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Holidays — Page 3

Happy Belated Halloween, y’all!

As always, I made the kids’ costumes this Halloween, and this year, it kind of nearly killed me. Well, the Draco Malfoy Hogwarts robe almost killed me. The knitted Draco scarf was a close second. Compared to those, the Mr. Freeze costume was about as hard as rolling out of bed.

So, here are the final results:

I gotta say, I was so proud of the costumes that I wanted to punch someone in the face. It was that rewarding.

Mr. Freeze basically consisted of black garments– I bought girls leggings and a kind of spandex-ey athletic shirt at Target– and spray painted athletic pads. I ordered four-year-old-sized knee, elbow, and shoulder pads (by the by, can you believe they make football pads for FOUR YEAR OLDS?) online and then we spray painted them silver.

knee pads, before and after silver spray paint

That’s the four-year-old, modeling the football pads before we painted them. I kind of can’t stand how cute his annoyed face is.

Side note, here, peeps. I went to Michaels to get the spray paint, and good grief, why is spray paint regulated like it’s a narcotic or something? All the paint is kept inside a locked cage. I had to get the sales guy to not only open the cage, but take out the paint– he wouldn’t let me touch any of them–and THEN, he wouldn’t even let me carry it up to the counter. He put it there and I had to ask for it when I got there. Wha?

I brainstormed with RD Husband about this oddity, and we surmised that maybe kids are huffing it? Is that a thing? Well, after doing a little interwebs research, I discovered that, as far as I can tell, the reason it’s regulated is because of… graffiti. Seriously. Tagging. I think it’s actually illegal to sell spray paint to minors in L.A. county. What the face? Do you all have this same deal in your neck o’ the woods?

Back to costumes. To finish off Mr. Freeze, we got the bald cap from the Halloween store and I ordered these crazy red-lensed glasses that were perfect off the internet. I also made him a belt with some blue vinyl from JoAnn Fabric and an old CD. We saddled him up with a gun from our arsenal and he was good to go. And in character.

Draco took much, much more time to complete. I found this amazing tutorial online on how to make a Hogwarts robe that didn’t require a pattern, so that was good. Except the tutorial skipped a few key steps, like adding a neckline. So I had to improvise, and I’m not really good enough at sewing to improvise effectively.

Anyhoo, it took me at least eight hours to sew the robe. Oy. The scarf, which I knitted, took probably about as long, but it was kind of mindless– I could do it at night while watching TV or during the four-year-old’s My Gym class. To round out those handmade pieces, I got an Oxford and black pants at Target, and found the perfect tie there, too– I couldn’t believe it. It was just sitting in the men’s section, all Slytherined out. I ordered Draco’s wand online and a patch for the Slytherin robe, and we were done.

What I loved the most is how much the kids adored their costumes. The seven-year-old wore his for the Halloween carnival at school, and afterwards we went over to some friends’ house for a playdate. Even though I brought clothes to change into, he wore the entire costume for the whole playdate, all the way up until bathtime, basically. He loved it so much he didn’t even want to take it off. It was so sweet. Also, we never saw another Mr. Freeze or a Draco Malfoy. Plenty of Batmans and Harry Potters, but no one quite like my little buggers. Yay for uniqueness!

I hope you had a fabulous Halloween. Who’s ready for Thanksgiving???

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So, I have a thing about Halloween, y’all.  I INSIST on making my kids’ costumes.

I’m not sure where this tick originated, but I really just can’t bring myself to buy any of those plasticky costumes.  I think my mom always made my costumes (difference here is that she knows how to sew), and I loved them– I remember in particular one year she bought a pattern and made me a whole Laura Ingalls costume, replete with bonnet, undershift, aprony top thing (these are all technical sartorial terms for vintage frontier wear, you know).  I wore that thing all year round and loved it.

So maybe it comes from mom, or maybe it’s just my nostalgia for my childhood and a simpler, cobbled together costume age.  Or if I’m being all activist about it, maybe it’s my protest against commercialism and mass produced crap.  In truth, it’s probably just that I love the way the costumes turn out.

I will share some of my previous years’ projects in a post soon, but for now I wanted to share some craziness I saw at the fabric store, while searching for patterns for this year’s costumes.  Sadly, I didn’t find any patterns that fit the bill, but I managed to figure it all out online, so thank you interwebs!  Much better than the Butterick catalog.  Incidentally, this year I’m creating a four-year-old Mr. Freeze costume and a seven-year-old Draco Malfoy costume.  But more on that soon.

So, have you ever looked at the costume patterns in a fabric store catalog?  At first, I was intently focused on the clothes themselves since I needed very specific things.  But then, I started to look at the big picture.  Now, I realize that sewing your own clothes is probably a dying art, if it’s not already DOA.  So I’m sure that there isn’t a huge budget for styling the pattern photos or for creating the patterns themselves.  But seriously, they can’t do better than this?  Or at least find someone who has some sense of aesthetics?

Let me share.

First of all, I’m kind of appalled at the options for women.  Who wants to be Cha Cha Cha for Halloween?

If you wear this costume, you are not allowed any shoes, by the way.  Who is this lady?  Is she a flamenco dancer?  A gypsy?  What?

You could also be a SASSY LADY.

I will apologize right now for the sad quality of these photos, but I was taking them surreptitiously with my iPhone.  Hard to see because of the blur, but do you see the title of this pattern at the bottom, beneath the Butterick label?  ”Sassy Ladies.”  What on earth?  Like, again, who are these sassy ladies?  Also, note the traditional 70s-style line drawing pattern book illustration.  This is like a whole genre of its own, right?  I’m sure they haven’t updated this aesthetic in about, well, like, EVER.  Can we get on this?  Can someone come up with a better option?

So, I’m protesting the sexualized nature of the ladies’ Halloween costume options.  Everything is so… sexy.  Where’s my scary mummy costume?  Do I have to be sassy at Halloween?  What if I just want to freak the bejesus out of you?

If you’re looking for innocent and tame, there’s always this “historical” costume.

A long winter’s nap, indeed.  Is this pattern historically accurate?  I’m pretty sure the following one IS NOT:

I think someone at Simplicity needs to do more homework on sixteenth-century hemlines.

They’ve even taken a classic, CLASSIC piece of innocent Americana and sexed it up.  I give you:

Zoinks, y’all.  Indeed, this is a “sassy version of these beloved classics.”  Dorothy is so parched; would you be a doll and get her a little sippy of water?  I’m gonna call it and say that the Scarecrow is totally phoning it in.  What is that pose?  The witch might have herself confused with a cat, although I can’t be sure.  And what is this one-bent-leg-pigeon-toed-in thing that they are all rockin’?  I cannot wear any of these costumes because my boobs are not nearly big enough.

One thing about these patterns that cracks me up is the blatant copyrighted rip-offs.  I’m sure everyone is looking for a Snow White costume pattern, but they can’t really SAY Snow White, so they make up some private-label version that still lets you know what it is without infringing on copyright.  So we get:

 

 

Storybook Tales

You can actually turn it into a party game if you try to guess what some of the patterns are really supposed to be.

 

Ah, yes, the notorious "Lord of the Stars"

I’m going with Lord of the Rings, obviously, but I think you could make a case, perhaps, for Harry Potter?  No?

This one I love:

Halloween in the City, people?  Do you really think Sarah Jessica Parker would be caught dead in that gingham bunny get-up?

Or, your whole family could go as the Happy Dancers!

First of all, HA!  Second of all, they even rip off the original font.

I’m going to end with some historical costumes.  For these, it’s not the costume itself that’s so bad, it’s the models.  Apparently, everyone in history was either sassy, wistful, or mischievous.  No one ever smiled in history?  Just looked normally at the camera?

At least that 50s lady has a version of a smile.  She’s all, “Check. Out. My. Hair.  Can you believe this hair?  Do you LOVE my hair?”

You gotta leave a comment telling me your favorite.  There are so many doozies!

Post soon on the progress of this year’s costume production.

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My Christmas would not be the same without my Grandma’s German Wine Cookies.  I’ve never met anyone who has either had them or even heard of them, so apparently they are pretty rare.  But I adore them, and I honestly can’t remember a Christmas without them.  When I was little, I’d make them with my Grandma, and as we got older, we’d make them with my mom or just by ourselves.

But you always gotta have Wine Cookies.

German Wine Cookies

download recipe here

makes about 3 dozen

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Port, Sweet Marsala, or Cream Sherry
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 5 – 5 1/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 375º.  Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well-combine.  Beat in wine and vanilla (be careful, it can get sloppy here).  Slowly beat in flour until dough is stiff enough to roll out.  Roll dough out to 1/4″ thick on a lightly floured board.  Cut out cookies with cookie cutters.  Bake about 10 minutes, until the edges are barely light brown (the bottoms will be slightly golden).  Cool on wire racks.

German Wine Cookies

These cookies keep really well, too– my Grandma always said they would keep for a year in an airtight container.  Not sure about that, but they do last without getting all dried out.

It’s a pretty simple recipe, but the cookies are really quite unique.  With my Grandma, we almost always used Marsala, but nowadays I usually can find Cream Sherry more easily.

What’s your favorite holiday cookie?  Is it something unusual, or something more traditional?

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While our family participates in several holiday charities each year, this year we joined a fantastic little group that provided me with the most meaningful charity experience I’ve ever had.  I’d like to share it with everyone in the hopes that others might take up the cause next year, and we can all make an amazing difference.

A friend of mine started several years ago with a charity he thought up that he dubbed “Craigslist Christmas.”  He would post on the free section of Craigslist, explaining that if anyone was having serious trouble providing their families with Christmas, he would step up and help.  And for the first two years, he got something like 5 or 6 responses, and he and his family would quietly help 2 or 3 families in need.  Last year, because of the economy, his responses exploded: 60 responses in the FIRST HOUR.  In 2008 he got about 150 responses, so he reached out to friends, knowing he couldn’t help everyone, and people pitched in.  Altogether, they helped about 30 families.

This year the response was just as great.  So when my friend contacted me, I thought it was such a brilliant idea I wanted to join in.

Here’s how it works.  Secret Santa (my friend, who wants to remain anonymous, uses this alias on Craigslist) goes through the responses and carefully chooses the families who are most in need.  (It’s not meant for someone who just wants a new Playstation; it’s really meant for people who can’t even provide necessities for their families.)  He sets up several different nights where his Secret Elves (those of us who are pitching in to help) and the families in need meet at a local Target.  After he introduces himself to the families, he pairs each of his Elves up with a family, briefly explaining their plight.  And off we go, through Target, buying the family what they need for Christmas.  This year, on the night I joined, there were 13 people in all who each helped a family, and that was only one night out of three.  So all told, over 40 families were helped this year.

My family had two children living in a Caribbean country whom they usually support while they are trying to get them to the States (one spouse is American, one has a green card).  They both lost good, well-paying jobs about a year and a half ago, and they cannot support the 9 and 12 year old kids, who are currently living with a teenage step-brother.  So we went around and got clothes, shoes, socks, underwear– just basic necessities, plus a gift for each.

The really sobering moment for me came when one spouse kind of hesitantly asked whether we might get an air mattress for them.  I got kind of jammed for a second, my mind raced, my jaw dropped, and I looked at this couple and said, “They don’t have a BED?”  They both shook their heads no.  Good HEAVENS, people, these kids are sleeping on the FLOOR.  They don’t have a bed!!!  So we headed to the camping department and got them an air mattress with pump that they can share.

I thought about all the gifts sitting under my tree for my kids, my husband, and myself, and I thought, where is the justice that we have all that and these kids don’t have a bed? Intellectually, I understand that there is great suffering in the world, and that we are beyond lucky to have what we do.  But this experience was visceral; here I was face to face with parents who agonize every day as they can’t provide food, clothing, or basic necessities to their distant children.  It broke my heart.

At the end of the evening, when I had purchased everything and arranged to ship it to the kids, I gave the couple a gift card to a local grocery store (another of Secret Santa’s charitable touches).  We hugged and said “Merry Christmas,” and I can’t tell you how wonderful it felt to help someone out face to face.  I got to know this couple just a tiny bit during the 2 hours or so I was with them, and truly, it was an honor to be able to help their kids.  Secret Santa is simply brilliant.

To me, this kind of grassroots charity is where it begins and ends.  This friend simply decided he wanted to help some people, and he figured out a way to do it.  I still believe there is great value in all the highly organized charities out there, but I’ve also learned that anyone can do something to help out in their local community.  To quote We Add Up, “No one can do everything.  Everyone can do something.”

The beautiful postscript to this story comes from a family that my friend helped himself.  The next day, he got an email from them.  As they were driving home, they saw a woman on a freeway off-ramp with a sign that said, “Will Work for Toys.”  They pulled over and, thrilled at the charity they had just been shown, they gave this woman some of the toys that they received at the Target gathering.  They also got her number, and they asked my friend if he might be able to help one more person.  And indeed, he did.  He called her up, told her he understood she’d been having a hard time with Christmas, and arranged to meet her the next night at Target.  Pay it forward, indeed.

I think Secret Santa’s idea is so amazing that I hope others might take up the cause.  It’s an incredibly meaningful way to make a difference face to face, right in your own community.

Merry Christmas.

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