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Living: Tools to carve a pumpkin, about pet costumes

Martha Stewart

Q. What are the most essential tools for pumpkin-carving?

A. Crafting a proper jack-o’-lantern requires more than a kitchen knife. A variety of blades (serrated, looped and curved) make carving easy and accurate. Assemble a set of tools, below, to quickly remove the pumpkin’s insides and sculpt intricate details on the rind. You can find all of these tools at art-supply stores.

Keyhole saw: This tool’s sharp teeth cut through the rind to make the large hole, either on the top or the bottom.

Fleshing tool: A serrated loop easily scrapes away the flesh, allowing light to shine through.

Linoleum cutter: Make a skin-deep outline and pattern with V- and U-shaped blades in a few sizes.

Miniature saw: To cut out areas with lots of detail, like for facial features, use an easy-to-maneuver blade.

Q. Is it safe to put my pet in a costume?

A. Yes, depending on the attire. “Costumes shouldn’t limit the animal’s movement or sight, or its ability to breathe, eat, drink, or relieve itself,” says Katherine Miller, a certified applied animal behaviorist at the ASPCA. Also avoid choking hazards, such as dangling beads. Ultimately, if your pet seems distressed, remove the costume right away — no matter how cute it looks!

Q. Why should I sift flour for a recipe?

A. Sifting (or just whisking) breaks up clumps that form when flour sits for a while. It also adds air and volume, so a cup of sifted flour and a cup of unsifted flour are two different quantities. Read recipe instructions carefully to determine whether sifting is needed: For “a cup of sifted flour,” sift first, then measure; for “a cup of flour, sifted,” measure first, then sift. The exception: cake flour, which should always be sifted.

Questions should be sent to Martha Stewart Living, 11 W. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10036. You may also email questions to mslletters@marthastewart.com. Please include your name, address and daytime telephone number.