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 2015, 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!

Candid About Crystal


All crystal is glass, but all glass is definitely not crystal.

Crystal is mouth-blown glass that contains lead oxide. When added to molten glass, it adds weight and gives a much higher index of refraction than normal glass, greatly increasing sparkle and brilliance and creating a prism effect. It can be cut and faceted into intricate patterns.

There are several processes/techniques which are used to enhance crystal. These include etching and frosting; engraving; glazing and gilding. Colored glass is usually created from the fusing of two layers of glass, one clear and one colored. The cutter cuts onto the colored glass to reveal the clear glass. The color comes from the addition of metal oxides, i.e. real gold results in ruby; cobalt in blue; and iron oxide in green.

Terms generally used:

  • Full Lead Crystal: Glass containing at least 24% lead oxide can be called “full lead crystal”; however, many well-known brands contain higher levels into the 30%’s.
  • Lead Crystal: Glass containing 10-24% lead oxide.
  • Crystalline: glass containing 6-10% lead oxide. However, American standards permit clear glass containing any amount of lead to be considered “crystal”.


Crystal is a product that really requires personal perusal–at least at first. Once you have done your homework, reviewed and handled a variety of crystal, online purchasing is a viable option. But no Internet picture is going to allow you to see or feel differences in light refraction, color, quality of edges, balance and weighting. Information regarding lead content is often absent from websites that sell crystal, so it is wise to call the manufacturer or retailer about the specific item to determine whether it is full lead crystal. You may also wish to inquire as to whether the crystal product is hand-crafted or machine made. Many manufacturers make handcrafted crystalline, crystal and full-lead crystal, but also their lead-free, machine-made cousins, so one should not make assumptions based on only the name of the manufacturer.

High quality crystal will display the following qualities:

*Sparkle, clarity and translucency

*Smooth, precise, polished cuts and edges

*Uniform shape and thin walls

*No seams, as this indicates pressed glass that was molded, not mouth-blown

*Slight or few variations, such as bubbles, cords (small lines), chill and flow marks (surface indentations).

*A crisp, clear high-pitched ring when you tap the rim. Lower-pitched or muted sounds indicate lesser quality.


*Temper your crystal–get it gradually used to temperature changes–when adding hot or iced drinks. Never put boiling water into crystal, or put it in the freezer.

*Since crystal easily absorbs stains and odors, rinse glasses soon after use. As for vases and carafes, don’t leave flowers or wine in them for long, as they can become permanently stained.

*Use warm soapy water (no abrasives) to wash crystal (one at a time to avoid breakage), with a rubber mat or towel cushioning bottom of sink. Dry with a lint-free towel.

*Keep items away from dust, as it can act as an abrasive.

*Store glasses right side up to ensure the rims don’t chip–or put your crystal in a stemware rack.

* For water spots, sub on lemon juice or vinegar; for hard-to-clean stains or residue, use denture-cleaning table or mix uncooked rice with lemon juice or vinegar and swish it around; use ammonia, but never on metal rims or decoration.


For the most part the lead contained in lead crystal is not dangerous. However, since heavy metals accumulate in the body and can cause serious harm, consumers may want to follow some guidelines to reduce the danger that lead crystal can present. The FDA recommends that people rethink the way they use lead crystal for food and beverages.

–Soak your new crystal in vinegar for 24 hours, then rinse thoroughly.

–Use a mild soap, as abrasives can make lead leaching more likely.

–Do not store food or beverages for long periods in crystal. This is particularly important for juices, vinegar and alcoholic beverages.

–Do not pour wine/alcohol into guests’ glasses until time for drinking.

–Pregnant women should avoid using crystal.

Podcast: Cracking the Code on Elite Etiquette – Jennings Wire

Please enjoy a recent podcast interview with Dawn Bryan and Annie Jennings of Jennings Wire on proper etiquette.


Highlights from the conversation include:

  • How would you define “etiquette” for the 21st Century? What is Elite Etiquette?
  • What are some of the unspoken, unwritten rules, customs and traditions? When do they apply?
  • What if you make an embarrassing protocol mistake in your business communications?
  • In new experiences, what do most people worry about doing wrong?
  • Why do some businesses ask to have a MEAL with a job candidate before making an offer?
  • What does the gift you give say about you? How is it a reflection of who you are as a person?
  • Why is it important in this rapidly changing, social media world to learn about etiquette and protocol?

Listen to the full podcast HERE

Full article HERE


International Business Protocol

By Dawn Bryan, best-selling author of “The Art and Etiquette of Gift Giving” and “Elite Etiquette”, and founder of Qualipedia ™

It is very easy to unwittingly offend your international business prospects. Many global marketing efforts and contract negotiations have been destroyed by the unintentional blunder.

Being too late or too early for an appointment, using the wrong form of address, improperly receiving a  business card, shaking hands, bringing wine to a home dinner, insulting with your choice of business gift, using a “hard sell”,  or even eating everything on your plate could ruin your negotiation…and reputation. Americans most often make mistakes with meeting/greeting rituals; eating/dining; giving/receiving;   and not recognizing significant taboos. And, when setting up or responding to a meeting request, remember that many Europeans and South Americans write the day first, then the month, then the year when using numbers.

Meeting/Greeting Rituals
Although handshakes are standard greeting gestures among Europeans, the gesture is generally more formal and more firm—except for the lighter touch of the French. Usually those of higher rank and women are expected to extend their hand first. Asians will often greet you with a gentle handshake; however, the bow is more traditional and more respected. Learning how to bow, including depth, eye contact, etc. is very important. Some South Americans can be effusive and take a long time to greet, believing that this conveys respect for the other person.  In many cultures, it is good manners to shake hands with everyone in a group/room upon arrival as well as departure.  Many European and South American women kiss each other on alternating cheeks. In Brazil, a third kiss between women bestows “good luck” in finding a spouse!

Be sure to use the proper form of address when meeting—or greeting: there are many different customs. For example, Europeans rarely use first names until they know the person well; unlike the United States, titles, especially academic titles, are always used.  Asian names are usually listed in a different order from Western names. In Japan, use last names plus San meaning “Ms.” or “Mr.” The Chinese are very sensitive regarding status and always use official titles, such as “Committee Member”. Titles are also important in some Central/South American countries: in Panama the title Licenciado is used for anyone with a bachelor’s degree. In Norway, lawyers and clergymen do not use titles, although government officials do.

Learn the business card protocol for each culture. Your card should have the other person’s language printed on the back and that side should be presented to her/him. The presentation itself is important, particularly in Asian cultures where it is given with a proper bow. Do not just quickly stuff someone’s card into your pocket or bag. Always treat another’s card with respect, taking the time to read and appreciate it. When you meet with several people, be sure to give your card to each person lest you slight someone.

Whether you are a host or a guest, you should be familiar with the local food, drink, punctuality expectations (local time), when and how to conduct business, and appropriate seating. In some cultures, guests are expected to arrive late—don’t be offended at your Spanish associate’s late arrival. In others (Japan, The Netherlands, Sweden), tardiness is considered very rude. In Italy, the more important the person, the later he/she may arrive to a business meeting. Europeans are generally not fond of business breakfasts.

Learn when and how to correctly order and eat difficult or new foods. If possible, practice eating in the style of the other person—European, American, chopsticks.

In some countries, such as Norway, gift-giving is simply not a part of doing business, whereas in many other cultures (Japan) it is an integral part of the process of learning about the other person. In China a banquet is an acceptable business gift.

Some business gifts are not presented until negotiations have been completed (Latin America), others at the beginning (Korea).Some countries (Australia) have very strict quarantine laws regarding even wood products and many foods.

To avoid looking cheap, do not give logo gifts unless they are of excellent quality and the logo is subtle.

If bringing flowers to someone’s home, be certain that the color, number, or actual type of flower is not offensive: in many countries certain flowers and colors signify death.

Do not be impatient when dealing with cultures such as Saudi and Russia. Russians prize patience as a virtue and some regard compromise as a sign of weakness.

It is usually inappropriate for a foreign business woman to invite her male counterpart to a business dinner unless other associates or spouses attend.

Do not dress casually for a business meeting, and, if a woman, probably best to wear a skirt.

Never say “no” to the Japanese and understand their aversion to the word. (This maintains harmony and saves face.)

Arab World – Do not give or present anything with your left hand; give an alcoholic beverage or bar gift; or show the sole of your shoe.


WHICH CHRISTMAS TREE IS RIGHT FOR YOU? Tips to Help Shoppers Select the Perfect Tree for Their Lifestyle


Since President Franklin Pierce had the first White House Christmas Tree in the 1850’s American families have faced the task of choosing a tree that fits their lifestyle, demonstrates their passion for Christmas and is practical and economical.

Everyone has an opinion about the family Christmas tree–must it be live, cut or artificial? And what size–is bigger always better?

What about the shape, the color, the needle length, the branch strength and spacing, the needle-holding ability–and even the fragrance? We can always cut our own trees, but most of us purchase them from the nearest local seller.

Dawn Bryan, author of the best-selling “The Art and Etiquette of Gift Giving,” and founder of Qualipedia (www.thequalipedia.com), a consumer information and lifestyle website, offers the following tips to help shoppers choose the tree that is right for them.

Before making any decision, keep in mind where your tree will be displayed and know the measurements of the area before you purchase.

Trying to balance our love of tradition with practicality and current lifestyle, we can easily make the wrong decision. Ask yourself:

Are you the traditionalist who loves to make the season come alive while stringing lights and breathing in the fresh fragrance of your pine?  Do you not have the space to store an artificial tree during the year?

If so, select a cut tree with good green color, needle resiliency, and pleasing fragrance.

How to Select a Live or Cut Tree:

  • Check condition of the needles by bending the needle gently between your thumb and forefinger. The fresh needle should bend easily, not break
  • Pull your hand toward you along the branch. Needles should adhere to the branch and not fall off in your hand.
  • If a cut tree, lift the tree a few inches off the ground, then drop it on stump end. If outside needles fall off in abundance, it is probably not fresh. If old needles, which have been lodged among the branches from prior shedding fallout, this is not a sign of a dry tree.

How to Care For:

  • Living Trees: Store before decorating in unheated, sheltered area out of sun and wind; While inside, keep soil damp; limit inside stay to 7 to 10 days; when moving to the outdoors, do not immediately change temperatures from warm house to freezing cold; when planting, mulch heavily over the top of the planted root ball to prevent freezing and water only when needed.


  • Cut Trees: Cut a half-inch off the base of the trunk before immediately placing it into water; do not whittle down the sides of the trunk, as the tree drinks mostly from the edges of its trunk base; trees may drink as much as a gallon of water in the first 24 hours and one or more quarts a day thereafter; keep tree away from sun, fireplace and other heat sources; and unplug lights at night unless you are expecting Santa. To recycle, check the recycling link on your community’s website.
  • Real Christmas trees are a renewable, recyclable resource, often grown on soil that doesn’t support other crops.

Are you time-compromised, afraid to climb ladders, not interested in needle clean-up and tree maintenance, or evergreen allergic?

If so, select an artificial tree that imitates your favorite variety or is in your favorite color. Many are pre-lit and some come with ornaments, berries, pine cones, flocking, frosting and fiber optics already in place.

How to Select an Artificial Tree:

  • If you are looking for the most realistic looking artificial tree, purchase one with PE needles (rather than PVC), a center pole, and individual stick branch attachments.
  • If your primary concern is buying tree that is easy to assemble, choose one with PE needles, a center pole, hinged branch attachments and pre-strung lights.
  • Artificial trees come in a myriad of varieties, heights and shapes to fit into your space and decorating style.
  • “Tip count” can be used as an advertising ploy, and usually makes little difference to the overall appearance, mattering much less than needle quality.
  • For quality, look at the branch ends: well-crafted trees use heavier gauge metal and have sculpted, not snipped-off, ends.
  • Lights: Look for three-year or 3,000 hour warranty,  80-100 lights per square foot,  twist-proof sockets, the ability for the entire string to stay lit, even if a single bulb burns out, is broken or removed; and have 8-10 inches between lights.

How to Care For an Artificial Tree:

  • With proper care, an artificial tree will last 6-7 years, making it an economical choice.
  • Wear gloves and a long-sleeved shirt when putting up your tree.
  • Store the tree in a carrying case, NOT a cardboard box. The latter will get damp and/or disintegrate and cause dust to inundate your tree, and critters like to chew through boxes to makes warm homes in artificial trees.
  • Concerns:
  • Artificial trees off-gas volatile organic compounds (VOCs,) as they are made of PVC and/or PE and many contain lead, which makes the PVC more malleable. These trees are known to shed lead-laced dust.
  • Artificial trees often are treated with a fire retardant which off-gasses.
  • Artificial trees cannot be recycled. It is possible to donate a gently used tree to a local thrift store. If the tree is unfit for use, it must be taken to a landfill.

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.