What’s for supper, Vol. 230: In which I mise all over the place

Ho hum, what a dull week. At least we have food to talk about. Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Cheeseburgers and candy

Halloween! We had some kind of complicated plan with multiple cars and pick ups and drop offs before trick or treating, so Damien bought a sack of Wendy’s burgers and distributed them to anyone who would slow down long enough to eat one, and/or could bend their arms enough to reach their mouths with their costumes on. 

We had a really good costume year. Clara taught herself how to sew and made a dress and a cloak, and went as an autumn warrior elf or something. 

Elijah spent about 900 hours cutting, shaping, sanding, gluing, and painting bits of foam, and came out with this incredible Mandalorian costume

Lucy and Sophia had store-bought costumes and wigs, Tsuyu and Ochako, which they bought with money they earned by working, and Lucy made her boots out of foam

Irene was Grunkle Stan (I made the fez and she made the 8 ball cane)

Benny was a fairy princess dragon

and Corrie was Jim from Troll Hunters

And that was that! Only about half as many people as usual were giving out treats, but they made up for numbers with enthusiasm, ingenious candy delivery devices, and of course candy. 

SUNDAY
Pulled chicken sandwiches, coleslaw, french fries

Wanted to try something easy but different. This didn’t knock anyone’s socks off, but it was fine. I served it with red onions and little dill pickles.

I used this recipe that calls for grated onion, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and bottled BBQ sauce, and it came out tasting exactly like I had just used bottled BBQ sauce. Next time I’ll either skip the extra ingredients and just do that, or else I’ll find a recipe that delivers more for the effort. It’s nice to have something else to do with chicken, anyway. 

MONDAY
Beef barley soup, pumpkin muffins (and soul cakes)

A snowy, blustery day, great for soup and muffins. Beef barley soup is popular with more than half the family, which is pretty good. My version has onions, carrots, mushrooms, tender beef, tomatoes, barley, and a rich beef broth with red wine, and plenty of pepper. 

Jump to Recipe

I made it in the Instant Pot, but this recipe easily adapts for stovetop. 

Poor Benny made her first batch of pumpkin muffins all by herself last week, and just as she was ready to pop them in the oven, the pan tipped over and it all flopped out on the floor. So she was especially glad to see these. 

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I think my baking soda may be a bit feeble, or maybe I just didn’t fill the tins high enough; but they turned out well enough, if not lofty and huge. 

I made a double recipe, which gave me enough for 24 muffins and a large loaf. For the loaf, I added dried cranberries and sunflower seeds. 

I had to leave the house while it was still baking, so it stayed in the oven a little too long and got too dry; but it was still pleasant and hearty. I’ll use this combination again, or maybe walnuts instead of sunflower seeds.

And it being All Souls Day, Clara made these lovely soul cakes, as I mentioned

Good smell day at the Fisher house. 

TUESDAY
Asian meatballs and rice

Election day. I wanted something I could prep ahead of time and serve without a lot of fuss, because Damien and I were both out after dinner covering election results. So I went with Asian meatballs, which is a foolproof recipe. 

Jump to Recipe

OR SO I THOUGHT.

My fellow Americans, these meatballs were horrendous.  I don’t know what happened. I was in such a rush and ended up eyeballing the spices, and, well, I guess I know what happened. They were so horribly salty and harsh and awful! Oh well. It’s a good recipe if you follow it. 

That’s hot sauce, not ketchup. And no, putting hot sauce on your painfully salty meatballs doesn’t make them better. After I took this picture, I tried adding duck sauce, which also, you’ll never guess, didn’t help. I don’t even know what is wrong with me. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, quinoa and kale

I made a big speech about how I bought a bag of steamable quinoa and kale because I happen to like it, and they are welcome to have some if they want, but no one has to eat it, and they can just eat their fake Pringles, and they just aren’t allowed to give me a hard time about my quinoa and kale. 

They did give me a hard time, though, the little creeps.

I happen to like quinoa and kale!  Leave me alone with my mountain of quinoa and kale! Love is love. In this house we believe you should leave your mother alone. 

THURSDAY
Banh mi

A long-promised meal. This really is the queen of all sandwiches. 

Jump to Recipe

I guess this was the only meal that really turned out this week. I didn’t want to mention it before, but the mushrooms in the beef barley soup were a little past their prime, and I tried to pretend it was fine, but the soup was really not that great. And to be honest, I should have cooked this banh mi pork right in the pan, rather than on a rack, because it was a little dry. 

But I did toast-and-not-burn the baguettes, and I pickled ever so many carrots,

Jump to Recipe

and there were cucumbers, plenty of cilantro, pickled jalapeños, and sriracha mayo, and it’s a dem fine sandwich. A dem fine sandwich. Worth the effort. 

It’s killing me that today is meatless Friday. We may even have some leftover rice, and I could be having a leftover banh mi bowl right now. I was talking it over with Lena and we agreed, we need more bowls of things in our life. Vote for me; I’ll get you a bowl of something. 

FRIDAY
Eggs migas with refried beans

I don’t even have to look; I can feel that we have 346 bags of tortillas in the house. The eggs are probably all frozen, but what the hell. We even have some refried beans, and that has made all the difference.

I guess I haven’t written up a migas recipe yet. Don’t tell anyone I said that, but it’s basically matzoh brei for Mexicans. You slice some tortillas thin and fry them until crisp, then add in some beaten eggs and scramble it together. You can add in other stuff while it cooks, but I like to cook it simply and then serve the extras as toppings and sides. 

And there it is. I’m projecting a win for everyone at dinnertime today.

Here’s the recipe cards for the week. Enjoy!

Coleslaw

Ingredients

  • 1 head cabbage, shredded
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 5 radishes, grated or sliced thin (optional)

Dressing

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 cup cider or white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Mix together shredded vegetables. 
    Mix dressing ingredients together and stir into cabbage mix. 

Soul cakes

Servings 18 flat cakes the size of large biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, chilled
  • 3-3/4 cup sifted flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp allspice (can sub cloves)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar (can sub white vinegar)
  • 4-6 Tbsp milk
  • powdered sugar to sprinkle on top

optional:

  • raisins, currants, nuts, candied citrus peels, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350

  2. Put the flour in a large bowl. Grate the chilled butter on a vegetable grater and incorporate it lightly into the flour.

  3. Stir in the sugar and spices until evenly distributed.

  4. In a smaller bowl, beat together the eggs, vinegar and milk. Stir this into the flour mixture until it forms a stiff dough.

  5. Knead for several minutes until smooth and roll out to 1/4 thick.

  6. Grease a baking pan. Cut the dough into rounds (or other shapes if you like) and lay them on the pan, leaving a bit of room in between (they puff up a bit, but not a lot). If you're adding raisins or other toppings, poke them into the top of the cakes, in a cross shape if you like. Prick cakes with fork.

  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until very lightly browned on top.

  8. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while they are warm

Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion or red onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3-4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 lbs beef, cubed
  • 16 oz mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 6 cups beef bouillon
  • 1 cup merlot or other red wine
  • 29 oz canned diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice) with juice
  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pot. If using Instant Pot, choose "saute." Add the minced garlic, diced onion, and diced carrot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions and carrots are softened. 


  2. Add the cubes of beef and cook until slightly browned.

  3. Add the canned tomatoes with their juice, the beef broth, and the merlot, plus 3 cups of water. Stir and add the mushrooms and barley. 

  4. If cooking on stovetop, cover loosely and let simmer for several hours. If using Instant Pot, close top, close valve, and set to high pressure for 30 minutes. 

  5. Before serving, add pepper to taste. Salt if necessary. 

 

Pumpkin quick bread or muffins

Makes 2 loaves or 18+ muffins

Ingredients

  • 15 oz canned pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup veg or canola oil
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • oats, wheat germ, turbinado sugar, chopped dates, almonds, raisins, etc. optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter two loaf pans or butter or line 18 muffin tins.

  2. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.

  3. In a separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture and mix just to blend. 

  4. Optional: add toppings or stir-ins of your choice. 

  5. Spoon batter into pans or tins. Bake about 25 minutes for muffins, about 40 minutes for loaves. 

 

Vaguely Asian meatballs with dipping sauce

Very simple meatballs with a vaguely Korean flavor. These are mild enough that kids will eat them happily, but if you want to kick up the Korean taste, you can serve them with dipping sauces and pickled vegetables. Serve with rice.

Servings 30 large meatballs

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed finely
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup minced garlic
  • 2 bunches scallions, chopped (save out a bit for a garnish)
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground pepper

For dipping sauce:

  • mirin or rice vinegar
  • soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.

  2. Mix together the meat and all the meatball ingredients with your hands until they are well combined. Form large balls and lay them on a baking pan with a rim.

  3. Bake for about 15 minutes.

  4. Serve over rice with dipping sauce and a sprinkle of scallions.

 

Pork banh mi

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs Pork loin
  • 1 cup fish sauce
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 minced onion
  • 1/2 head garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1.5 tsp pepper

Veggies and dressing

  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • vinegar
  • sugar
  • cilantro
  • mayonnaise
  • Sriracha sauce

Instructions

  1. Slice the raw pork as thinly as you can. 

  2. Mix together the fish sauce ingredients and add the meat slices. Seal in a ziplock bag to marinate, as it is horrendously stinky. Marinate several hours or overnight. 

  3. Grill the meat over coals or on a pan under a hot broiler. 

  4. Toast a sliced baguette or other crusty bread. 

 

quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.

An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)

For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. 

  2. Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

  3. Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.

What’s for supper? Vol. 229: Make-ahead meals and Halloween costumes!

Well, it’s snowing.

Our house sports Halloween decorations covered with snow every year, but usually that’s because it’s December and we’re lazy, and not because the sky has lost its damn mind.

But guess what? I knew last night that it was going to snow, so I took the boots and hats and mittens out before bedtime. Who has two thumbs and isn’t going to get a gentle reminder from the teachers that New England weather is unpredictable and children should be dressed appropriately for cold weather? 

 This asshole!

Also I finally broke down and visited the special respiratory clinic where everyone is dressed like an astronaut and I’m there in jeans and a cloth mask, and I have bronchitis again, or I guess still, and frankly just about everything I care about most in life is getting extremely wobbly. But at least we have food. And I’m doing another round of Prednisone, so we’ll see what gets cleaned around here, grr.

Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Chicken quesadillas, guacamole

Our freezer situation is mostly terrible, and is full of frozen nightmares, frozen regrets, frozen negligence, and peas. BUT, it also had a bag of shredded chili lime chicken in it. So I nuked that and Damien made a bunch of quesadillas with it.

I also made a big batch of guacamole, and Damien mentioned how much he appreciates that I’m not one of those mayonnaise guacamole women. He’s right, I’m not.

Jump to Recipe

SUNDAY
Anniversary!

The kids made French toast casserole and orange juice, and Damien and I went out for the whole day for our 23rd anniversary, and had a lovely day. We had some errands up north, then went to a shooting range, and ended up with some Chinese dinner boxes, which we ate outside in the cold, for duty and humanity

Here’s a tip for all you young ladies: After 23 years of marriage, it never hurts to remind your husband you can handle a Glock. 

MONDAY
One-pan kielbasa, red potato, and cabbage dinner

A nice easy meal. You can do all the prep work ahead of time and throw it in the oven half an hour before dinner for a tasty meal, with dressing, even!

Jump to Recipe

Discs of kielbasa, discs or wedges of red potato, and rounds of cabbage roasted together, with a balsamic honey mustard dressing.

No one complained that I forgot the parsley. 

This is such a weirdly photogenic meal.

Isn’t it neat? I love it. 

TUESDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, Jerusalem salad

I prepped this ahead of time, too. I’ve been an absolute dinner machine this week. Here’s a “cooking for a crowd” tip: If I don’t have room in the fridge for a giant pan of prepped food, I lay a second pan over the top and distribute ice packs over it. Brilliant, or just bacteriogenic? Why not both?

I like sourdough best for grilled cheese, with a little skim of mayo on the outside of the bread, and fried in butter. I fry it just to toast up the outside, then I slide the sandwiches into a warm oven to make sure the cheese is melted. Then I serve up the whole panful of sandwiches all at once, rather than dishing them out as I make them. 

Jerusalem salad is tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, lemon juice and olive oil, and salt and pepper, and then parsley and/or mint. I discovered I only had yellow onions, and it made a much bigger difference than I expected. It just wasn’t that good, and hardly anyone ate it, and then I planned to have it for lunch all week, but the refrigerator froze it. Oh well.

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It’s really more of a refreshing warm-weather dish anyway, I guess. I was just tired of serving chips. 

WEDNESDAY
One-pan honey balsamic chicken thighs with roast vegetables

You’ll never guess: I prepped this ahead of time. I had a couple of pounds of brussels sprouts, a pound of baby-cut carrots, and a weird stubby little butternut squash. It would have been good with some red potato wedges, too, but as me old grandmither used to say, ye canna always hae the red potatoes. 

Just kidding. Me old grandmither used to say “Gay kaken ofn yahm,” as I recall.

So you make a little sauce and mix it up with the vegetables, spread them in a pan, nestle the chicken thighs in there, and season the whole thing, and roast it. That’s it.

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I also had some random broccoli, which I added in the last 12 minutes or so, so it wouldn’t get overcooked. The vegetables soak up the sauce and get slightly caramelized on the bottom, and it’s very cozy and good. 

The trick to peeling and cubing raw butternut squash is you cut off the ends and microwave it for three or four minutes. Then it’s much, much easier to peel and cut. And when you pull it out of the microwave, some of the juice has oozed out over in little glistening beads, and it’s just nice. 

I swear I have made this dinner a dozen times, and everyone thought it was fine or whatever. This time, everyone acted like it was a brilliant innovation the likes of which they’d never seen before, and they gobbled it up! I was astonished, and so pleased. 

THURSDAY
Hamburgers, chips, carrots and dip

Verily I made the hamburgers patties ahead of time. I normally skip chips, but I was discouraged at how fat I am, so I had chips, and cheese on my burger. You understand.

I’ve been plugging away at Halloween costumes all week, which is part of the reason I’ve been doing so many make-ahead meals: So we can eat early and have the evening free for some hot glue action. Some of the kids have been entirely making or buying their own costumes, and only need to be driven to Michael’s 46 times; but I did make a Grunkle Stan fez for Irene

some armor and a sword for Jim from Troll Hunters for Corrie (still needs some neatening up and finishing touches)

and a dragon fairy princess costume for Benny, and they all turned out well, especially the dragon. This is the only one I have a photo of yet, and she’s not wearing her rubber hands and you can’t see her tail, but it’s pretty rad.

It’s built off a baseball cap, so she can take it on and off fairly easily, and it doesn’t block her vision as much as a whole head mask would. 

The secret I discovered this year is EVA CRAFT FOAM. You can bend it, you can cut it, you can glue it with super glue or hot glue, you can etch it, you can crush it, you can score and fold it, you can make designs with hot glue and then spray paint over them. You can even sew it, if you glue some fabric on to reinforce it. You can hot glue or super glue just about anything to it. It’s light and flexible but rigid, and it comes in several different thicknesses. Just exactly what I’ve needed all these years. You can buy it by the roll or by the sheet, white or colored. 

I have also discovered you can make serviceable gems with hot glue, hardened, trimmed if necessary, and painted with nail polish. You can see some on Corrie’s sword:

I still have to trim off the excess glue, but she loves it. 

Also, the kids are having their school parties today, but since everything has to be store bought and pre-packaged this year, I excused my creative ass from getting involved.

FRIDAY
Shrimp lo mein

Last week’s veggie lo mein was such a success, we’re having it again, but with shrampies. Gonna leave the sauce exactly as is, because it was good!

Here’s what it continues to do outside right now:

It’s like even the clouds are trying to skip ahead to the end of 2020. 

Oh speaking of thinking ahead, Elisa from Door Number 9 jut came out with a most excellent new product: An all-in-one Advent  traditions box. It includes:

– 4 12-inch Advent Candle tapers
– Scriptural Advent Calendar
– Magnetic Jesse Tree *OR sticker Jesse Tree plus magnetic Nativity Scene
– 4 organza pouches filled with 3 chocolate coins each
– An activity putting “straw” into a “manger” for Baby Jesus (all these items included)
– Full color instruction cards for each item explaining the tradition’s origin and/or how to use the items 

And it all packs up in a reusable box for next year. I love products designed by moms. $59.99 with free shipping

Okay, here are the recipe cards:

 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

One pan honey garlic chicken thighs with fall veg

Adapted from Damn Delicious 

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs
  • 2 lbs broccoli in spears
  • 4-5 lbs potatoes in wedges, skin on if you like
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed

sauce:

  • 6 tbsp honey
  • 6 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp dijon or yellow mustard
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • olive oil for drizzing

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Prepare the sauce. 

  2. In a large, greased sheet pan, spread the potatoes and squash. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 

  3. Lay the chicken thighs on top of the potatoes and squash. Brush the sauce over the chicken skins. 

  4. Roast the chicken for thirty minutes or more until they are almost cooked.

  5. Add the broccoli, arranging it on top of the potatoes and in between the chicken. Return the pan to the oven and let it finish cooking another 10 -20 minutes so you don't die. The skins should be golden and the broccoli should be a little charred. 

 

One-pan kielbasa, cabbage, and red potato dinner with mustard sauce

This meal has all the fun and salt of a wiener cookout, but it's a tiny bit fancier, and you can legit eat it in the winter. 

Ingredients

  • 3-4 lbs kielbasa
  • 3-4 lbs red potatoes
  • 1-2 medium cabbages
  • (optional) parsley for garnish
  • salt and pepper and olive oil

mustard sauce (sorry, I make this different each time):

  • mustard
  • red wine if you like
  • honey
  • a little olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400. 

    Whisk together the mustard dressing ingredients and set aside. Chop parsley (optional).

    Cut the kielbasa into thick coins and the potatoes into thick coins or small wedges. Mix them up with olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread them in a shallow pan. 

    Cut the cabbage into "steaks." Push the kielbasa and potatoes aside to make room to lay the cabbage down. Brush the cabbage with more olive oil and sprinkle with more salt and pepper. It should be a single layer of food, and not too crowded, so it will brown well. 

    Roast for 20 minutes, then turn the food as well as you can and roast for another 15 minutes.  

    Serve hot with dressing and parsley for a garnish. 

 

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar

for the rest

  • 6 oz uncooked noodles
  • sesame oil for cooking
  • add-ins (vegetables sliced thin or chopped small, shrimp, chicken, etc.)
  • 2 Tbsp mirin

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

  2. Boil the noodles until slightly underdone. Drain and set aside.

  3. Heat up a pan, add some sesame oil for cooking, and quickly cook your vegetables or whatever add-ins you have chosen.

  4. Add the mirin to the pan and deglaze it.

  5. Add the cooked noodles in, and stir to combine. Add the sauce and stir to combine.

 

 

Nothing looks pretty when it’s still becoming

What is our final project? Ah, that’s the tricky part. If I’m making a lobster costume or a vampire costume, I have a general idea of how it needs to look when it’s done. But when it’s our own selves we’re working on, there is less clarity, less certainty. We’re not in the process of making a costume or a disguise; we’re in the process of becoming who we are meant to be. If we have a clear picture in our heads of who we’re meant to be — or, even worse, if we think we’ve already become it — we’re probably wrong. Sorry!

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Image of unfinished Godzilla costume courtesy of John Herreid

What’s for supper? Vol. 106: Thaint Thylvethter, pray for uth

Imagine an introduction here, won’t you? Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Us old folks WENT AWAY TO THE OCEAN. It was, as I’ve mentioned, our 20th anniversary, and we had a quick getaway. It was wonderful.

 

As we pulled out of our driveway on Friday night, my husband apologized profusely and then asked me to read him a letter from the ACLU to the Board of Alderman protesting the unconstitutionality of a proposed ordinance to require candidates to disclose the names of donors who help pay legal fees for an individual suing the city. Then he dictated a news brief about it, and I typed it out and we edited together in the dark as we drove south. This will give you an idea of how hard it is to switch gears into leisure mode. But we did it!

And oh, did we eat a lot. For dinner, the bacon-wrapped scallops arrived at the table still sizzling heroically in the pan, and then I ordered a lovely crab roll with gruyere. Luckily, the band was loud enough to cover the sound of Siri telling me how to pronounce “gruyere” to the waiter. Damien had some kind of good steaky thing, and we had cocktails until our brains caught up with the idea that we were on vacation. The fireplace and jacuzzi didn’t hurt, either.

Next morning, we had brunch out on the terrace with the bay sparkling below on two sides, the seagulls coasting past, and the trees fluttering in a breeze that was just stiff enough to scare away all the other guests, who kept getting their sorority hair in their mouths. I had a bagel with smoked salmon, chive cream cheese, copious capers, and vegetables, and Damien had eggs benedict with lobster, and a bloody mary.

We spent a contented day just wandering around this sweet little town, looking at stuff they don’t have any of back home. A very happy day. We had a late lunch of some beer with a dozen raw oysters. I ordered a cajun seafood bisque and a “tower of garlic bread,”

and Damien had some kind of good steaky thing, and candied bacon, which arrived on some kind of ridiculous bacon gallows.

We even had dessert! I had some kind of pumpkin praline cheesecake affair, and Damien had some kind of cavalcade of chocolate thing.

 

We came home late bearing pizzas, and the kids had cleaned the house like we told them to, and no one was dead. Good deal.  They got salt water taffy.

***

SUNDAY
Cheese burgers and chips 

We had to scramble and get caught up from our leisurely Saturday. We still had pumpkins to carve and costumes to finish, and I had cleverly scheduled two dentist appointments on HALLOWEEN MORNING, and two more the next day! I feel like there was a sleepover in there, somewhere, too. We just pretty much swore off sleeping for the week, and I steadfastly ignored no fewer than six volunteer sign-up sheets for parties. Also one kid suddenly had to be Louis XVI for something completely unrelated to . . . anything, as far as I could tell.

***

MONDAY
Zuppa Toscana and beer bread

Blustery wind and rain all day, and we were one of the few areas that didn’t lose power, so I felt very smart for choosing this cozy meal.

For the soup: I squeezed the meat out of about two pounds of sweet Italian sausages and browned it up with lots of minced garlic and diced onions. Then I added eight cups of chicken broth, some red pepper flakes, and four large potatoes sliced in thin wedges with the skin, and simmered it for a while. Then I filled up the pot with chopped kale, covered it, and waited for it to magically shrink down where it belongs. Then I added a whole quart of half-and-half, and let it cook for the rest of the day.

You can add bacon, and you can thicken this soup up with a little flour if you like, but it’s splendid as is, and so simple.

I made this easy, excellent beer bread again, and it turned out great. I made two loaves, with a bottle of Corona and a can of some kind of summer ale, and it turned out sharp and sour, which I love. This is the breadiest quick bread I have ever found.

***

TUESDAY
Halloween!
Hot dogs and Doritos

Gobbled down quickly as we raced to get costumes on. Here’s the gang this year:

Moe was a hungry vampire:

who nevertheless needs to keep in touch with folks:

Clara was a cheerful vampire:

and Benny was a vampire queen:

with somewhat loose teeth.

Elijah was Dr. Eggman:

Sophia was a fall fairy:

Lucy was Squirrel Girl:

and Irene was Rey:

Corrie was Wonder Woman earlier in the day

but by the time it was evening, she had become a puppy:

This year, I splurged on those fancy individual fangs that stick to your actual canines, but boy, were they a lot of trouble. Benny had lost her second front tooth in the morning, and her mouth was too raw for adhesive, so I got fanged up myself.

They weren’t really uncomfortable, but I sounded unspookily like Sylvester the Cat.

***

WEDNESDAY
Deconstructed pork shish kebab

This is usually one of those “why is this so unreasonably delicious?” meals, but not this time. Either I skipped too many good ingredients in the marinade, or I didn’t let it marinate long enough, but there just wasn’t that much flavor. Or maybe I just have a cold and can’t taste anything. Oh well. In the past, I’ve used this spiedie marinade from the NYT, which is fabulous.

I cut up a bunch of boneless pork ribs into chunks, and mixed them up with chunks of green pepper, red onion, and mushrooms, and spread it all, with the marinade, in shallow pans in a 450 oven until they were cooked, then I charred the edges under the broiler for a second.

***

THURSDAY
All Soul’s Day: Eggs in purgatory and soul cakes

My little joke. Usually, liturgically-appropriate cooking is far, far beyond me. Everyone else is making Divine Mercy Sundaes and stocking up on smoked paprika so they can be sure their homage to St. Engratia is Portuguese enough, and we’re all, “Christ is risen! Pass the gefilte fish.” But this year, I was on top of it.

Eggs in purgatory is just eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce, similar to shakshuka, which I’ve made a few times. It’s supposed to be a good hangover brunch, I dunno. I looked over a few Eggs in Purgatory recipes and made a very simple version. I ended up making about twice as much as we needed, so I’ll give you a normal-sized version:

Brown up a pound of loose, spicy sausage meat in a wide, shallow pan (to make room for cooking the eggs later). Add about 30 oz. of diced tomatoes, several cloves of minced garlic, and about half a teaspoon of red pepper flakes, and let it simmer for a long time. (You can add all sorts of things: peppers, onions, chili oil, etc. and you can stir in some tomato paste if you want it firmer.) Make about eight shallow indentations and carefully drop an egg into each one. Cover the pan loosely and let it poach for six or seven minutes, until the egg whites are cooked and the yolks are as solid as you want them to be. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese toward the end.

Then scoop out individual portions to serve.

You could add hot sauce or parsley or scallions toward the end, too.

The soul cakes turned out nice, if a slightly odd side dish for this meal. They are not much to look at, but they have a pleasantly old-fashioned, cidery taste.

I used this very easy recipe so I wouldn’t have to fiddle with yeast, which always turns on me. I again used the trick of grating the chilled butter, which makes it very easy to incorporate into the flour. My family doesn’t like raisins, but raisins would go well with these.

***

FRIDAY
Pizza!

Thufferin’ thuccotash, I’m exhausted.

The Headless Bishop (and other Halloween costumes that work for All Saints Day)

We have a pretty good record of getting cast out of every Catholic community we stumble into. This is good news, because it means we never have to make costumes for All Saints Day (we do have fun making Halloween costumes, though).

But how about you? Did you suddenly realize that, in a fit of good Catholic momming, you promised to whip up costumes for both days? I’m here to save your bacon. These costumes are suitably edifying for any church-sponsored party, but edgy enough to earn you all the Mary Janes and Raisinets you can eat on October 31.

Your most obvious twofer choice is martyrs. Grab whatever weapon catches your fancy in the Halloween aisle, and you’re guaranteed to find some Catholic somewhere who was killed with it. We’re just that popular! Buy two tubes of blood, one for the gorefest and one for pious reenactments, and you’re set.

Hilarious on October 31
:

inspirational just a day later:

image

Everybody loves a good sight gag:

(instructional video here)

especially when it’s Biblically sound:

And finally, you can terrify the normals with this fantastic cephalophoric illusion:

(instructional video here)

Or, well, terrify the normals with something from the more obscure annals of martyologies.

(Not recommended: St. Agatha)

But there are non-bloody saints, too, and even some adorable sidekicks. You wear a ratty bathrobe and skip showering for a week or two, and you can pass as either a civic-minded individual tirelessly lobbying for societal and legal acceptance of an all-natural homeopathic remedies

(credit Todd Huffman via Flickr; Creative Commons)

or St. Francis, whatever

And who’s this tagging along behind you?

 

Awww, it’s da widdle wolf of Gubbio! Or a werewolf, take your pick.

Who doesn’t appreciate the time, effort, expense, and attention to detail that goes into a great mummy costume?

(Credit: Allen Lew via Flickr; Creative Commons)

Replace that sinister moan and lumbering gait with a fervent gleam in the eye and a pleasant, un-decompopsed scent, and you become, ovulously, Lazarus:

Here’s an idea which clearly marks you as one of those people who may be a little bit too enthusiastic about Halloween for someone your age:

(instructional video here)

But wait! With a few tweaks done in a sensitive and reverent way, you could easily be St. Christopher.

But don’t tell anyone it was my idea.

In closing, here is a joke I will keep telling until someone else thinks it’s funny. You can buy a Dobby mask, and BOOM, Curé of Ars.

What’s that you say? What are my kids going to be this year, if I’m so smart? I’ll give you a hint: So far I’ve sewed two furry leg warmers together, hemmed a black cloak, spray painted a few acorns gold, and bought some tulle that was on sale, and also kind of a lot of fake teeth. That’s right: We’re going, en masse, as the domestic church, and I just dare you to get in our way.

Homemade Halloween costume hacks for parents in a hurry

Halloween is almost here. How are the costumes coming?

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring it up. Please stop crying. Did you want me to call someone? You sure?

All right, I’ve been making costumes for kids for over twenty years. I don’t really know how to sew, and I don’t want to spend a ton of money, and my kids often pick costumes that no one sells. So DIY it is.

Here are a few ways to make them . . . not easy, exactly, but much less hard. The most useful things I’ve learned:

MAIN BODY:

Giant adult t-shirts can be turned into all kinds of things, and they are already hemmed. Always always always use existing hems whenever you can! Tuck the sleeves in (sew or glue them if you like), and a little kid can wear a T-shirt as a skirt, using the neck as a waist. This is how I found a brown skirt for Avatar Kyoshi: brown t-shirt, $1, done.

You can also turn a T-shirt into a cape, using the already-existing neckline. Just cut off the back and sleeves of the shirt and “hem” the rest with hot glue or duct tape. This is not razzle dazzle, but will please a young kid.

Here are Zita the Spacegirl and Robot Zita, made with Daddy’s undershirts and some black plastic garbage bags:

Black duct tape would have been miles better, but this was an emergency “Mama, I forgot to tell you we’re supposed to dress up tomorrow for Whatever Day” costume.

Even cheaper: If you can’t find a plain shirt in the right color, get a shirt with a logo and turn it inside out and just cut off the tag if it shows. Here’s Wish Bear wearing an inside-out sweatshirt that had a different pattern on the other side, because we couldn’t find a plain light aqua sweatshirt.

I glued on a felt belly and decorated it with puffy paint. I can’t explain what was going on with those ears, though. This is a classic example of overthinking and over-engineering. I should have just cut two little ear shapes out of felt and clipped them to her head using tiny hair clips, or attached pipe cleaners to a headband and covered them with card stock or fabric. Easy peasy. As it is, she resembles Head Trauma Bear (which, come to think of it, would explain a lot about Care Bears in general.

Sometimes a good old paper bag gives you the look you want. Not recommended for masks if you’re planning to be walking long distances in the dark. This Strong Strong costume was for “favorite character” day:

Paper bags can also be converted into vests pretty easily — just cut a front opening and a neck and arm holes, and decorate however you like. You can bash in the corners to make it look more like clothing. You can also just cut a head hole and cut the sides off completely and make a boxy poncho, making the base for all kinds of square costumes (robot, Lego piece, iPhone, etc.).

Bathrobes bathrobes bathrobes. These are always abundant at the thrift stores around here. Manga costumes were a big deal one year, and I discovered you can take some quick hand stitches to make them fit the kid, then add trim (I glued on fur for one, and used metallic duct tape for another), then complete the look with a sash and sweatpants.

If you need a basic flowy dress or robe, turn the bathrobe backwards and do whatever you want to the neckline — trim it and hem it with duct tape, disguise it with a scarf, or hide it with a collar made of cardboard and tin foil. Using an already-existing article of clothing is always light years ahead of starting from scratch, and you can often find robes in fancy, silky fabrics.

Backwards button-down adult shirts also make good tunics or basic dresses. You can add high or low belts to vary the look quite a bit.  Check out this nice little prince in my shirt and my husband’s belt:

You can also use duct tape to cinch sleeves in wherever you like, which changes the look quite a bit.

If you need puffy upper sleeves and tight lower sleeves, cut the end out of long socks and put them on the kid’s lower arms. Over that, put on an adult long-sleeved shirt, scooch the sleeve up to the elbow and cinch them in place with duct tape.

If they’re the same color, it will look like it’s one top with fancy sleeves. Remember: nobody needs to know what it looks like underneath!

A giant cloak hides a multitude of errors. One of the few sewing projects I can manage is this basic hooded cloak. I’ve made six or seven of these over the years, but I find that you need to make the hood about 50% larger than what the pattern calls for. It’s a pretty forgiving pattern overall. Here is my daughter wearing a store-bought dress and the hooded cloak she made herself, with almost no sewing experience:

One year, a kid wanted to be Ash from Army of Darkness, and we just used a big wool blanket draped strategically and held in place with a giant safety pin. We made a tinfoil dummy clasp to cover the pin.

Guess what? You can spray paint some clothing. Search for items that are the right shape and style at the thrift store, and paint them the right color. It’s easier then dyeing, and paint will stick to, for instance, shoes and vinyl. It will crack eventually, but it’s good for a night.

I’m a fan of bath towel ponchos for costumes of things (rather than people). They are warm, easy to get around in, and the kid can wear something neutral underneath. Find a bath towel in the right color, cut a horizontal slit halfway up for the head, “hem” it with duct tape, and decorate it however you want.  Keep it rectangular and it can be a slightly floppy Creeper:

You can paint towels, I should say, but it takes forever because they are, duh, absorbent. I still think this is a good costume, but it was pretty time-consuming, if not difficult. It may have been easier to hot glue felt squares to the towel, rather than painting.

Fleece is also handy for these over-the-head, free-form costumes. You can cut it into all kinds of shapes and you don’t need to hem it at all. You can be, for instance, a piece of pizza (but you may need to reinforce the shape with strips of corrugated cardboard). Fleece is a little pricey, so I don’t often buy it from the fabric store.

If you can do a tiny bit of sewing, here are some tips from Elisa Low, who does stuff like this every day for the costumes she makes. Elisa says:

With a seam ripper and some minor sewing skills it is easy to remove the top part of a collar on a men’s shirt (the part that folds over) so you are left with only the round part that stands up, like they had in the Old West.

Boy’s colonial knickers are easy to make from men’s or women’s pants. Just cut off the bottom part, cuff them, and attach a decorative button on the outer side of each cuff.

As far as fabric, remember that clothes are made of fabric! So instead of going to the fabric store, go to the thrift store and look at the XXL clothes. Large dresses, skirts, coats… these have lots of fabric for low prices and you can make things out of them. Also look in the curtains and bedding sections for good fabrics.

For pics of some of Elisa’s projects, check out her blog.

HEADPIECES, HELMETS, CROWNS, and ACCESSORIES:

Horns, ears, antlers, etc. need to be as light and well-anchored as possible. Whenever possible, start with a store-bought headband and build off of that, rather than trying to attach something to a headband. I bought some cheap bunny ears, bent them down, cut a hole in the top, ran the sticks inside, and taped over the whole thing with duct tape, and once we find some black spray paint and put it together with a black face mask and hood, we’ll have some light, sturdy tree branch horns for the Beast from Over the Garden Wall.

You can also take a headband, build on whatever shape you need out of pipe cleaners, and cover it with fabric or card stock or felt, or simply find some stiff fabric, fold it in half, cut out a double ear shape with the bottom still attached, wrap it around the headband, and glue it together, as we did for Squirrel Girl here:

Pillowcases are awfully handy if you are making a medieval headpiece, a veil for a nun, a pharaoh costume, etc. They can also be folded lengthwise and used as sashes, if the kid is skinny enough; and they are fine as basic capes with a few safety pins.

Plastic milk jugs make great Greek or Roman or Medieval helmets for people with small heads. Find a picture of the helmet style you want, trace out the lines with a magic marker, and just snip away, using the jug handle side as the nosepiece. You can spray paint them any color you like. Here’s a Spartan helmet on Pinterest; here’s a knight’s helmet with visor. You could even make a Mickey Mouse headpiece this way by adding ears and spray painting the whole thing black.

Milk jugs turned the other way around (with the flat part in front, not the handle part) are also handy for the base of whole-head helmets (like for a Storm Trooper or a gas mask), as long as they’re for small heads. Pretty much anything that needs to fit over a small head can start with a milk jug.

If the kid’s face will be covered, let him wear the helmet plenty beforehand, so you can be sure it’s breathable enough and he can see well. Also, if you’re using glue or spray paint, let it air out for several days before the kid wears it! You don’t need him passing out from fumes.

You can also use milk jugs for bishops’ mitres. (The mitre is the hat. You’re thinking of “crosier” — that’s the staff thing he holds.) Just find a clear picture and trim away. Add paint, ribbon, etc. to make it look authentic.

Milk jugs can also, sigh, be used to make an elaborate papier mache chain saw hand. Here are directions, if you insist.

If the paint does not adhere they way you like, or if you want more texture, rough it up with sandpaper before painting.

A round bottle, like for a large bottle of juice, can be cut into a crown or circlet, if the kid’s head is small enough Spray paint it gold and add some gems or whatever you like.

Those blank white masks from Walmart can be adapted in any number of ways. To make this Ichigo Kurusaki Hollow Mask,

I added paper plates to the top to make the skull round, and covered the existing eyes, nose, and mouth holes with paper plates and tape, and then re-cut the eyes in a different shape. Then I spray painted everything white and added the details with red and black Sharpies. Adapting something that’s already designed to be worn is almost always easier than starting from scratch.

Here’s a last-minute costume that began with a plain white mask, plus various items raided from past Halloweens:

I dunno what it is, but it got attention.

For some excellent, customizable masks, you can pay a small sum to download templates for 3D masks from Wintercroft. Friends tell me they are time-consuming to put together, but they turn out just as described. Really neat designs.

Disposable pizza pans from the dollar store make good shields that don’t get too heavy, and they’re already metallic, yay. You can also decorate them with hot glue and then spray paint it, for a worked metal look. Use duct tape to make straps behind. You can also color directly on foil with Sharpies.

Use the bottoms of small juice or soda bottles for excellent medallions or for crowns, dress trim, etc. Just cut the bumpy bottom off, maybe smooth the edges with sandpaper, and spray paint it gold. Lots of things look amazing when you spray paint them gold or silver. Here’s a handsome little vampire with a soda bottle Count Dracula medallion (I made a slit for the ribbon before painting, and glued on a plastic gem after):

Foam meat trays work well for stiff but light accessories. You want the kid to look good, but also to be able to get around; so keep weight in mind. Foam meat trays (washed thoroughly, of course) are great because you can cut them into all kinds of detailed shapes, spray paint them, glue things to them, and so on, but they won’t drag the kid down. BUT, some adhesives will dissolve foam! So test it first.

Pipe cleaners make decent last-minute glasses, if not especially comfy ones:

General rule for accessories: Keep it light. I’ve made this mistake more times than I can count: I forget how heavy everything is going to be, and the kid is overwhelmed. In this Rainbow Dash costume, I made everything way too big, and it was unwearable:

The following tools are your greatest friends to put on details that can really make the costume:

Colored duct tape, either to make easy hems or to add details, or both.

Puffy paint.

Felt. 

Foam craft sheets. These come with our without an adhesive side.

Sharpies. Sharpies can color on any number of surfaces, including foil and plastic. Elisa Low reminds us that you can color plastic gems, too. Brand name markers are much more brilliant and adhere better than cheapo ones from the dollar store. (Beware the treacherous “Sharple,” for instance.)

And of course hot glue.

Speaking of glue: I always root for glue before sewing, but I’ve ruined more than one accessory by using the wrong kind of glue. Check the label to see what materials it will work on, and test it if you can! Some adhesives will dissolve certain materials; others simply won’t stick. Some take days and days to dry completely. There are soooo many kinds of glue available in the craft aisle, so take the time to make sure you’re getting the right one.

And don’t forget glue dots. These are moldable, and are sometimes the only thing that will work.

And sometimes you don’t need glue at all. For Hellboy here (who made his own right hand of doom),

I ended up making small holes in a bald cap and poking spray paint can tops through for the sawed-off horns. The tension held them in place. (I covered the can tops with crinkled duct tape to give them more texture before spray painting them.)

It’s okay if it looks ugly halfway through. I get overly fixated on making things look pretty at every step, but you can always attach things with as much duct tape as you need and then spray paint over the whole thing. Spray paint does not adhere very well to packing tape, though.

MAKEUP:

Keep makeup basic unless you have experience with it. Trying to cover someone’s entire face another color is harder than it sounds, and you often end up with a patchy, diseased effect. Here is a successful attempt at full-face makeup (well, half face) which I’m including just because I’m thrilled without how it turned out. But it took FOREVER. Forever forever forever. So don’t think, “I’ll just smear on some make up right before we go out.”

Instead, pick the main features and just stick with those. Here’s a less-successful attempt at makeup. The child specifically wanted just the lower half of her face to look like a furry cat, and I tried to comply:

She was actually happy with it, which is what matters; but every time I looked at her, I thought, “Burl Ives!”

Beards on babies: I can’t decide if this is brilliant or stupid, but I also used Nutella to make a Paul Bunyan beard for the baby. I didn’t want to put makeup on the baby’s tender skin, but Nutella felt nice and safe. She did eat most of it before anyone saw her, though.

GENERAL INSPIRATION:

If you’re just starting to figure out how to make the costume, Google “character X costume” rather than “character X.” Even better, Google “character X cosplay,” because those will show you homemade costumes, not store-bought. Other people will have solved a lot of problems for you already, and other people will have picked out which features are really necessary to make the costume look right. I tend to get bogged down in details, but you can get lots of details right and still completely miss the overall look you’re going for.

Any time you can persuade a kid to be a person rather than a licensed character, you’re going to get off easy. Here’s a costume my daughter put together in about three minutes:

The only down side is that everyone now knows we’re horrible parents who let our kids watch Die Hard.

You don’t have to be literal. Do mashups of two characters, or make a nod toward the character, rather than tracking down every last detail. A serviceable, if slightly off-fleek Terminator here:

We forgot to spray paint the gun, but the Austrian accent and the attitude put it across.

Other variations: I had my heart set on dressing the baby as Paul Bunyan (above) for some reason, but I couldn’t find a plaid flannel shirt in her size; but I did find a red and black checked poncho, and did not hear any complaints:

The same goes for lots of other costumes: a ballerina pony might be even cuter (and easier!) than a regular pony; and you can make a meticulously accurate costume from the neck up, and then just wear a plain sweatsuit or a dressy suit, and it will still hit home.

Attitude goes a long way to making a costume work. This Raven costume was really just an approximation, but the way my daughter spoke and carried herself was dead on:

THE FINAL WORD ON APPROACHING HOMEMADE COSTUMES:

There are really two major mistakes you can make with costume-making:

One is making a costume that looks great, but the kid can’t move in it. I once made a “rider-riding-a-horse” costume, with false legs and all. It was adorable and amazing, but completely non-functional. Two steps and the kid was in tears. So make sure it’s walkable; make sure the kid can see; make sure it’s an outfit, not a prison!

If the kid is old enough, he can consent to wearing a costume that is extremely uncomfortable. I wish I had a better picture, but we did the old “severed head on a platter on a formally-set table” costume one year

and it was fabulous. Exhausting to drag around and keep stable, but fabulous. He went around saying “Alms for the bodiless?” instead of “trick or treat” and he got a lot of candy. (Oh, look! Behind him, there’s Ash with his milk jug chain saw hand.)

The other terrible mistake you can make is trying to make the costume look the way you want it, rather than how the kid wants it. Do it their way, whenever possible.

I had wonderful plans for Nightmare Moon. The four-year-old, however, had plans which were wonderful to her, including make up design. So those were the ones we went with. She got lots of candy, too.

Same with Rey, here. I had some wonderful ideas for how to make it look more authentic, but she had her ideas, and it was her costume. She was a very happy girl.

And then sometimes the kid says she wants to be a Pink Mummy Ghost. What is this? We don’t know. We only hope that, by some miracle, the thing we come up with is the same as whatever it is that’s in her crazy head.

And my final bit of advice? Don’t feel like your honor as a DIYer is on the line. If there’s a shortcut to be had and you can spend the money, go ahead and spend the money. I realized that I could buy furry fabric and sew squirrel girl, above, a wonderful tail, or I could buy some readymade furry leg warmers (intended for what costume, I do not know), attach them together with safety pins, stuff them, and it was, what do you know, a wonderful tail.

And guess what? Here is a “Vampire Queen.” How much of this costume did I make by hand? NONE. A little face paint. She was delighted.

So if you need permission to give yourself a break, I hereby grant you permission.

Especially if you are making a costume for a toddler. The more time and effort you put into making a costume for a toddler, the less likely it is the little crumb will wear it. Here is a child who said repeatedly all through October that she wanted to be Wonder Woman, or possibly Dashi:

And that’s how that goes. Happy costuming! Please share your tips and hacks in the comments. And seriously, if you’ve ever come up with a good way of making a cat tail that curls up but doesn’t make people feel uncomfortable when they wear it or see it, let me know asap.

These 3D printable masks could save Halloween.

Halloween is in eight days.  So far, I have (a) ordered one light blue hoodie from Ebay and (b) yelled at everybody.  Since we have to come up with nine costumes — or 17, really, since the older kids always pick a trick-or-treating costume that would be inappropriate for school, and so we have to come up with a second costume that won’t trigger an automatic lock-down. Thank goodness we’re terrible Catholics and quietly ignore All Saint’s Day, except for going to Mass, or we’d be looking at eight days to find 27 costumes.

Anyway, here is something amazing: printable paper masks of animals and other creatures from Wintercroft Masks. You pay a small sum, download a PDF, print it out, cut and assemble, and then paint them if you like. Very nicely designed, and the guy says they are structurally quite sturdy. Check out the lion:

 

mask lion

 

You can see he spray painted it gold for a neat Tron Lion effect, but you could also do a more naturalistic style, or you could make it kind of stylized and tribal. Lots of possibilities!

 

mask skull

 

Same for this one. Very effective with just plain white and black, or you could go for a dia de los muertos effect.

Here’s a tiger:

 

mask tiger

 

which could also easily be a leopard or adorable kitty cat, depending on how you decorate it.

There are lots more. It says it will take you two to three hours to assemble the masks. If you click on the individual pictures in the gallery, you will see strange and hilarious vignettes of people wearing the masks in odd settings. No shipping costs, no shopping, and you can still consider it semi-homemade. Love it.

Oh, so if you’re wondering, here are our kids’ plans for Halloween (and yes, the big kids are dressing up. I don’t care). From youngest to oldest:

  • 2-year-old: Rainbow Dash (that’s who the light blue hoodie is for. I can quickly and easily make a mane, ears, tail and cutie mark out of felt and hot glue, right? Tell me this will be simple. Lie to me.)
  • 5-year-old: A fairy princess (GOD BLESS YOU, FIVE-YEAR-OLD)
  • 7-year-old: A Creeper from Minecraft (just a painted box head and green clothes, right?)
  • 8-year-old: I forget what
  • 10-year-old: Arnold Schwarzenegger from The Terminator
  • 12-year-old: Two Face (there is still some deliberation about which version. I am recusing myself from that debate, on the grounds that I don’t care)
  • 14-year-old: An elven princess who enjoys sewing her own costumes!!!!!!!!!
  • 15-year-old: This guy from Die Hard:

PIC “now I have a machine gun ho ho ho”

 

I am torn about this one. Yes, it’s an easy costume. And yet . . .

  • And the 16-year-old is putting together a Kakashi Hatake costume. That’s all I know about that, except for the yelling.

And what are we going to do about the school-appropriate costumes? I think they will all just have to be paper foxes, and like it.