Why animated characters make the best Halloween costumes

Happy Halloween! Halloween is one of the best times of the year, and I often spend the other 364 days of the year dreaming up the perfect costumes. Often, I’ve drawn upon pop culture and sentimental favorites for inspiration.

In looking back on some of my favorite Halloween costumes, I noticed a common theme: they were animated characters. And it makes total sense. There’s a creative freedom that comes with taking a cartoon and making it come to life. It often means fun makeup and hair, and searching for or creating clothing pieces that match what the characters  wear.

Most of the costumes I’ve worn below were courtesy of the Salvation Army or my own closet, with little additions here and there (the apples on my Mrs. Felicity Fox costume, for example). Zuzu’s Robin Hood costume was actually a Peter Pan costume from the pet store… who knew their outfits were actually so much alike?

Also, when your friend puts the effort into a homemade Marge wig, you have to dress up as both Simpson daughters to really make it count.

Here are 10 examples of our animated character costumes over the years.

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DIY: Tamatoa Halloween costume

Back in March, Stella announced that she wanted to be Tamatoa for Halloween. I tweeted about it:

And Jemaine Clement, the voice of Tamatoa, even gave his approval:

And months later, that wish became a reality. This was a total DIY effort, with several visits to the craft store, a search for the perfect purple clothes (thanks, Kohls), an Amazon order for purple tights and kitchen mitts, and lots of gold spray paint.

We took Tamatoa out for a spin during MSU Safe Halloween last week, and it was so much fun to see the reaction of parents, kids, and the MSU students alike. Stella got a lot of attention for her costume, and I think that made her feel very special. It made the last month of putting this costume together worth it.

Here’s how it all came to life, in photo form.

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When did Stella grow up?

Thanks to my iPhone and digital camera, it’s safe to say my girls’ lives have been well-documented, from big moments to the most ordinary, day-to-day occurrences. There are many times I’ll scroll back through photos on my phone or marvel at my Facebook memories and see how much the girls have changed already.

But it really hit me when I received Stella’s school photos this week, taken by Allison Davis, a wonderful local photographer and her classmate Fletcher’s mama. Stella has been going to the same adorable preschool since she was two years old, and by next fall she’ll be off to kindergarten. Allison has taken the children’s photos each year.

Seeing the school photos from this year was one thing, but comparing them to the photos from the previous two years made me emotional to say the least. Looking back at when she was two years old, she looks like such a little girl. And this year, she’s looking like a young lady.

In some ways, I can start to imagine how she’ll look in the years to come. It’s becoming less of a mystery as she loses the last bits of baby from her face. Her hair is less wispy, her smile more purposeful.

It makes me really proud and sad all at once — I guess that’s what it’s like being a mom, right?

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How do I put this delicately? I’m addicted to delicata squash

As I’ve gotten older, it has amazed me how many of the foods I love now that I used to absolutely despise. How does this happen??

I used to think cilantro tasted and smelled like dish soap. Now it’s one of my favorite herbs to eat in the summertime. And in the last several years, I’ve grown to love a variety of root vegetables, particularly when they are roasted together.

Which brings me to squash. Years ago, you couldn’t convince me to try it. Now, it doesn’t feel like fall without butternut squash soup, squash in pastas, roasted squash with meat, even squash on salads!

And if you’ve been around me in the last few weeks, you’ve probably heard me talk about my new most favorite: delicata squash. I’m addicted to this beautiful, sweet, and easy-to-work-with ingredient.

Delicata squash and I were introduced by Blue Apron, which has been a culinary yenta for our family when it comes to discovering new and special ingredients.

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Tribute pumpkins: A family tradition

One of my most favorite parts about Halloween is carving pumpkins. For our first Halloween as a married couple in 2009, Zack and I invited his cousin Brian over to carve pumpkins together. That was also the year Michael Jackson died, so I decided to carve a tribute pumpkin in his honor. MJ has been inextricably linked to Halloween ever since “Thriller,” so it seemed seasonably appropriate as well.

For the last eight Halloweens, we’ve kept up the tradition of getting together with Brian to carve pumpkins. And if/when there’s a notable death in the world of pop culture (we had a hundred to choose from in 2016), we’ve made a tribute pumpkin in his or her honor.

In the years since, we’ve had Brian’s partner Rion join us, and last night we were also joined by Zack’s cousins Kenny and Jessi. It has become a really fun holiday tradition with dinner, cupcakes, and a Halloween playlist.

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This ‘Hocus Pocus’ sweatshirt is the thing I didn’t know I needed

It’s obvious to any child of the 90s that the Halloween game was completely changed with the release of “Hocus Pocus.” For the last two-plus decades, this flawless movie from childhood has been so much fun to watch at least a few times in the month of October.

I’m a certified scaredy cat, so this movie is right up my alley for repeated Halloween viewing, along with “Beetlejuice” and “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Last week, my love for “Hocus Pocus” was brought to an extreme level upon discovering this most perfect “Hocus Pocus” sweatshirt on a Buzzfeed list about fall clothing. How basic am I?!

I immediately ordered one and it arrived this weekend.

Because it has been the most glorious fall weekend in Michigan’s existence, today seemed like a perfect day to wear it. And of course, watch the movie!

Look at these cute little pumpkins on this gorgeous day. Those leaves! The warm sun!

Days like today are definitely not a bunch of hocus pocus, but they sure are magical.

Cute and easy paper bag pumpkin craft

Hardly a day goes by that Stella isn’t painting, coloring, cutting, taping, gluing, and designing her own mini masterpieces. As someone who grew up going to the summer arts camp offered by the Farmington Hills public schools for six years straight, it is so fun seeing Stella love art.

A couple years ago, she made a paper bag pumpkin at the library, painted orange with jack o’lantern features made out of black construction paper. I brought it out with the Halloween decorations this month, and she talked about wanting to make another one.

Today we made three, for her preschool teachers. And thanks to the package of 100 orange-striped paper bags from the Halloween section at Target, we’ll be able to make 97 more if the mood strikes.

How to make paper bag pumpkins

For this craft, all we needed were old magazines (or newspapers), paper lunch bags, decorative ribbon (or yarn), paints in seasonal colors, a glue stick (not pictured…whoops. Don’t call the Pinterest police on me), and black construction paper.

I helped Stella by cutting out triangle and circle shapes for the nose and eyes, and then jack o’lantern mouth shapes, from the black construction paper. We then glued the shapes into the faces we wanted on the front side of an unopened paper bag.

Then I told Stella to “make snowballs” out of the torn-out magazine pages, which she thought was pretty amusing. We put a few of the paper balls into the paper bags to give them a fuller shape.

I then scrunched the opening of the paper bag together and tied the ribbon at the top.

After that, Stella had fun painting each of the pumpkins her own way.

I feel like these fall on the border between keep-forever kitschy cute and future victims of a KonMari strike, but I love that they were quick and easy to make and saved us (okay, me) from an afternoon of endless “Vampirina” episodes.

It really holds its own with a decorative Pottery Barn pumpkin, don’t ya think?





Necessity is the mother of the life hack

I’ve been saying for the last month that Stella’s Tamatoa costume is the biggest DIY costume venture I’ve taken, whether for myself or for her. I usually put costumes together with thrifted clothing, but this Tamatoa costume has sent me back to the craft store more than a few times.

It has been so fun seeing everything come together, especially when I’ve had to get really creative with how to make it all work without any sewing.

One of the final elements I had to figure out and create was Tamatoa’s big eyes. Originally, Stella said she didn’t care about having the eyes with her costume, but changed her mind as she tends to do. I have a purple hoodie sweatshirt for her to wear with the hood up, so it was a matter of creating something she could wear on top of her head.

I bought a bag of foam balls and a plain headband today, along with purple paint to make the eyelids. My plan is to paint the purple of the eyes, let them dry, and then paint on the irises and pupils on the other half. Then I’ll hot glue the eyes to the headband.

As I was getting ready to paint the foam balls, I wanted to be extra careful that they didn’t roll around and get purple on the white half. At first, I painted a layer of purple and then set them carefully back into these plastic bowls:

But as you can see, they did roll around a bit and caused the paint to rub off. As I tried to think of something that would keep them still as they dried, a light bulb went off.

Gladware lids! We have an average of 2,304,188 pieces of tupperware in our cabinets, so there were plenty of options for me to grab. I found two of the smaller lids, and voila! The foam balls rested snugly in the underside of the lids. When the purple dries, I’ll be able to paint the rest of the eyes and set them in the lids again without worrying about smudges or rolling around.

I’m not sure if there will ever be another moment in history where I’ll need this life hack, other than perhaps a model of the solar system that Stella will inevitably make for a science fair. But right now I’m feeling pretty geeked (or just geeky?) for cracking this code.

Hello, mobility. Goodbye, sanity.

At nine and a half months old, Margot is mastering new skills each day. She loves to clap her hands, say “yeah yeah yeah” (thank you, “I’m Still Standing” from “Sing”), and eat Puffs one piece at a time in her high chair.

But there’s a milestone that fills me with pride and dread all at once: mobility. Although Margot isn’t interested in traditional crawling, she’s perfectly content to roll herself across a room, pivot on her tummy, and change directions. In the last month, mobility has completely changed the game. I’m ready to put a bell on her.

For a few glorious weeks, Margot could sit unassisted at her activity mat and play with her toys and would. Not. Move. Need to unload the dishwasher? Set Margot down with her toys. Grabbing the laundry to fold?Set Margot down with her toys. Quick Mama bathroom break? Set Margot down with her toys.

Those all-too-brief, sweet days are over. After getting bored, Margot now leans herself forward, gets her legs free from beneath her, and she’s on the move.

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Sneak peek: The making of Tamatoa

In the months after seeing “Moana,” my daughter Stella has been telling me that she wanted to dress up at Tamatoa for Halloween. Although he’s a pretty minor character in the scheme of things, he has one of the best songs in the movie. I also kind of loved the fact that Stella wanted to be a character like that instead of the traditional Disney princess.

Earlier this year, Stella began to waiver slightly, talking about dressing up as Elsa instead. But as we talked about all of the fun things we could do to make her into a big purple crab with a sparkly gold shell, she gave me the green light to start getting the components together for a Tamatoa costume.

Side note: Word Press/my computer keep wanting to change Tamatoa to Tomato, which could be an equally great costume.

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