Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween 2012

Thank heavens Halloween fell in the middle of Fall Break unlike last year. That gave us plenty of time to eat dinner and get ready. Trick-or-Treating seems to start early around here (about 5:30) and ends before 8pm. We had a lot to do before then and a lot of ground to cover in that time frame.

Luckily, we finished carving the pumpkin the night before...

The Girl and I spent the day running webs in our trees and across the inside and outside of our front windows.

We also put a big bowl of treats out on the front porch since no one would be home to hand it out. Mr. LH was stuck at work for a late class and wouldn't be able to join us in time.

We had a smaller group for Trick-or-Treating this year but it was a great group of kids and we had plenty of  fun.

It was slow going at first. The Boy needed some help for awhile maneuvering steps and curbs and such but after awhile of being led around by his mom, he decided he needed to figure out a safe way to get along by himself. He discovered he could see his feet by holding the costume head slightly out and looking down through the bottom opening.

He REALLY liked it when people would stop to compliment his costume. They'd call "STEVE!"out to him from down the street. He even had a couple of teenaged boys salute him (I guess Minecraft is bigger than even I realized). I think he wants to be a creeper next year. We'll see.

I loved going around seeing everyone's decorations and jack-o-lanterns...especially the bug-eyed one above.

Once home, we went through every bit of candy, pulling out everything the "Pickles" couldn't eat (because of their braces). I made a deal with them to trade candy for "prizes" like Blu-rays (Harry Potter) and Redbox rentals. The candy I got in trade was stashed away for me (toffee anyone?) or passed on to Elder Boy. I was surprised by how well that deal worked. But hey, it was a win-win...and they didn't miss the candy one bit.

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Trunk-Or-Treat

We were invited to a trunk-or-treat taking place at a church down the street a few days prior to Halloween. In fact, we were invited twice - once by a neighbor down the street and again by one of Mr. LH's co-workers. Add in the mention of a chili cook-off and cinnamon roll competition and we had our minds made up to go...even if it was only to eat.

The Girl was ready - her costume had been in the works for a couple months already. The Boy needed to come up with something quickly. He decided on a Minecraft costume and we (I) spent the next 2 days putting it together.

The costume was silly and it was bulky, but he absolutely loved it! And that's what really matters, right?

What we had not planned on was the drive to the church. It wasn't too far. On a normal sunny day, we could have walked. But it was windy and cold and The Boy's boxy costume was not exactly comfortable for a long trek to the church. Nor was it very good for wearing while riding in a car.

No matter. He rode to the church and pulled on his costume when we got there, creating quite a scene in the parking lot. We had forgotten to bring the brads for the top flaps of his costume so we wound up just folding the flaps in.

We found everyone already in the church gym enjoying their chili dinner. We were apparently very late showing up (so much for being fashionably late) and everyone turned to look when we walked in...a robed wizard and a big boxy robot looking guy along with a couple of parents that hate being the center of attention.

Thankfully, people we knew came over to welcome us and help us find seats in the crowded gym. The Boy removed his costume head and attempted to sit down.

He managed okay but we had to hand him all his food...he couldn't see the table over his costume.

Once everyone was finished eating, the church had games available for the children to play and keep occupied while adults made their way outside to decorate their cars for the Trunk-or-Treat. The "Pickles"  tossed beanbags and rings, played "go fish" and won cupcakes in a cake walk.

Once it was announced the Trunk-or-Treat could begin, the halls of the church cleared out quickly as all the children rushed outside into the darkness in anticipation of candy.

There was a long line of vehicles (mostly minivans) on two sides of the parking lot decorated in lights, spider webs and pumpkins. Fog was rolling through from one of the vans. Many of the candy distributors were in costume. Unfortunately, because of the darkness, I didn't manage to get a single decent photo. But I caught some video:

It only took about 20 minutes to get through the entire parking lot but the "Pickles" had a lot of fun and were very pleased with their loot.

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Snow Day

I don't know about any of you, but when it snows, the house suddenly feels extra cozy to me, like a safe warm haven urging me to piddle around in the kitchen or snuggle under a blanket with a hot mug of tea.  I don't feel that way when it's just cold outside. Only when there is snow present.

That's what happened last night when the flakes started falling. Even this morning, while everyone was getting ready for their day, things just seemed...happier. Of course, remembering (as you are leaving to take the kids to school) the windshield still needs to be cleared off is a bit of a bummer, but even that wasn't so bad.

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Halloween Gryffindor Robe

Since there was the possibility of snow on Halloween, I thought The Girl should probably have a Hogwarts school robe for her to wear with her Hermione Granger costume. She wasn't about to argue about that. :)

Though most of her costume was based on the first two movies, the robe we wanted is actually based on Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban... mainly because we like the additional pop of color from the lining.

I found a free pattern on BurdaStyle. Since the pattern was created for adult women, I adjusted some of the measurements to fit a smaller person (hood length and height, sleeve length, robe height and base width). I do wish I had kept the hood height a bit taller. The pattern says 16" for an adult. I made it 13". It fits her just fine, but if she stands up straight with the hood over her head, it looks like the hood seams are straining at the shoulders.

The robe is made from polyester. I thought the drape of the fabric turned out nicely. The lining is a knit polyester so it's much softer (the sleeves and hood are fully lined making the fabric more comfortable against her skin).

The patch was part of a 3-pack I found on Amazon back in September. There were actually patches available for all four of the Hogwarts houses.

We thought a wand pocket would be a handy thing for a witch to have so we added one in (the pattern doesn't include it). After having The Girl try on the robe I think it would have been better to have the pocket set back a little further - closer to the side seam. As it is, sometimes the wand wants to poke out the front of the robe.

This was a fairly quick project. I started it one evening and finished it the next morning. It would have probably gone smoother if my sewing machine hadn't started misbehaving.  It started throwing the thread and bobbin thread kept knotting up. I couldn't seem to get the tension right either. It was my grandmother's sewing machine. It may be time to replace it. But the robe did get completed and I have a VERY happy Hogwarts student ready for Halloween.

I think she'll make a very good Hermione Granger.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Minecraft Halloween Costume

It was Saturday night. The Boy STILL had not made up his mind about a Halloween costume (actually he kept saying he wasn't sure we could make it but failed to tell me what "it" was). Then we were invited to a Trunk-or-Treat taking place in less than a week...the Friday before Halloween. That's when he announced he wanted to be "Steve" from his favorite computer game, Minecraft. He also said he wanted Diamond Armor on "Steve" and though I had no idea what Diamond Armor was, The Boy assured me it would make painting the costume a lot easier. As it turns out, he was right.

Now, I really had no clue what Minecraft was all about. Elder Boy introduced his younger brother to it months before. Every time I looked at the computer monitor I saw a heavily pixelated, blocky "world" with square everything...animals, buildings, plants, food, people, etc. I couldn't understand how THIS game could be so popular in a world where fantastic graphics rule the gaming industry. But, there it was. It seemed everyone love Minecraft...including my children. And The Boy wanted to be the main character.

He drew out some "blueprints" for me.

We needed a box for the body and a box for the head. We searched our moving boxes (we've still got plenty hanging around) for something that was the right size.  Turns out, we only needed one.  Since The Boy is so thin, we were able to use a 12 x 12 x 48" box and cut it down so one end (cut to 12 x 12 x 36") would be the body and the other end (cut to 12 x 12 x 12") would be the head.

First, the flaps on the end of the "body box" were shortened so once they were closed, they would surround his neck. Then I cut out arm holes from the sides.

The whole thing was painted blue. It was a mixture of teal, white and royal blue.  I wasn't sure how much blue paint I needed, but I knew I didn't want to run out.

We needed a way to keep the flaps down once The Boy had the costume on (he actually had to step into the box and wriggle it up onto his torso) but we also needed it to be something we could do over and over again (meaning - no staples and no glue). I decided that brads would be perfect and made slits in the corners of the box flaps to slide the brads through.

For the head, we taped the flaps closed and searched online for a "Steve Face" so we could see exactly how the face pattern was done.

(Yes, you can actually buy the head but I wasn't willing to spend $$$ on a cardboard head. We didn't have time to wait for it to ship anyway.) After seeing this I knew I was NOT going to be so detailed but I did make note of the basic colors and where they should go.  I marked out the pixel grid (8x8) on each side of the head, cut out eye holes and penciled in where colors ended/began.

The front/face

The back - mostly "hair"
Then I painted.

The Diamond Armor helmet is actually from scrap cardboard that was painted blue and hot glued to the head piece. I sprayed a light coating of clear coat as well to create a shiny surface and to hopefully protect the paint if it should happen to start snowing in the middle of our Halloween fun.

The Boy was thrilled to come home and find his costume almost done.

Of course, The Girl had to try it on, too.

The only thing left to do was to figure out how to make the head more secure and comfortable to wear (we put a 12 x 12 pillow in the top for starters)...and how on earth we were going to fit the costume onto him when the thermostat drops into the 30's and he has to wear loads of warm clothing underneath?

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

We've Been "Boo"ed

We were "Boo"ed last night!

The poem says:

I'm the Halloween Ghost, and I'm here to say:
I will haunt you till Halloween Day!
So, if you don't want to get hit with a curse,
copy twice this little verse.
Add to it a special treat,
and give to 2 neighbors that you think are neat.
Then hang me up upon your door,
so others will know you've been haunted before.
Happy Halloween!

I've seen similar things on Pinterest and thought about doing it to some of the neighbors, but it has never happened to us. I guess living on a dirt road with no neighbors in North Carolina would discourage such activities but our Colorado neighborhood was full of families happy to enjoy the spirit of Halloween!

This Halloween ghost left us some cool cookies to munch on! I guess now I have a good excuse to make up some Halloween "Boo" treat packets of my own to leave on doorsteps!

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Do You Freecycle?

Have you ever joined a freecycle group?  It's a great way to get usable items for free or donate items you don't need anymore to someone who can use it. If you're looking for something specific, you can ask for it and offers range anywhere from old paint buckets and broken gear to clothing, furniture, appliances and electronics. I joined a group back in North Carolina, but had not joined a group since moving west. Now with our budget in place, I thought of going back to Freecycle to find second hand things before we bought something new.

Since I learned how to can, I also thought of the excess fruits and veggies people often have in their gardens. I haven't seen a lot of backyard gardens here (though I haven't , but they do have community areas where people claim a section and garden.  There are also several farms to the east and south as well.Maybe there would be someone who was willing to give away their excess harvest. It would also be a great place to list the stuff I have around the house that we no longer needed or wanted or couldn't sell at a yard sale.

Soon after signing up, I gave away a couple things and even managed to score some canning jars but things were pretty hit or miss.  There is high demand for the things people list to give away so many times, you don't get the item listed. I had about 30 responses to one of my offers but only one item to give.

Now fast forward several weeks. I had been watching the offers coming through and happened to see one for a food processor. I have been wanting a food processor for awhile (almost as long as I've wanted my Kitchenaid mixer) but just never pulled the trigger. In fact, I was just eyeballing food processors last week at Target.  I was worried I was too late responding to the offer (it was only about 30 minutes old) but a few hours later I had an invitation to come pick it up. Woo Hoo!

It is an older model, but it is clean, in great shape, and comes with both blades and the instructions. I was so giddy with excitement to receive this. It's like an early birthday present for me!

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"Pin"spiration - Pumpkin Cake Doughnuts

My "Pin"spirations are things I have found on or through Pinterest that inspired me to try something new, whether it's a new craft, a new project or a new recipe.

Fall is in the air!  We were still enjoying unseasonably warm temperatures when the cooler weather hit us full force last week greeting us Friday morning with a light dusting of snow. Thankfully, it was just enough snow to laugh about.  The grass and trees were coated but the streets were quite clear.

For me, fall triggers the urge to start baking with pumpkin and there was a recipe calling my name...Pumpkin Cake Doughnuts. It's a doughnut and it's pumpkin. They HAD to be good!

The recipe is from King Arthur Flour. You can follow the link directly to the recipe. While I don't use King Arthur Flour (it's a bit pricey for me), I'm certainly willing to use their recipes.

I also don't own standard size doughnut pans, but I do have a couple mini doughnut pans. A decorating bag made quick work of filling the pans (it was SO messy using just a spoon).

The recipe makes about 12 standard sized doughnuts. I wound up with 48 mini pumpkin cake doughnuts.

These were a huge hit. The Boy kept coming back for more until I finally had to tell him "no". I let him pack a couple doughnuts in his lunchbox.

Freshly baked doughnuts in the front, finished doughnuts coated in cinnamon sugar in the back.
They were not as sweet a "regular" doughnuts and had more pumpkin flavor than anything else. They were also really moist (that might be because I used a bit more pumpkin than the recipe called for - an entire can of pumpkin which is about 1 3/4 cups instead of  just the 1 1/2 cups called for). These doughnuts tasted more like pumpkin bread in an easily manageable size.

I'll have to try the Cider Doughnut recipe next.

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Early Snow

A cold front moved in the night of the first Presidential Debate. What started out as a beautiful warm day was winding up windy and bitterly cold (at least it FELT bitterly cold after temps in the 80's).  The cold remained the following day, not even reaching 40 degrees. It was apparent Fall had decided to finally arrive and tell Summer to go away. What we DIDN'T expect was the sight that greeted us Friday morning.

Just a dusting on the grass and trees, but there it was. Beautiful, white, powdery snow.

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