting of the two of them now–or as young children; reminders of their trips to Disney Land/World; a silver or crystal replica of the wedding invitation; a picnic basket outfitted for two to be used when they go to concerts in the park.
  • Choose to make your gift special by giving a monogrammed and dated leather or satin guest book or wedding album; voucher for a weekend stay at a B & B; kitchen appliance or utensils along with a gift certificate from Whole Foods; a monogrammed decanter and their favorite Scotch; a set of their favorite CD’s, show, or music in a special box; leather bound book of their favorite poetry; compiled scrapbook of photos and handwritten messages from family and friends; video tape of special greetings from family or friends who cannot attend the festivities.
  • Make your gift choice count by donating to a charity in the couple’s honor; selecting a gift from the gift registries which donate 10% back to the gay or lesbian charity of your choice; plant a marriage tree or give plants or shrubs for their yard (or gift certificate); selecting a gift which is environmentally friendly.

Remember that the well-selected gift, given in the right spirit, makes the giver into a receiver, too.



Same Sex Wedding Gifts!

Listen to Dawn Bryan share creative ideas on on same-sex wedding gifts here:


Listen to internet radio with Big Blend Radio on Blog Talk Radio
Dawn Bryan featured on Blog Talk Radio on How to Choose the Right Wedding Gift!

Originally posted on www.blogtalkradio.com

Dawn Bryan on FOX CT on Wedding Toasts

Click HERE to watch  Dawn on FOX CT  discussing  Wedding Toasts do’s and don’ts

Dawn on FOX CT

The Inviting Invitation

The right wording for your wedding invitation means everything. Not only does it convey much more than practical information, it also expresses your desire to share this special celebration with the recipients. Upon opening your invitation, your guests will know whether the occasion is formal or informal, religious or secular, same-sex or hetero-sexual, local or far away. In addition, the size, material (usually paper), stationery technique (engraving, letterhead printing, thermographic printing, embossing, laser print, calligraphy), font, design and color, and information given—all combine to reveal the nature and character of your upcoming celebration. You can look online to design and print out your own invitations.

Invitations, Paper and Thread Studio

Here are some common forms with appropriate wedding wording etiquette.

  • Save the Date Cards: These can be especially helpful for guests when you are planning a destination wedding or a wedding around a holiday when advanced travel planning may be needed.
  • Traditional Formal Invitations: Names of invitees are usually handwritten within the invitation itself. This may include a separate reception card, ceremony card (seldom), and/or RSVP card.
  • Semi-formal/Informal Invitations: Same information in a less formal, more intimate manner. Paper, colors, and design are usually selected to reflect the couple’s personal style. For an intimate wedding of family and close friends, handwritten  invitations are suitable and often written by the couple or their family members.
  • Non-traditional Invitations: The increasing popularity of non-traditional celebrations of love, unions, and commitment ceremonies has generated interest in more creative invitations. Original wedding themes from culinary to vintage are first evident in the invitations. Same sex invitations also frequently include two brides or two grooms as well as symbolic decoration.
  • Wedding Announcements: The announcement is not an invitation to the ceremony or festivities; it is sent to persons–business, school, friends, family– who for whatever reason were not invited or were unable to attend the event. It includes the same names and date as the invitation and sometimes also the names of parents. The announcement is most often used when a wedding is far away, very small or after an elopement. It is not sent until after the wedding, and frequently includes a wedding photo.


All invitations are traditionally sent by the host/hosts of the wedding and reception, whether parents, step parents, other relatives, friends, or the couple themselves. Although stationers and suppliers will have numerous examples of typical wording for most situations, an understanding of traditional wording as well as guidelines for more individual circumstances can be helpful. Military titles are used when the person is a member of the armed forces or serving on active duty with the reserve; all military titles are written in full–no abbreviations.

Green Seeded Garden Herb Wedding Invitation, Forever Fiances

Traditional and Formal Wording

Traditional and formal wording is written in the third person style and printed in black or dark gray ink; “honour” and “favour” usually written in British style; names on invitations are written in full with no initials. The invitation to the ceremony usually does not include an RSVP; numbers in the date of the wedding are spelled out; request RSVP at least two weeks prior to ceremony; all type is centered on the page.

Eco-Friendly Wedding Invitations and Envelopes, Paper and Thread Studio

Informal Wording

Printed informal invitations are written in the first person and reflect the mood of the occasion, whether written by parents or other family members.  Phrases such as “We invite you” and “Please join us” are commonly used.

Informal Invite, Dolce Press

Handwritten Notes

This wording is from parents or from the bride and groom and conveys necessary information in an original, warm, personal style.

Handwritten Invite, Imgspark

Individual Circumstances

Whatever the complications of your family situation, make certain to include all involved parents, and discuss inclusion of new spouses with your families.  If you do include them, name the parents first, then use the phrase “together with” to include the new spouses. If a bride or groom wishes to include the name of a deceased parent, use “the late” in front of the deceased’s name on the invitation. If your professional name is different from your real “formal” name, you may print your professional name in parentheses below your real name. On joint invitations issued by both bride and groom’s families, the bride’s parents are listed first.

Wooden invite made from sustainably harvested trees, Wanart

Cultural Awareness

If you are marrying someone of a different religion or culture, learn as much as you can about his or her heritage and expectations. It is especially important to respect those traditions which are significant to the family and/or are religious in nature. And, yes, some of these practices are reflected even in the invitations–from the appropriate colors of stock and ink to the wording itself. The double invitation–an old European custom with the bride’s family on the left side of the page and the groom’s on the right–is becoming increasingly popular in this country.

Most important: Only you and your partner know the perfect way to celebrate your wedding and respectfully share your happiness with family and friends.  Always trust your instincts!

DIY Invites, Sheknows

Dawn Bryan is the founder and President of The Qualipedia and an authority on gifting, protocol, quality, and conscious choice. She wrote the best-selling book “The Art and Etiquette of Gift Giving” and has taught etiquette and protocol to many celebrities and corporations around the globe, including P. Diddy’s Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group.

“Bringing in the May” and Spring Flowers

Definition: The first day of May which has always been strongly associated with flowers and frequently includes the giving of May Day Baskets.

Provenance: Celebration of May Day began as pagan festivals, celebrating spring and fertility. May 1 was one of the most important holidays of the year for the Druids of the British Isles; they believed that the day divided the year in half. When the Romans came to occupy the British Isles, they brought new traditions. Their early May was devoted to a 5-day celebration called Floralia in honor of Flora, the goddess of flowers. Ancient customs that still survive in various parts of the world include the dawn gathering of blossoms, flowers, and branches;  the decking of and dancing around a maypole; the crowning of the Queen of the May; the Morris Dance (men dancing together in animal costumes); the making of garlands; the hanging of May baskets on the doorknobs of friends and neighbors; washing one’s face with May dew which supposedly has the power to maintain/restore beauty–according to American folklore, girls living in the Ozark Mountains believed that washing their faces with this dew would help them to find and marry the man of their choice.

may day baskets2

Image Credit: anoteoffriendship.blogspot.com

May Baskets are not only a celebration of spring but a celebration of giving. The basket filled with flowers–and sometimes other small gifts –is quietly, and supposedly secretly,  placed on someone’s doorstep or hung on his/her door knob. Especially popular among children and young adults.

1. How to Care for Cut Flowers:


Image Credit: http://www.rosefloral.com

–Because they require a healthy environment, be sure that your container is free from the bacteria that can clog the stem, preventing circulation of water and nutrients. Scrub or rinse containers with mild solution of chlorox bleach before or after each use. Also give your flowers clean well-ventilated air, as smoke and other pollutants will shorten their lives.

–Flowers respond to the temperature of the water they are placed into.  Warm water encourages them to open/grow; and cool water slows their development, adding longevity.

–Always cut stems on an angle while under running water, exposing a larger surface. Use a sharp knife, as snipping stems with a scissors can pinch off the channels through which the water is conducted. When cutting tulips, removing all white portions of the stem will allow better fluid intake.

–Remove all foliage from stems which will be under water, as this will discourage bacteria from forming.

–Flower preservatives can prolong the life of your flowers. Most of them contain ingredients which keep the flowers’ energy level high (sugar), inhibit the growth of bacteria, and lower the Ph factor, enhancing water/nutrient uptake. Follow the instructions carefully.

–Many flower arrangers have their own “tried-and-true” methods of extending flower life. These range from bleach, sugar, crushed aspirin, pinch of salt and baking powder, soda, and copper pennies to various combinations.  Some claim that using hairspray on the blooms will extend their attractive lives.

–Take care when combining daffodils in a bouquet, as they exude a sap that clogs the stems of other flowers (especially tulips) that can cause the other flowers to wilt.  If you do include them, first soak them in warm water with a teaspoon of sugar for at least 12 hours to leach the harmful sap out of the stems.

–Keep flowers away from direct sunlight, drafts and heating/air conditioning vents; don’t set on top of TV; don’t place close to burning candles. They will enjoy being spray misted.

–Every 2 or 3 days give flower stems a fresh cut, clean out the container, and replace the water/solution to increase hydration.

–Remove flowers that wilt early from an arrangement because they give off ethylene gas (used in commercial ripening) which will cause the remainder of the flowers to wilt sooner.

–Mist full strength lemon juice on gardenias to prevent them from browning.

–When using tulips in an arrangement, dip tulips which have reached the openness you desire into beaten egg whites to prevent their opening any further.

2. Wholistic:



Image Credit: www.nrgetics.com

–Health Benefits–The presence of flowers improves emotional health and helps to relieve stress. A team of researchers at Rutgers University explored the link between flowers and life satisfaction. The recently-published study showed that 1. Flowers have an immediate impact on happiness–a universal reaction; 2. Flowers have a long-term positive effect on moods; 3. Flowers make intimate connections, their presence increasing contact with family and friends. The study also concluded that flowers are a symbol for sharing, especially the sharing of space.

3. Tips:



Image Credit: howtopreserveflowers.com

–When working with gardenias or stephanotis, you can prevent browning by first wetting your hands so that the oil from your skin will not touch the petals.

–If you plan to eventually dry your flowers/arrangement, look for plants that are interesting in shape, texture, or color once dried. Choose plants that will retain their shape and not fall apart or disintegrate.

–If you have no commercial preservative, make your own by placing 1 teaspoon sugar and a few drops of chlorine bleach into the water.

–To straighten bent tulips, wrap the stems tightly in damp newspaper, secure with a rubber band, and stand in lukewarm water with light directly above them for a couple of hours.

–Because tulips continue to grow even after being cut, it is best to change water and cut stems daily.

4.Wacky Facts:



Image Credit: caminhospagao.blogspot.com

–The Pilgrims of the New World observed May Day for awhile until Governor John Endicott (a Puritan) ordered all Maypoles burned down.

–May Day in England is a bank holiday; in France, it includes a procession for the Virgin Mary.

–May baskets can be made or constructed of almost anything–paper or plastic cups, oatmeal boxes, cartons, baskets, vases, pitchers, construction paper, grocery store berry baskets, flower pot, small pail, watering can…  Decorated paper cones used as flower containers are called tussie mussies.

–In 2010 Girl Scouts in West Bend, Wisconsin made May Day baskets containing fresh flowers for the surprised residents of local hospitals and nursing homes. It was such a success that they have continued each year.

–Leaving an anonymous May Day Basket is considered “a random act of kindness”.



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