Saturday, October 31, 2015

Best Celebrity Halloween Costumes

Of course, celebrities always have fantastic Halloween costumes. I mean, between the bottomless budgets; access to the best costume designers, hairdressers, and makeup artists on the planet; and the drop-dead gorgeous, perfect faces and bodies they have to work with, how could they not?

But even so, some costumes stand out above others. Usually because they’re clever, or funny, or somehow especially appropriate for that particular celebrity (or celebrity couple, or celebrity family). Here are a few of my personal favorites that I’ve seen celebrities wearing over the years. 

Sandra Bullock and her son Louis dressed as Jessie and Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story in 2013. Not only is Jessie a perfect costume for the sweet and cheerful Bullock, but her son was at the age where his vague confusion about the concept of Halloween and his delight in discovering all about it was a perfect parallel to Buzz himself. 

It’s always fantastic when celebrities spoof each other, and Ellen DeGeneres has gone above and beyond in this category many times. Two of my favorites are last year, when she took on Nicki Minaj, complete with impressive underboobage and dark roots, and 2012, when she donned a duplicate of Sofia Vergara’s dress from the Emmy Awards, complete with fake feet in high heels so she could still wear her beloved white tennis shoes. Rock on, Ellen.

Speaking of hitting it out of the park every year, let’s talk Neil Patrick Harris, David Burtka, and family. Every year they do a whole family theme, finding costumes that are hilariously perfect for each member. One year Neil was Captain Hook, David was Peter Pan, their daughter Harper was Tinker Bell, and their son Gideon was Mr. Smee; one year they did the Wizard of Oz with Neil as the Tin Man, David as the Scarecrow, Harper as Dorothy, and Gideon as the Cowardly Lion; last year’s Batman theme featured Neil as the Riddler, David as the Joker, Harper as Batgirl, and Gideon as the Caped Crusader himself. But two of my favorites are Harper as Alice in Wonderland, Gideon as the White Rabbit, and the two dads as Tweedledum and Tweedledee; and the year they all went as monsters, with Neil as Frankenstein’s monster, Gideon as the Werewolf, Harper as Bride of Frankenstein, and David as Count Dracula. Whatever they paid their hair and makeup artist, it wasn’t enough. This family always finds the right blend of spooky and family fun.

Heidi Klum goes all-out with her Halloween costume every year, usually going for something that makes her unrecognizable: full-face old-age makeup to be a little old lady, a fierce 8-armed Indian goddess covered in blue paint, and a gorilla completely covered in fur (except for her rather prominent – and fortunately artificial – breasts). But what better costume for a model nicknamed “The Body” than an anatomical model?

Katy Perry as a Cheeto. I don’t know why this strikes me as completely hilarious, but it does. I mean, she’s a CHEETO!!!! As Larry the Cable Guy would say, “That’s funny, right thar.”

Remember that awful year when Miley Cyrus dressed up in a teddy bear teddy and acted gross with Robin Thicke? She was pretty horrible, but the many celebrity and non-celebrity costumes the routine spawned were pretty awesome. Here’s to everyone who mocked her the following Halloween, including Kelly Ripa, Paris Hilton, and even Joan Rivers.

But lest you be intimidated by these great costumes, just keep in mind that even with all their money and looks, some celebrities still come up with hot messes instead of cool costumes:

 The Hanson brothers as…got me. Your guess is as good as mine. 80s gorilla, biker fairy, and pirate bee? Yeah, I got nothin’.

Snooki as…The Queen of the Pickles? A Pickle Hunter? 

 Kyle MacLachlan as Cheez-Wiz. Next year, Kyle, go as a Cheeto. At least everybody likes Cheetos.

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Friday, October 30, 2015

The Costume Conundrum

Halloween tends to bring out strong emotions in the parents of young children: we either immerse ourselves in the spirit of the season, creating elaborate costumes for our children and ourselves, decorating our homes and yards within inches of their lives, carving 27 perfectly-sized jack o’lanterns for the porch, and eagerly awaiting bringing in fancy themed snacks for class parties; or we become the Halloween equivalent of the Grinch, buying whatever costume is still in the store at the last second, tossing an uncarved pumpkin on the steps, and turning off the porch light at the earliest possible moment.

For a parent, Halloween is just about the worst competitive peer pressure that there is. Let’s admit it: we judge each other on our kids’ costumes. Can we make the perfect costume, exactly what the child has been begging for for weeks, have every detail perfect, including hair and makeup and shoes? Is OUR Thor (or Ariel, or Barbie, or Iron Man, or whatever character is popular this year) as authentic and as awesome as the neighbor kid’s Thor (or Ariel or Barbie or Iron Man)? Or do we not love our child enough to handmake armor out of 38,743 individual soda can pull-tabs and to design a magnetized hammer that actually sticks to the ground when anyone but our child tries to pick it up? I think a lot of us simply admit defeat and don’t even try.

And I count myself among that number. I come from a long line of seamstresses, and I am a seamstress myself. I had always had visions of sewing magnificent costumes for my kids, as my mother always had for me. I imagined myself sitting with each of them, poring over pattern books and picking out fabrics, then seeing their growing excitement as they tried on their costume at each stage, as it slowly grew into being under my talented fingers.

But what really happened is that they saw the rack of ready-made costumes at Costco in August and did that little jumping, squealing happy dance that no parent with a heart can resist, and I threw down my 25 bucks and called it a day.

But the truth is, KIDS DON’T CARE. Well, some kids might care. But the vast majority of kids would be pretty happy with a costume made from construction paper and tape.

What the parent sees:

What the kid sees:

Remember, these are kids to whom a cardboard box becomes a castle, a pirate ship, a rocket, and a smuggler’s cave. We see what’s there; they see what’s in their imagination. And the less we give them to work with, the cooler their imagination can make it. An elaborate costume leaves no room for creativity; a “suggested” costume allows for coming up with cool effects and weapons and abilities.
So the mom I admire, and the mom I strive to be, is the one who doesn’t worry about what other people will think about her kids’ costumes, but the one who gives her child a costume that will allow them to imagine, to pretend, to dream, to strive, to think.

But I still hope that someday one of them wants a great costume that I can sew after we design it together. 

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Easy Pumpkin Stuff

It's October, and it's New England (well, it is where I am, anyway). And you know what that means: It's time for Pumpkin Stuff!! Pumpkin spice coffee, jack o'lantern crafts, all kinds of pumpkin recipes. Many of the pumpkin-themed suggestions I see popping up on Facebook and Pinterest call for exotic ingredients, high degrees of artistic skill, and/or way more time than I have to spare. So here are a few easier options for Pumpkin Stuff that are still fun, delicious, and/or awesome.

Pumpkin Spiced Latte

I've seen a few recipes that call for fresh pumpkin or hand-picked espresso beans, but this one is pretty straightforward: sugar, pumpkin from a can, vanilla, cinnamon, milk, coffee. Easy peasy! You can make the full recipe for a crowd or cut it in half for just a couple of servings.

6 cups milk
4-6 cups strong coffee
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
2 cinnamon sticks

Pour the milk and the coffee into a crockpot and stir together. Blend together remaining ingredients except cinnamon sticks and add to crockpot, stirring well to mix. Toss in the cinnamon sticks. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours.

Pumpkin Muffins

Sure, you could make fancy scones that require 27 different ingredients, at least 6 of which are not currently in your pantry. Or you could go for these awesome pumpkin muffins, which call for only two ingredients. TWO. Which happens to be the same number of words in the phrase "win-win." Coincidence? I think not.

1 box spice cake mix (yellow or white cake mix also works, in a pinch)
1 can pumpkin

Stir together ingredients until a thick batter forms. Pour into greased muffin tins. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

Pumpkin Soup

I love pumpkin soup. I sometimes make it as a first course forThanksgiving dinner. But that recipe involves adding a a few things and simmering for a while (stirring constantly, of course), digging out random spices that I don't keep on hand, adding a few more things and simmering some more (did I mention stirring constantly?), and pureeing 3 ounces of soup at a time. Ain't nobody got time for that on a regular basis. So this is the quick and easy (but just as delicious) version for whenever you feel the urge for pumpkin soup.

1 can pumpkin
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup cream (light, heavy, or half and half)
2 tbsp maple syrup (real is best)
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or make your own with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves)
1 apple
1 tbsp butter
a few strips of cooked, crumbled bacon

Whisk together all ingredients except apple, butter, and bacon in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes, still whisking. Peel, core, and cube the apple, then fry the cubes in butter till soft. Top each serving of soup with apples and bacon.

Pumpkin Pie

My mom made the BEST pumpkin pie. I don't know where she got her recipe from, but it made too much filling for one pie and not quite enough for two, so whenever she made pumpkin pie, she'd pour the excess into ramekins and serve it as "pumpkin custard." Now, I don't dislike pie crust, but to me it's really only necessary because it holds the pie together, so the custard was always my preference over the pie. So pumpkin pie without a crust to have to either make OR eat? I'm in.

1 can pumpkin
1 can evaporated milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice (or, as above, make your own with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice)
1 tsp vanilla

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer. Add all remaining ingredients except evaporated milk and beat together. Beat in evaporated milk. Pour into a glass pie plate and bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 and bake for an additional 40-50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a cooling rack before serving.

Jack O'Lantern

The trick to easy pumpkin carving, I've found, is a good set of tools, which includes a sharp butcher's knife for cutting the top off the pumpkin; a large, relatively sharp-edged metal spoon for scooping out the guts; and some small, single-ended saws with handles, designed for pumpkin carving. However, even with good tools, it's hard to involve young children in the fun of pumpkin carving. So in our house, Mom or Dad cuts the top off the pumpkin and does the actual carving, but the kids help to scoop out the guts and they draw the carving design. I have each kid draw their pumpkin face on construction paper, then either I cut it out or they cut it out (depending on their scissor skills), then I have them tape each piece onto the pumpkin until it's how they like it, and I trace around the shapes and carve the pumpkin. With a younger child, drawing simple triangles or rectangles may be the limit of their design skills. So if they want to make a scary jack o'lantern, make a big rectangle for the mouth and let them stick in wooden toothpicks for lots of creepy, pointy teeth!!!

Pumpkin Party Favors

Having a Halloween party and you want to send your guests home with a cute goodie bag? These are cute and easy to make. All you need is orange tissue paper, green floral tape, some small candies, and whatever random object around the house is a roughly 9-inch diameter circle (dinner plate, cake pan, tea kettle, etc.). Lay two layers of tissue paper on the table and trace then cut out a 9-inch(ish) circle. Lay the candies in the center, then gather the edges and twist together to form a stem. (If you want to be fancy, you can make neat pleats to gather the paper, but I think it works just fine to simply squish the edges together.) Wrap the stem with the tape and voila, pumpkin cuteness!

Note: To make this into a kids' craft project, you can substitute coffee filters for the orange tissue paper and let the kids sponge paint them orange and yellow (see here for details).

Pleated Pumpkin

This pleated pumpkin wall hanging is great because it's easy to adapt to various ages. If your kid is old enough to fold neatly and cut out shapes, let them do the whole thing themselves. If your kid has a hard time cutting along the lines, let them draw their face and you can cut it out for them. All this craft requires is construction paper, a stapler, scissors, and school glue or glue sticks.

Fold two pieces of orange paper accordion-style, then staple each into a fan. Then staple the two straight edges of the fans together at the ends to form a circle. Cut out a stem from green paper and a jack o'lantern face from black paper, and glue each piece in place. You can put a face and a stem on each side and hang it with a string, or use loops of tape to stick the one-sided version to a wall or door.

Hot Pumpkin Pie Cocktail
(modified from this source)

And because everything is better when you wrap it up with a nice cocktail, here's a terrific pumpkin cocktail that doesn't require you to buy a whole entire bottle of some weird flavored vodka or liqueur that you'll never use again. This recipe makes 3-4 servings, but you can double it for a larger group.

2 cups milk
1 cup Bailey's Irish Cream
1/4 cup vodka
2 tbsp Tuaca (vanilla liqueur) or 1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 can pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or make your own, as above)
Whipped cream

Bring milk, Bailey's, vodka, and Tuaca (or vanilla) almost to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat and add pumpkin and spices. Stir quickly to incorporate. Serve warm, topped with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Happy Pumpkin Season!

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Monday, October 19, 2015

The Secret of My (Parenting) Success

I don’t mean for this to sound conceited, but I get a lot of comments on my good parenting. I’m sure that a lot of the reason for that is that I post about my parenting on Facebook, in my personal blog, and in my monthly newspaper column, not to mention the fact that I am a stay-at-home-parent and homeschooler, so parenting is kind of what I do. When people talk to me, the most obvious thing to talk to me about is parenting. And yeah, I actually am pretty good at it. But let me share with you the very simple secret to my parenting success: I don’t care.

Seriously, that’s the secret. I don’t care.

Well, that may be a bit of an overstatement. I do care; I just don’t care about everything. I’ve figured out what’s important to care about, and I don’t care about the rest.

I don’t care what other people think about my parenting (with the exception of my husband, my pediatrician, and possibly one or two other professionals in the child care and development fields who happen to personally know me and my children well). I do my own research, I’m open to hearing other points of view, but when it comes right down to it, I know my kids and I’ll parent the way that I think works best for them and for me, and I couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks.

That sounds pretty easy, but it’s really not. I have no doubt that if I had become a mom in my twenties, I would have cared very much about what other people thought. I’d have plunged into depression when the La Leche League ladies at the hospital told me I was a horrible mother for only nursing my children for 3 or 4 months so I could go back on medication. But instead, I recognized that I knew what I needed, and I knew what my children needed, and it was a healthy mom and formula.

Twenty years ago I’d have been a stuttering, stammering mess if anyone challenged my ability to homeschool my son. God forbid they asked me about the dreaded “S-word”: socialization. But now I feel free to tell them that he’s socialized just fine, thanks, and maybe they should go talk to the public school kids who don’t ride the bus, don’t have recess, and aren’t allowed to talk during lunch or homeroom to see how well socialized they are in school. Except that I don’t, because I don’t care. It’s not any of my business how well socialized public school kids are, any more than it’s anyone else’s business how well socialized my kid is.

I don’t care if some stranger judges me because I let my daughter wear her Snow White costume to the grocery store, or because I let my son wear shorts and a T-shirt in 55-degree weather, or because I wouldn’t let either of my children take a free lollipop at the bank because they were having tantrums in line.

What I do care about is figuring out how to parent in such a way that my daughter feels free to make up an elaborate story about being a princess, or that my son feels free to dress in a way that makes him happy and comfortable, or that both my children recognize that there are consequences for their behavior.

I do care that my children feel loved, and respected. I do care that they recognize that they have a responsibility to contribute to society by learning, by being polite, and by making their own contribution to the world around them.

I don’t care if you think my son is weird because he homeschools; I do care if you try to tell him there’s something wrong with him because of it. I don’t care if you think my daughter is weird because of how she’s dressed; I do care if you make fun of her for it. I am teaching both my children to be loving and accepting of the many different ways that people behave. I am teaching them that there is a right way and a wrong way to behave. I am teaching them that there are more important things in life than their own wants. I am teaching them that they are important, and worthy, and that their lives are important and worthy.

And if you think that’s not important or worthy, well, I really don’t care.

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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Fall Foods

We all laugh at the sudden appearance of all things pumpkin spice in the fall, but there are certain flavors, and certain foods, that somehow only feel appropriate in the fall. Roasted turkey, anything involving cranberries, casseroles and crock pot dishes are all on my personal list of foods that I’ve avoided all summer long and am now eager to enjoy in the fall. Here are a few of my favorite recipes that have been waiting for October’s arrival to make their way back to my table.

Brandy Alexander

2 parts cognac
1 part half and half
Large splash of crème de cacao

Shake over ice, strain, serve in a chilled martini glass and sprinkle with nutmeg or cinnamon.

Pumpkin Pie Soup

2 cups apple cider
2 cups chicken broth
1 (29 ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup granulated sugar (adjust depending on how tart your cider is)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon cloves
1/2 tablespoon nutmeg
1/2 tablespoon allspice
1 pint heavy whipping cream

In large pot over low heat, combine all ingredients except whipping cream; while stirring frequently, bring to simmer. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in heavy cream; serve.

Fish Chowder

2 slices bacon
1 lb fish fillet, cut into 1” pieces
1 small onion, sliced
1 c thinly sliced potatoes
1 c scalded milk
1-1/2 tsp salt
Dash pepper
1-1/2 tbsp butter

Brown bacon well in saucepan. Remove and crumble. Leave drippings in pan, place layers of potato, onion, and fish in pan. Add ¾ c water. Cover, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes, until potatoes and fish are just cooked. Add milk, salt and pepper, butter, and crumbled bacon. Keep warm over low heat. Makes 2 generous servings; recipe may be doubled.

Lobster Mac & Cheese

1 8 oz pkg pasta, any shape
4 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon salt
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup milk
1 cup cream or half and half
2 cups shredded cheddar
Lobster meat (~1 cup)
½ cup buttered breadcrumbs

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside. Melt butter in large saucepan. Whisk in flour, salt, and pepper until well-blended. Gradually pour in milk and cream, stirring constantly. Continue to stir; bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add shredded cheddar little by little; simmer 5 minutes more or until melted. Remove from heat, add pasta and lobster to pan and toss to coat. Transfer to buttered baking dish. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes until top is golden brown.

Beef-Stuffed Acorn Squash

1 med acorn squash
½ lb ground beef
2 tbsp chopped onion
2 tbsp chopped celery (optional)
2 tbsp flour
¼ tsp salt
¾ c milk
½ c cooked rice
¼ c shredded American cheese

Cut squash in half, scoop out and discard seeds. Sprinkle with salt. Bake cut side down at 350 for 45-60 minutes. Brown beef with onion and celery; drain fat. Stir in flour, salt, and milk. Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly. Stir in rice. Turn squash right side up and fill. Bake at 350 ~30 minutes. Top with cheese and bake 3 more minutes. Serves 2; recipe can be doubled with no changes in baking time.

Cider Pork Chops

4 lean center-cut pork chops about 3/4-inch thick (1 1/2 lbs.)
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
4 tablespoons Dijon mustard, divided
2 teaspoons dried sage leaves, crumbled
Black pepper
1 cup apple cider or apple juice, divided

Cut a small piece of fat from edge of one chop. Saute in medium-large skillet until the fat runs. Use to grease skillet. Add garlic. Cook until golden brown. Add chops. Brown on both sides. Spread each chop generously with mustard, then sprinkle with sage and pepper. Repeat on other side of chops. Add 1/2 cup cider or juice. Cover and cook slowly for 15 to 20 minutes, turning occasionally. Uncover, remove chops to platter. Add remaining cider to skillet. Cook rapidly until reduced to a sauce consistency. Stir 1 tablespoon mustard into sauce. Pour over chops and serve

Maple Glazed Duck

1 duck breast
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp butter
1 shallot, minced
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tbsp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp thyme, chopped
Salt to taste

Cut small slits in the skin side of the duck breast, without slicing all the way into the flesh. Season the duck on both sides with the salt and pepper. Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat and sear the duck breast, skin side down, for 7 minutes, reducing the heat to medium-low after 3 minutes. Flip the duck breast over and cook for an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Pour all but 1 tbsp of the rendered duck fat into a clean container and save it for other culinary uses. Sauté the shallots in the remaining fat for 2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients. Turn the heat up to medium and deglaze the skillet with the syrup blend, scraping up the browned bits as the sauce cooks. Simmer the glaze for 2 to 3 minutes, until it turns slightly thick. Season it with just a dash of salt. Return the duck breast to the pan, turning a few times to coat evenly with the glaze. Carve and serve immediately, garnished with a drizzle of extra glaze.

Chicken Pot Pie w/ Puff Pastry

1 package puff pastry, thawed and rolled for top
¼ cup butter
1 medium onion, chopped
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon poultry seasoning
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup chicken broth
¾ cup light cream or milk
2 ¾ cups cooked chicken, cut up
1 ½ cups mixed vegetables

Thaw pastry according to package directions. Heat butter in large saucepan. Cook onion in butter until tender. Add flour and seasonings, mixing until smooth. Gradually stir in broth and milk. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil and is smoothly thickened. Stir in chicken and vegetables. Cool slightly. Spoon into baking dish. Place rolled out puff pastry on top and make slits for steam to escape. Bake on lower rack at 375 degrees. until filling is bubbling and crust is puffed and golden brown, 30-35 minutes.


2 c flour
¾ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp ginger
¾ tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
½ c Crisco
2/3 c sugar
2 eggs
2/3 c molasses
¾ c boiling water

Combine flour through spices. Cream together Crisco and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Gradually add molasses, beating constantly. Blend in flour mixture at low speed. Add boiling water and mix till smooth. Pour into well-greased and floured 8 or 9” pan. Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream.

Now go throw another log on the fire and get cooking!!

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Easy Halloween Costumes for Kids

A few years ago, I finally learned my lesson, and now I buy my kids’ Halloween costumes at Costco the first week they appear in the store (which is usually around mid-August), before they sell out (which is usually around late August). I sew, and I’d love to make their costumes, but the ones at Costco are so inexpensive (and reasonably well-made) that I can’t compete with the cost. But there are plenty of easy and inexpensive costumes that you can make yourself, either ahead of time or at the last minute, so I thought I’d post a few ideas for those of you who either aren’t fortunate enough to have a Costco nearby, or who just like to be a bit more creative. Here are ten simple costumes that you can make or put together quickly and inexpensively with easy to find materials.

Raining Cats and Dogs

What you need:
  • Your child’s usual rain gear (raincoat, boots, rain hat)
  • An old umbrella
  • Stuffed cats and dogs
  • Fishing line or heavy-duty thread
  • Needle

What to do:
Stitch a few stuffed animals on top of the umbrella, then sew lengths of the fishing line onto the edges of the umbrella and attach a few more, so they look like “it’s raining cats and dogs.”

NOTE: You can also make a similar "rain cloud" costume by gluing or stitching puffs of cotton batting or white tulle or chiffon to the umbrella instead of the stuffed animals. 

Stick Figure

What you need:
  • White or light colored pants and long-sleeved shirt
  • Paper plate
  • Narrow elastic
  • Stapler
  • Black electrical tape
  • Thick black marker (or black paint and a small paintbrush)

What to do:
Using the black marker or black paint, draw a smiley face on the paper plate. Staple the elastic to both sides at a comfortable length to hold the mask in place. Have the child put on the pants and shirt and put on electrical tape to form a stick figure.

Lego Block

What you need:
  • Cardboard box large enough to fit over the child’s torso
  • Heavy, sharp scissors
  • 12 plastic Solo cups OR 12 plastic cups from single-serving applesauce or fruit cups
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Glue gun
  • Spray paint

What to do:
Cut armholes and a headhole in the cardboard box (be sure the holes are big enough that the child can get in and out, but not so big that the box slides down his or her shoulders). Using a ruler and one of the cups, trace 6 evenly-spaced circles each on the front and back of the box in the pattern above. Use the glue gun to glue on the cups. When dry, spray paint the whole box and allow to dry. If you want to get really fancy, you can use a smaller box to make a matching hat. Extra points for having the child wear a shirt and pants the same color as the block!

Elmo from Sesame Street

What you need:
  • Red hoodie
  • Two large Styrofoam balls and one slightly smaller one (oval, if possible)
  • Black paint or Sharpie
  • Orange paint
  • Glue gun

What to do:
Paint the small Styrofoam ball orange and allow to dry. Use black paint or Sharpie to add “pupils” to the large balls. Using glue gun, attach eyes and nose as in photo above. Be generous with the glue!

Wyldstyle from Lego Movie

What you need:
  • Black hoodie or long-sleeved shirt
  • Purple (or pink) and blue electrical or masking tape
  • Purple (or pink) and blue hair spray or clip-in hair extensions
  • Hair elastic
  • Brown eye pencil
  • Pink lipstick

What to do:
Make a pattern of pink and blue swooshes on the right side and right arm of the sweatshirt, using the photos above as a guide. Use the hair elastic to make a small high ponytail on the left. Spray in hair streaks or clip in extensions as shown above. Add freckles using the eye pencil and some pink lipstick to complete the look.


What you need:
  • Black beret or soft, floppy hat
  • Black long-sleeved shirt or sweatshirt
  • Large piece of cardboard
  • Pencil
  • Several colors of paint, including white
  • Large paintbrush
  • Sharp scissors
  • Black ribbon or cord (yarn will work in a pinch)
  • Black or brown eye pencil

What to do:
Cut out the shape of an artist’s palette from the cardboard, including a large “thumb hole”. Paint white. When dry, add blobs of several colors of paint. Using the point of the scissors, make two holes or slits near the top and thread the ribbon or cord through, making a large enough loop to slip over the child’s head. Use the eye pencil to give the child a tres magnifique French mustache!

Mike Wazowski from Monster Inc./Monsters University

What you need:
  • Light green T-shirt
  • White, dark green, and black felt
  • Sharp scissors
  • Glue gun
  • Optional: Dark blue or black baseball hat and light blue felt

What to do:
Cut out three concentric circles from the felt, with white the largest, dark green much smaller, and black slightly smaller. Glue onto each other and the shirt to form the eye. Cut a thin smile from the black felt and glue to shirt under the eye. If you want to add a Monsters University hat, use the template here to cut an M and a U from the blue felt and glue to the baseball hat.

Bert from Mary Poppins/Chimney Sweep

What you need:
  • White dress shirt
  • Dark pants
  • Suspenders
  • Red bow tie
  • Newsboy (or similar) cap
  • Old broomstick or dowel
  • Pack of black pipe cleaners
  • Small piece of black felt
  • Scissors
  • Glue gun
  • Brown or black eye pencil or dark foundation makeup

What to do:
To make the broom, criss-cross pairs of pipe cleaners at the top of the broomstick or dowel and glue in place. Repeat until broom looks full. When finished, cut a black felt circle about 2 inches across and glue over the top of the stack of pipe cleaners. (Good photos and directions here). Use eye pencil or foundation to make dirt smudges on the child’s face. 

Rosie the Riveter

What you need:
  • Denim or plaid shirt
  • Red bandana or red polka-dot scarf
  • Jeans

What to do:
Fold the bandana into a rectangle and wrap around child’s head, tying in front. Roll up the shirt sleeves above the child's elbows and knot the front shirttails at the waist.


What you need:
  • Black long-sleeved shirt (or hoodie) and pants
  • White duct tape or masking tape (extra bonus points if you can find glow-in-the-dark tape)
  • Scissors

What to do:
Following the photo above, cut strips of tape and stick onto shirt and pants to form a simple skeleton. 

Happy Halloween!!!

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