Monday, November 01, 2021

DIY Mountain Climber Halloween Costume

Evidently this is now strictly a Halloween costume blog, given that I haven't posted anything in a year. 

This year my kids decided to be a mountain climber and a yeti. Or, according to my youngest, a yeti that CHASES the mountain climber. Which is pretty accurate in real life, too. 

We basically raided the outdoor bin for the backpack, gaiters, 'crampons'/boot spikes, Ben's snowboarding helmet, a walkie-talkie (aka his Search & Rescue communication device), and his winter jacket. Those are my mom's old hiking boots, and the stuff sack from my childhood sleeping bag (a GREAT candy bag, by the way - super sturdy).  My dad provided the sweet coil of rope. 

The only thing we bought was the ice axe, bought for $35 by a guy that's moving to Texas ("No mountains", he said mournfully). It's been to the top of Mt Rainier so Ben thought that was cool. I made the harness and spent $4 on webbing. All in all, a pretty easy costume. 

This is his "I made it to the TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN!" pose. Gotta look the part. 


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

DIY Halloween 2020: Monarch Butterfly


Ok, let's me honest: this is my most favorite costume ever. To the point where I might simply buy costumes next year because nothing will ever top this one. I told Em she has to wear it every year from here on out. 

Our inspiration came from a shoe company, of all places:

And while I liked the orange-yellow of the traditional monarch butterfly, my little gal is firmly ensconced in the all-things-must-be-pink camp. Fair enough. Biologic accuracy be dammed. We're going with pink. 

Here is a little play-by-play of our creative process. We sketched out a few ideas:

We began with plain black fabric onto which I sewed a wire along the outside. You don't necessarily need to do it, but it gives the wings 'lift'. 

We then created a paper template and used chalk to make our markings onto the wings. 

In total, we did 7 wings. Here they are with chalk outlines, ready for paining. 

We painted directly onto the black fabric with acrylic paint. They required 3 coats, so be prepared with lots of paint. I painted them a light pink and added orange accents later. (Below: finished wings at the top (3 coats), a wing with one coat in the middle and at bottom a wing with two coats of paint). 

I then sewed the wings onto a black fabric belt to complete the skirt. The chest wing was pinned directly to Em's black leotard. She wore black tights underneath and rain boots (Seattle in October!). 

The headdress was made by wrapping store-bought butterflies from a giant craft store  around the headband. They came pink, but we painted on a few additional accents. It's by far the coolest part of the costume (although not terribly comfortable). 

And there you have it! DIY Pink Monarch Butterfly Costume!

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Halloween 2020: DIY Roman Centurion Costume

Despite the fact that we told the kids that we wouldn't go trick or treating this year, somehow Halloween costumes became a very big deal. I used to be able to get away with picking cute outfits and stuffing my willing kids into their getups but those days are very long gone. The kids have firm costume opinions and they will not be swayed by any parental suggestions. 

Which is hard. Truth be told, I was not excited about the Roman Warrior idea. It shouldn't have been a surprise; Ben is absolutely gaga over Greek, Roman, and Nordic mythology, as evidenced by his character last year: Thor, God of Thunder. Soon I was receiving emails with all sorts of elaborate (and expensive) cosplay costumes for my inspection - darn the kid and his new email account. Drastic preventive action was required. I set about sketching some ideas before he could latch onto something too complicated for a mom in the midst of a pandemic. 

Here's what we came up with: Leather(ish) vest with attached cape, armored skirt, shield, helmet with fancy plume, and plastic sword. 

Leather Tunic

Astute readers will notice that his vest from last year suspiciously made it into this year's costume. No use reinventing the wheel if you have a perfectly good faux muscle shirt already made. Ben was content to use last year's model provided we added a few upgrades. Fair enough. 


Armored Apron
The gold lapels of his 'leather' vest are made from this weird thick gold pleather that has been insanely handy for costumes. Fortunately we had some left and Ben went about tracing and cutting some strips for his armored skirt.

I sewed the whole thing to a waistband and added velcro and a black felt backing on the fancy 'buckle'. 


Supplies Needed
-Craft Foam (two thicknesses used here)
-Hot Glue (lots)
-Spray Paint (gold and red)

I began by using my thickest foam (black) to do a band around the head. Secure with hot glue. From there do a band that goes over the crown of the head and two supporting pieces, forming a cross at the top. 

I also glued supporting pieces (light grey) over the seams for extra strength. 

From there I drew templates on paper for the face shield, visor, and neck guard. Once we got the sizing lined up, we transferred it to foam and attached with hot glue. 

Small triangles were used to fit between the cross pieces to form the hat. And then it's time to get creative with the hot glue. This is also the stage in which Ben got a dime-sized burn on this thumb so be careful with the glue gun. It was a rough night and it's still a blistered, seeping mess. Poor kid. Anyway, use your creativity here.

Then we were ready for the gold spray paint. Paint the red plume separately and attach later.

The red plume consists of six pieces of thin foam that were painted red and feathered with scissors. Glue the whole mess to the helmet and you're done. The helmet is awesome, btw. Definitely the coolest headgear I've ever made. 


Plastic serving tray
Spray paint
Full page sticker paper
Parachute Cord


Over the course of their military history, Romans employed a few different types of shields, the most common being the rectangular Scutum. We went with the earlier round shield, called a Clipeus.

The shield is a plastic serving tray from Goodwill that set us back $2.00. I sanded it down and spray painted it black.

To make the eagle: find an image online (or draw one). Print onto a sticker paper (like this). Cut out around the image. Remove the backing and stick onto the shield. 

Since I wanted our eagle to be black, I first painted the shield black, put the sticker down, and then sprayed red over it. After it dried, I peeled off the sticker. 

Next carefully drill four holes in the shield and attached braided parachute cord. 

You can also paint the exterior nubs of the parachute cord to match the colors of the shield. 

Voila! Practice your antient war cry and you'll be ready for your grand debut. 

This is tricky since we already had the sword, leather vest, and fabric for the armored apron. All supplies like hot glue, a quantity of foam sheets, sticker, and paint were also on hand. I spent $3 on the tray (shield), $2 for some extra foam, and $4 for a can of gold spray paint. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

New Holiday Traditions: Jolabokaflod, The Christmas Book Flood

I realize this is the exact wrong time to be talking about Christmas but I seem to be running about two months late in all aspects of my life today so here goes:

On Christmas Eve the kids always get a pair of PJs and a book. Then we all sit down and read The Polar Express, which was a tradition in Chris' family growing up. The adults cry. Every time. 

(image by rawpixel via

This year we incorporated another Nordic tradition, this one from Iceland: Jolabokaflod, the Christmas Book Flood. 

The story goes like this:

During WWII, import taxes on foreign imports were painfully high so the stoic Icelanders turned to paper, which was still relatively cheap. Books became their newest gifts of choice during this difficult time.

Today, the tradition continues. Iceland has an unusually high literacy rate and a healthy publishing industry: each year a free catalog is distributed to all home with a list of every published book. The vast majority of the country buys their books between September and November (the 'flood'), in preparation for gifting favorite stories to loved ones on Christmas Eve. Once the special night arrives, everyone cozies up with chocolate and reads far into the night.

Naturally, it doesn't take much to sell me on chocolate and books so this tradition was a slam dunk, as far as I was concerned. Unfortunately, we all got the flu on Christmas Eve and it was an ill child, indeed, that didn't even have the heart to touch her giant chocolate bar.

Sigh. We'll try again next year.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Meet Oliver

We have a new addition to our little family!

His name is Oliver.

Little Ollie joined us on Saturday after we drove down to Olympia to meet him.

The funny thing was, we weren't in the market for a dog although everyone around us certainly was: my sister-in-law and best friend adopted dogs within days of each other and my mom has just ramped up her canine search.

In fact, Chris was helpfully sending her profiles of potential dogs on Petfinder when he came across this sad old little pup at a county shelter. My mom wants a younger pooch so he knew that it wasn't a good fit for her. But he kept coming back to this dog's profile page.

I was mostly, blissfully, unaware of Chris' spiral into longing-for-a-dog-mode until he called me up one day and casually said " Hey, I'm leaving my meeting in Downtown Seattle right now. I was thinking of popping down to Olympia to have a look at that dog".

Wait. What? You're going to "pop down" to another city that has a 3 hour round trip commute time?

Is this my husband? The not-at-all impulsive, responsible, think-of-every-scenario-before-acting man? The neat freak who dislikes finding dog hair floating in his breakfast cereal?

I'm the crazy animal lover that wants to bring home all the critters and be the next Dr Doolittle. I'm the one that volunteered weekly in high school at an animal shelter, cleaning up crap and nurturing traumatized dogs.

But here's the thing. Our  last dog, Bailey, was my canine soulmate. I didn't think that any pup could fill his shoes and I've resisted, strongly, the pull of any and all dogs. You want a fish? A frog? Knock yourself out, kid, just don't ask for a dog cause that's a firm no-go.

That policy worked right up until we put the kids in the cars two days after Chris' jaunt to the shelter so the rest of us could meet this ancient bundle of mangy fur that had captivated my husband.

Here's the thing about dogs in county pounds: they're total unknowns. You have no idea how they'll react to small children, men, women, or other dogs. Heck, they don't even get names. Chris marched up to the counter and reeled off this dog's ID number.

Dang, he'd memorized the dog's identification number. This was bad.

Before we adopted Bailey we'd turned down countless dogs because they weren't the right fit for our family. I firmly believed myself capable of doing the same again.*

I believed that as we stared at the dog in the kennel. As all the other dogs went crazy and my eardrums nearly burst because of the howling.  I believed that as the volunteer was dragged outside by this untrained dog to the small meet-and-greet area, and as the dog took the longest pee ever.

And then he came over and put his dirty, matted, old dog head in Ben's lap while Emma scratched his ears.

30 seconds.

We had ourselves a dog.

So. What do we know about Ollie?

Not much. He is old. Somewhere between 8 and 10. Probably. He's mostly Labrador with a bit of something else. Collie? Who knows. Who cares. He'd been in the shelter a month yet was still painfully thin. He has bad skin, likely from eating trash for however long he was a street dog. He scratches constantly.

He was not amused to lose his ability to procreate and clipping his nails caused him to think some very rude thoughts about his new owners. He knows no commands, jumps on the furniture, and would probably steal the food from your plate. All the stuff you'd expect from a stray dog.

Yet he adores my kids. Unequivocally. Zero aggression and everlasting patience. Yesterday I went into Emma's room where she and the dog were involved in a complicated game that involved using Ollie as a mountain over which she drove her Barbie horse carriage.

He flops down at my feet while I'm working and begins snoring almost immediately. He hates going outside because he wants to be around his people every moment of the day. Going for a walk brought him everlasting joy.

Ok little pup, you can stay. It's going to be a long road ahead with some very much-needed obedience lessons, but we're glad our family is bigger by one.


*My mom, to her credit, laughed when I told her that I was capable of walking away from 'not-the-perfect' dog. "Ha! You could, maybe. But the kids can't." Truer words have never been spoken. Thankfully he was Mr. Right and I didn't have to tell heartbroken kids that he wasn't coming home with us.