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.

Dora’s Terrifying Halloween Playlist!

Today, it’s my daughter Dora’s turn to be world famous in Poland! Here is her playlist of Halloween music, which certainly reflects her diverse upbringing. It certainly does.

WEREWOLF BAR MITZVAH from 30 Rock:

SPOOKY SCARY SKELETONS (Remix)
(Warning: I’ve never heard this before and it instantly gave me a headache. Argh!)

For reasons I can’t explain, I scrolled down to the comments on YouTube, and this caught my eye:

So you can see that robust discourse is alive and well in America today.

Next, a song I loathed the first time I heard it at age 10. It just pissed me off, and when I finally saw the movie, I was even madder. It ought to be taken out and shot. Yeah, yeah, Bill Murray made it watchable. Oh no, when else will we have a chance to see Bill Murray on fillum? Anyway, sorry, Dora. Here’s your song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cU4qbnNmxWA

Palate cleanser! WEREWOLVES OF LONDON by Warren Zevon

This one, I endorse. A great antidote, and it shows how a pop song can be catchy and repetitive without being maddening.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhSc8qVMjKM

Next! More werewolves with this timeless classic from MST3K, WHERE, O WEREWOLF

Okay, I have mixed feelings about Oingo Boingo, but if you had to be around for the 80’s, you could do worse:

Dora also included Weird Science, but I saw this movie in the theater, too, and I’m still angry over losing my three dollars. You can hear the song (which is, admittedly, the least intolerable part) here.

The inescapable and inexplicable MONSTER MASH by Bobby Pickett:

Then look what happened. The poor SOB found himself on TV again a few years later with THE MONSTER SWIM. But check it out:

“He always said that he had the best kind of celebrity that there is, since no one really recognized him and he was never really bothered but everyone knew the song,” says Nancy Joy Huus, Pickett’s daughter. Given up for adoption when she was a baby unbeknownst to Pickett, Huus and Pickett later reunited and enjoyed a close relationship preceding his death, with Huus being a fan of the track throughout her life without knowing it was her father who was singing. “When I found him, he was out-of-his-mind thrilled since he thought he was going to grow old alone. I still remember the night I told my kids that Grandpa is the ‘Monster Mash’ singer.”
Aw!
Next, the immortal Cash with GHOST RIDERS IN THE SKY
This video is immensely cheesy, but Corrie insisted this was the version we want:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_oXQVUzEoc
 

SCOOBY DOO THEME from 1969, because why not?

She includes SWEET DREAMS ARE MADE OF SEVEN NATION ARMY. Why? I dunno.

IT’S ALMOST HALLOWEEN by Panic! At the Disco. This is essentially a Wiggles song, but what are you gonna do.

Okay, M1 A1 by Gorillaz. Definitely an acquired taste. This song tests your patience, for sure, but I hear what she’s hearing.

Dora also included DRACULA, which apparently I’m too old for.

PSYCHO KILLER by The Talking Heads
This is, uhm, one of Corrie’s favorite songs.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kxu5dKqEmZMREMAINS OF THE DAY from Corpse Bride
Tim Burton, which I spell with a capital meh. Still, Danny Elfman. He knows what he’s doing.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zn-F6bWS240

Legitimately scary: SILVER by The Pixies

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1shKVh98-E

And finally,

DECOMPOSING PUMPKINS by Brainkrieg (via Homestar Runner)

Next up is my mom getting back from book club! So we’ll all need to get out of the way, so she can pull in.

And what’s on your essential listening list for Halloween?

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 in just over two weeks. 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 almost 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. 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:

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 “crook” — 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.

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.

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.

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What’s for supper? Vol. 11: Here comes the quiche, doot-n-doo-doot

whats for supper

SATURDAY
CANDY
HAM and CHEESE
CANDY
CANDYCANDY

Halloween was Saturday, you’ll recall! No sense in making dinner when there’s trick-or-treating to get done. They had some cheese sticks or something before they left, then got home and ate their way through a mountain of candy. After a few hours of this, I offered them ham and cheese. A few of them declined; a few didn’t even bother to respond; and a few behaved as if it was the food of the gods, because it was so refreshingly not-candy.

For your delectation, here is my three-year-old, who was extremely pleased with her costume(?) of Toadette(?) from Mario Kart:

cabbage cruz

 

SUNDAY
CUBAN PICADILLO; RICE

Everyone in the house was super, super, super excited about this dish. It smelledso savory and wonderful. How could it not? Beef and chorizo, fresh garlic, cinnamon, cloves, olives, and raisins!

The verdict? “It’s not like anyone was retching or anything,” one food critic was heard to muse.

food blog picadillo

Believe it or not, it only looked about this good in the original NYT recipe page, too, and I still went ahead and made it anyway.

Ah, well. At least I got to feel like a good sport, trying new things for these ungrateful savages. But seriously, it just wasn’t all that good.

For dessert we had those Play Doh cookies that come in a tube and you slice them up and there’s a picture in them.

 

MONDAY
QUICHE; ONION SOUP

My daughter goes, “I like how this onion soup is just a bunch of onions.” I know. It’s like, “Hey, have some onions!” Oh boy.

I use beef broth instead of water, but more or less follow the Fannie Farmer recipe. They are not kidding when they say leave plenty of time to let the onions cook. Count on at least 45 minutes, if not longer — but the rest comes together in a few minutes. This soup is great served over croutons, with cheese on top – and it’s pretty great just as is, too.

My quiche is really just serviceable (and I use milk instead of cream, which basically makes it scrambled egg pie), but it’s bright and cheery-looking, which is more and more important to me as it gets darker and colder. That moment when you open the oven and pull out four brilliant, glistening, golden, sunny, fragrant pies . . . it makes up for a lot.

cabbage cruz

Here comes the quiche, doot-n-doo-doot . . . here comes the quiche, and I say . . . it’s all ham. (Actually, two ham and cheddar, two sausage and mozzarella. I forgot I had feta in the house, or I would have done at least one feta and spinach.)

 

TUESDAY 
PASTA WITH MEAT SAUCE; SALAD

Nothing to report. Ground beef in jarred meat sauce. Again, it wasn’t candy, and it wasn’t those awful cookies that I couldn’t seem to stop eating.

At one point during the day, I hauled out the massive bag of pumpkin guts and sorted seeds for about an hour. I got about a fifth of the way through.  I do love roasted pumpkin seeds. Looks like the kids have a project for the weekend.

food blog pumpkin guts

WEDNESDAY
CHICKEN WRAPS

I’m probably the only person in the world who has attempted to make a copycat recipe of Burger King’s awful little chicken wraps. It’s just a hunk of white meat, a slab of iceberg lettuce, some shredded cheese, and some kind of orange salad dressing, wrapped indifferently in a cold flour tortilla and hurled out the window without even offering a receipt. You may or may not get a straw.

I took this photo thinking, "Maybe they don't know what chicken looks like!"

I took this photo thinking, “Maybe they don’t know what chicken looks like!”

I remembered about the feta this time, so we also had feta, plus some hummus. But no ketchup.

THURSDAY
WAFFLES; SAUSAGES; MASHED BUTTERNUT SQUASH

I like how squash tastes, but I really, really like how it looks like those enormous gaudy wall hangings they put in hospitals. Check it out:

food blog squash 3

 

food blog squash 1

 

food blog squash 2

Do I have a follow-up joke here? No, I do not. Squash is pretty, the end.

FRIDAY
TUNA SANDWICHES; CHIPS

And we are off to Syracuse! I believe Mr. Husband and I (and Corrie) will be attending some sort of banquet when we get there. The kids will no doubt dine upon strawberries, sugar, and cream. And roasted pumpkin seeds, maybe!

Question of the week: Still got candy? I ate the last piece of Starburst this morning.

What’s for supper? Vol. 10: ‘At’samatta for you?

whats for supper

 

SATURDAY
HOBBIT BIRTHDAY!

Roast chicken, asparagus, braided stuffed bread, and roast apples; hot cider; birthday cake and ice cream.

One of my four teenagers had a birthday. Fine, her birthday was last month. But when we finally got around to having a party, it was pretty good. It was a dinner party very loosely based on The Hobbit.

food blog hobbit cake

You thought the Peter Jackson version was bad? This is the version where the cake is basically just crumbs held together with damp coconut, and everything else is made out of store bought icing squeezed out of sandwich bags, and the director has severe PMS and is just trying not to get tears in the food.

Mommy blogging alert and disclaimer. I like making crafts, decorating cakes, and crap like that. It is fun for me. If you hate crafts and stuff, and reading about crafts and stuff makes you feel bad, just tell yourself, “Yeah, but her house smells like pee andlooks like the hynena cave in Lion King!” And it will be true. Or, if you’re much better at crafts and cake decorating and stuff than I am, just go suck an egg. See? Everyone’s happy.

We had a giant garbage bag spider with a captured Felicity dwarf in its web lurking in one corner

food blog spider

and I attempted to make Bilbo’s door out of streamers, but it didn’t look that great, mainly because the my Cheapskate Brain overpowered my Regular Brain and persuaded me that we could afford to buy green streamers, but not colored paper for the bricks.

food blog hobbit door

Benny was very impressed, though, when I used matches to distress the “no admittance” sign.

I used a match because it's from The Hobbit, back when everything was burnt on the edges.

I used a match because it’s from The Hobbit times, back when everything was burnt on the edges.

That was all decorating we had time for. We had a campfire, the kids played at the stream, and we made dragon eggs. Yes, the dragon in LOTR is a boy dragon, but you know what? This is a party activity which teenagers are not too cool to do (if you can put up with a lot of shrieking over how gross the egg-blowing is). Here’s theinstructions, and here are a few the kids made:

food blog dragon eggs

 

 

If you make a little circle of hot glue on one end, they will stand up on their own.

We have An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery (actually, we couldn’t find our copy; but not one but two friends were kind enough to get their hands on the ebook version and send me the recipe!), which is full of tasty things we need to make someday. Because we were rushed, we just chose the braided braid stuffed with onions, mushrooms and cheese. I’m not great with yeast breads, and in desperation picked up five pouches of pizza crust mix from Walmart, and it turned outspectacular. My daughter made four large loaves. There were shouts of, “MAKE THIS EVERY DAY FROM  NOW ON.”

I also roasted a couple of big chickens, steamed some asparagus, and made two big pans of roasted apples, and it was a very fine meal, if only vaguely Hobbity.

food blog hobbit meal

We had hot cider, non-mulled, because I’m the only one who likes it mulled. I like some wine in it, too, but it wasn’t that kind of party.

food blog irene campfire

Or was it?

Roasted apples, by the way! Yes. So easy and delicious. A quick, easy side dish that would go with lots of cold weather foods.

food blog roasted apples

 

 

SUNDAY
Yummy things without kids!

Sunday was our 18th anniversary. The kids had hot dogs or something, and we packed a bottle of wine and an assortment of tasty things and ate the by a little fire down by the stream, which is just out of sight of the house, and we had a lovely time.

food blog fire wine

So then I realized it was time to start the week, and I hadn’t gone shopping yet, and had also somehow unexpectedly run out of money. Like, all of it. So the rest of the week went like this:

You’ll note there was no actual falling down, but there was a lot of falling. I never actually made a meal plan or went grocery shopping in any organized way; I just flailed around in the store on the way home from school several times, and then flailed around in the kitchen until there was something hot on the table.

 

MONDAY
WILD TURKEY SURPRISE

There was so much grousing about lack of good lunch food, I thought I should make an effort for dinner, so I made sauce out of all the stuff we had in the house, which turned out to be peppers, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, wine, and ground turkey. I like making homemade sauce, because how fancy is it to add sugar to something that is not supposed to be sweet, because you’re so smart, you know you have to cut the acidity of the tomatoes? I feel like such an insider.

An’ a little bit l’ wiiine . . . and that’s my secret.

Of course the end result is less Godfather and more Tasmanian Devil

But the end result was actually pretty good, mainly because we were starving by the time I got dinner on the table.

 

TUESDAY
???

Maybe frozen chicken burgers? I forget.

 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken drumsticks; macaroni salad; frozen peas

I was planning to make rice, but there was no rice, so I scraped together this macaroni salad recipe, which tasted fine.

 

THURSDAY
Braised pork with red wine over noodles

I was determined to make something interesting this week. This was not bad.

food blog braised pork

It is something new to do with pork, anyway, and pork keeps on being cheap.  I let it boil too fast for too long, so the meat was a little tough; but the gravy was fantastic. I could have eaten just the noodles with gravy and been happy. It’s definitely easy, and you can do it in a crock pot if you like.

Also, it turns out I didn’t know what “braised” means.

FRIDAY
???

I have no idea. Probably more noodles. I have to finish up Halloween costumes. I’m really counting on the kids being full of candy from their parties today, and thinking less about supper and more about (sigh) gutting and carving ten pumpkins.

This looks like a happy childhood, right?

This looks like a happy childhood, right?

My therapist says that people underestimate the profound effect of not getting enough sleep. Well, I don’t. Or, I do. I mean, I’m really tired. I feel bad even saying it, because my husband keeps getting up with the kids so I can sleep, but nevertheless.

Question of the week: ‘Attsa matta, you no like-a, HEY, ‘attsamatta for you?

12+ Scary Movies Our Kids Loved (including at least 5 “hells” and 2 “bollocks”)

Dracula_1958_a
By Screenshot from “Internet Archive” of the movie Dracula (1958) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Because we are integrated Catholics, we observe All Saints Day, All Souls Day, and Halloween — the latter, by trick-or-treating, putting the little guys stickily to bed, and showing the older kids a scarier movie than we normally allow.  And because I’m still in denial about just how many outrageous promises I carelessly made about costumes I’d be happy to whip up, I’m thinking hard about what movie we’ll show this year.

There are a bunch of mildly scary movies we can show the little guys: Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a favorite; and it’s fun to watch Abbot and Costello meet various creatures. And there’s always The Munsters, which is a truly terrible show, but the little guys love it.

What to show the middle kids and older kids? It needs to be scary, but not too scary.  There are plenty of flat-out terrifying movies out there, but we’re looking for one that don’t introduce any themes or images that kids aren’t ready to deal with.  Pure slasher movies, I oppose for people of any age, as I can’t imagine how you can learn to enjoy watching them without disastrously deadening some part of your soul.  I’m also not a fan of supernatural horror movies, which give people the impression that religion is part dopey, part freaky.

The year I wrote this post, we went with Arachnophobia (1990).  It was weird and funny, a well done, edge-of-the-seat creature feature.  It’s classified as a comedy/thriller, which hits the sweet spot for me:  The comedy makes us more vulnerable when the shocks come, but it also reminds us that it’s just a movie.  John Goodman as the exterminator is hilarious.

Much gorier and much funnier, and also very moving in places, is Shaun of the Dead (2004), one of my favorite movies in any genre.  It’s about a zombie near-apocalypse, but is just as much about friendship and love, and it convincingly shows the main character move from failure-to-launch slobhood to heroic manhood.  But it totally earns the R rating, mostly because of the truly horrifying gore.  We did let our 11-year-old watch this one.

We recently saw The Sixth Sense (1999) and Signs (2002). It beats me why The Sixth Sense is the more celebrated. It’s very good, but Signs is fantastic, and has so much more depth. It’s one of my favorite movies in general, and it will make you feel better whenever you start feeling down about Mel Gibson. The Village (2004) is pretty scary, but relies way too heavily on the plot twist; and, as I mentioned on the radio with Mark the other day, I had a hard time getting past the idea that the villagers would have bothered to pack things like decorative door hinges. I don’t pack like that.Unbreakable (2000) is tremendously underrated, so carefully crafted — Shyamalan’s best, I think.

Have I mentioned The Mummy (1999) often enough in past posts?  Yes?  All right, I’ll skip the details and just remind you that it really moves along, it has a heroine that you actually root for, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Also, the scene where the guy knows something’s coming to get him but he can’t find his glasses?  Brrrrr.  The Mummy Returns (2001) is a worthy sequel.  The Mummy 3, I don’t know what the title is because I fell asleep before I got to the end of reading it, never mind watching the movie (2008) should be taken out and shot. When they replaced Rachel Weisz in the third one, you realized, “Ah, so it was Rachel Weisz who was holding the other two movies together.”

Some darker choices:  Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.  I always feel defensive when my kids watch a Hitchcock movie — the man was so hard on his viewers.  I still haven’t forgiven him for Vertigo.  The nerve, confusing me that way, and making me upset about those awful people with their plastic hair!  The Birds has a weird structure that makes it feel very dated. Vertigo is just nasty, but worth getting under your belt so you can enjoy High Anxiety.

Gaslight (1944). You think you know about this movie because you’re familiar with the term “gaslighting.”  So watch it and find out why it’s a classic.  So incredibly tense, so gorgeously black-and-white.  The acting is subtle and superb and the pacing is exquisite.  I’m adding it to my Netflix queue right now.

Diabolique (1954, not the apparently highly stinky 1996 remake).  ONE OF THE SCARIEST MOVIES I HAVE EVER SEEN.  You feel like you can’t even breathe for a good part of this movie.  Very tricky plot, very nasty direction, and horribly, horribly French.  Entirely effective if you feel like getting grabbed by the brain and shaken around for a while.

Lightening things up again:  Tremors (1990).  Okay, technically more of an action/adventure flick, but it will keep you on your toes.  This is how our Halloween movie tradition got started:  my son was so excited to be trick-or-treating, he bolted down the sidewalk, slipped on some dry leaves, and spent the rest of Halloween in the ER with a sprained wrist.  So we showed him Tremors as compensation.  It’s another combo of suspense, action and gore, with a satisfying and wholesome resolution.  Very likeable heroes, and the paranoid survivalist couple is a scream.

Army of Darkness (1992)  Just tons of fun.  The fact that the diabolical villains are called “Deadites” — because they’re dead – will give you an idea of the tone of this movie.  Brilliant slapstick, but scary enough that it’s not for anyone under the age of ten.  (Also a sexy scene or two, which we handle, if littler kids are watching, by putting a pillow over the screen.)

Rear Window (1954)  Another of my all-time favorites in any genre.  I have something of a Cary Grant problem — have a real hard time getting past his blue hair — which means I often have a Hitchcock problem.  But this movie features Jimmy Stewart instead, flexing his acting muscles on a character which is not as repellent as some Hitchcock heroes — but still, somethin’ ain’t right with that guy.  Love it.  And Grace Kelly and her astonishing dresses are so lovely, you don’t care that she’s kind of a dish of lukewarm pudding, actingwise.  Oh, and yes, it’s scary!  Suspenseful as all get out, and howlingly original in scope.

Island of Lost Souls is also on my to-watch list.  Reliable sources have assured me it’s super creepy.  It’s from 1932 with Charles Laughton, and is based on the novel The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells.  IMDb’s plot summary:

An obsessed scientist conducts profane experiments in evolution, eventually establishing himself as the self-styled demigod to a race of mutated, half-human abominations.

Sigh.  I dunno, are we sure this same story isn’t featured in the latest issue of JAMA?  Anyway, Charles Laughton is always fun to watch.  Also stars Bela Lugosi.

Speaking of Bela Lugosi, how about Dracula?  1931, the one and only year that saw the production of a genuinely scary vampire movie.  Unless you include The Lost Boys (1987), assuming you can’t think of anything scarier than rice that turns into maggots — SCARY MAGGOTS, WHICH IS SO MEAN, YOU AWFUL VAMPIRES, YOU! Although Corey Haim bopping in the bathtub is genuinely horrifying.  That recent Nosferatu movie stank on ice, in the way that only John Malkovich can make something stink on ice (that is, pretentiosly).  I have heard that 30 Days of Night (2007) is terrifying — so much so that I don’t even think I can acknowledge that it exists.

Addendum: Okay, fine, I guess Dracula (1958) with Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, is a good one, too. We’ll probably watch that one this year.

This has nothing to do with anything; I just think it's funny.

This has nothing to do with anything; I just think it’s funny.

The older ones (we have three in high school this year) may go with The Silence of the Lambs (1991). I may be too chicken to join them.

***

A version of this post originally ran at the Register in 2012, back when I got all embroiled in the comments box, because someone made the following comment:

Shaun of the Dead?  Really?  This movie has the following in it, and this is just the language! (from Screenit.com)  At least 46 “f” words (1 used with “mother”), 2 “s” words, 4 slang terms using female genitals (“tw*t” and a possible “c*nt”), 4 using male ones (“pr*ck” and “c*ck”), 5 hells, 2 bollocks, 4 uses of “Oh my God,” 3 of “For Christ’s sakes,” 2 of “For God’s sakes” and 1 use each of “Christ,” “Jesus” and “Oh God.”

As evidence of my personal spiritual growth, I’d like to point out that I did not title this post “Tw*t” and a Possible “C*nt.”

***

How to make your Halloween magnificent!

We never did find out what Wish Bear was so angry about. I thought she looked magnificent.

We never did find out what Wish Bear was so angry about. I thought she looked magnificent.

Our founding fathers didn’t die face down in the mud of Vietnam only to see my children struggling through the night with only Mary Janes, Good and Plenty, nameless lollipop blobs, and Bit-o’- Chicken to sustain them, like I did when I was a kid. Those were dark times. We can do better.

Read the rest at the Register.

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.