Monday, October 30, 2017

Halloween Help Line


DEBORAH CROMBIE: As much as I hate to admit it, I am a dreadful failure at Halloween. Not only can I not sew, but I have absolutely NO CREATIVE IDEAS FOR COSTUMES! Neither did my mom, although she sewed, so I was always the poor kid dressed in some awful store-bought costume. I would begin to think this was genetic, except that my daughter (who also can't sew) is pretty creative with costumes--at least once she got old enough to make her own. When she was little, she was the poor tyke wrapped in the ghost bed sheet...

Of course, now there's Pinterest, and I did find a board called HALLOWEEN IDEAS FOR LAZY GIRLS, so maybe if someone would invite me to a party....

Reds, are you costume whizzes? (I know you New Englanders have done some great things at Crimebake.) If you are, tell us where you get your ideas! And if not, join the Halloween Help Line Crew.



And tell us what you're doing for Halloween!

I think we're going to have a perfect crisp, cool night here in north Texas. I'm planning to sit on my front porch and hope for trick-or-treaters. I know I will have at least one!! Wren will be a little ghost, in tights and silver tutu, with a GHOST t-shirt made by a friend of her mom's. Her mom's t-shirt will say "Mummy" and her dad's "Deady." I can't wait!


And although she's not getting candy, I have a little raven finger puppet I saved for her from Bouchercon:-)



RHYS BOWEN: Debs, my kids WANTED store-bought costumes as soon as they went to school and there was peer pressure! But I remember Clare was once a tree! Now that was a challenge. John and I have been to various Halloween parties over the years. One year he had a dark beard and went as the devil with small red horns protruding from his head and upturned eyebrows. He looked very scary and when we stopped to ask directions of some kids they stared at us with big eyes. I was a fallen angel with black wings. One year I was Lady Georgie and John a 1930s aged seducer!  I'm amused that my sophisticated teenage granddaughters still like to do Halloween, even though they don't even eat candy. I suppose it's the fun of dressing up.






HALLIE EPHRON: I'm no help at all when it comes to Halloween. Our kids had to make their own costumes... which they tell me was traumatic, showing up at pre-K in a homemade Superman when another kid had on the glossy plastic "real" thing. They have grown up to be fabulous Halloween celebrators and costume makers. Last year my younger daughter made a her one-year-old son a spider; and here's my two girls ready to trick or treat a few years ago. When I look at the picture it cracks me up! 





JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: In the long ago before Youngest was born, I still had my sewing machine set up in our "guest room." I wasn't great - I didn't try complicated princess dresses or stuffed dinosaur tails. But I could competently execute the leopard costume, a witch dress, royal cloaks and tabards, etc. On the grown-up front, I made a spiffy Robin Hood/Maid Marian get-up for me and Ross.

Then things started to slide...the sewing machine got tucked out of the way, I had three kids, and October became a crazy whirl of baking stuff for the class parties, decorating the car for "Trunk or Treat" and dealing with ever-changing and excruciating specific requests from the kids ("I want to be a dinosaur princess!") I started buying good-quality costumes (like Disney princess rigs and dress-ups from the expensive indy toy store) when they were heavily marked down after Christmas. Between those and my collection of old costumes/ old dresses, scarves and hats/ plastic wands and swords I wound up with a couple huge bins the children could plunder at will. I've passed along the child-sized costumes at this point, but the bins are still well-filled with adult outfits and accessories. The Hugo-Vidals stand ready for a Fancy Dress Party at a moment's notice.

INGRID THOFT: Julia, what is trunk or treat?

The only Halloween costume from my youth I can remember is that a Madonna-esque girl during the eighties.  Think a miniskirt with funky tights, loads of black rubber bracelets, and lots of glittery makeup.  A few years ago, we were invited to a Halloween party, and I wracked my brain trying to come up with costumes that would be easy to assemble yet memorable.  I decided on Hugh Hefner and an age-appropriate girlfriend. The hubby wore fancy pajamas with slippers and a pipe.  Glasses, gray hair, a house dress, and support hose transformed me into a woman in her late eighties.  A caricature, yes, since women in their eighties come in all varieties, but the point was made, and the costumes were a hit.

JENN McKINLAY: I sew and yet it never occurred to me to make the Hooligans' costumes because they always wanted to be Buzz Lightyear, Thomas the Tank Engine, Batman, or Spiderman. All way beyond my skill set. The teen years have been a bit more irreverent as they either wear rubber horse head masks or my personal fave was the year they went as Death and the Crash Test Dummy. As for me, I was the youngest of six. It was always a sheet with eye holes or whatever my mom could cobble together twenty minutes (plaid flannel shirt + straw = scarecrow) before it was time to go and a grocery bag for candy.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, as a kid all I wanted to be--depending on the year--was a princess or a cowboy. The princess outfit was a fabulous piece of silver cardboard stapled into a pointy hat  with a pink scarf coming out the top. Which I LOVED. Accessorized by a pink plastic shower curtain cape. Very flowy. I wore it for weeks afterward! Nothing like a pointy hat with a scarf coming out the top to give you confidence, not to mention the cape.
 

As an adult, I love thinking of costumes. One of my faves was a teabag: In brown leotard and tights,I  just stepped into a clear plastic dry cleaning bag, filled it up with torn brown and orange construction paper, and then tied it at the neck. I'd made a Constant Comment tag to hang from the string.  A few years ago, Jonathan and I were The Arcs: I was Joan, he was Noah. At CrimeBake, we've been Nick and Nora, and Sam Spade & Bridget O'Shaughnessy, and Harriet Vane & Lord Peter Wimsey. One of my faves was a few years ago: as you see in this photo, we were Albus Dumbledore and  Bellatrix Lestrange. 



LUCY BURDETTE: having seen Hank’s costumes at crIme bake, I have to say she is a master! And Hallie is no slouch either. I love Halloween and costumes, which is a good thing in Key West where costumes rule, especially if they involve tutus! (See yesterday's post for photos from this past weekend.) Some of my best costumes appeared during my graduate school days, where I suppose we needed to blow off steam. I sewed a very elaborate Kermit the frog – the problem was no one had any idea who was under the frog head so it wasn’t good at a party! Here was my favorite from those days – Lucy as wonder woman.




DEBS: Oh, my gosh, you are all fabulous!!! Rhys, so elegant!!! Hallie, your girls are adorable, and how cute to dress Jody as a spider! (Wren was a chicken. Here she is wearing last year's costume at her gym class last week.)


Lucy, you are the most adorable Wonder Woman, and Hank!!!! You and Jonathan take the cake. Who would have thought Beatriz Lestrange could look so glamorous? 
 


READERS, what about you? Are you fancy dress whizzes? And if so, what's your secret??? And how are you spending Halloween?

Oh, and, Julia, do tell. What is "trunk or treat"?

41 comments:

  1. I don't remember doing much for Halloween when I was growing up, but if I had a costume, I made it myself.
    When the children were little, I made costumes for whatever they wanted to be [a blue crayon sticks out in my mind] . . . but we lived in Los Angeles and every year the local newspaper would publish the times parents could bring in their children’s candy to have it x-rayed to make certain there were no pins, needles, razor blades or other such nasty things hidden inside any of the treats. So . . . absolutely no neighborhood trick-or-treating for the kids.
    Instead, they dressed up and we went to church where we’d have a potluck supper and an evening of games, stories, treats, and fun for all the children. The children always ended up with tons of homemade cookies, candy, and all that sugary stuff because everyone in the church would bring something for the goodie bags for the Little Ones . . . .

    My daughters sew costumes and Halloween is a big deal for my grandchildren, but they’re both really careful about checking the treats they collect . . . .

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    1. Oh, x-raying the treats things. That was awful. Now everyone just gives out wrapped candy, and mostly people go to parties or local events and just to houses of people they know. That's why we don't have many trick-or-treaters anymore, even though we are on a main street (although not Gigi's STREET, lol.) I'll sit out on my porch with the candy from about 5:30 to 7:00 in hopes, however. But we have to shut the dogs in the back of the house so they aren't constantly barking like maniacs, so after 7-ish we turn out the lights and lock the door.

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  2. I loved Halloween as a kid, and spent weeks planning out how to assemble my princess, gypsy, hobo, or witch costume from old clothes we had on hand. As a theatre major in college I not only worked in the costume shop, I had access to great makeup and props. But then I moved out to the country, where trick-or-treaters never came, and completely fell out of the habit. When I moved back into town I had a job that kept me too busy to even think about costumes until the last minute, then found I'd rented a place on THE STREET where everyone came trick-or-treating. I would have had to spend hundreds of dollars on candy to satisfy the hordes who came by, and take off work early to get home in time to greet them all. I turned into a Halloween Grinch (which would actually make a cool costume, now that I think of it . . . ) These days I turn off my porch light, and if I need a costume for a fancy dress concert, I trot down to the local theatrical supply store and rent something.

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    1. Wow—hordes of marauding costumed kids! Did you ever actually see it?

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    2. Yes. I would arrive home sometime during the last half hour, and there would be cars parked on both sides of the street, plus more cars cruising up and down the street, and bands of 5-10 kids with mothers bouncing off the curb mid-block between all the cars, to cross the street. It scared the crap out of me just to drive through it at dusk, when the street lights weren't really on yet. Plus I had no off-street parking at that house, so I often couldn't park by my gate until the trick-or-treaters went home. I got the "hundreds of dollars" figure from my landlady, who loved to dress up and hand out the treats. The kids were mostly little ones, and they usually hit the street between 5 and 7, when it was still daylight. I guess they all go to that street, or a community event on the square, because I haven't seen any in the three years I've been in this house.

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    3. Halloween candy is really expensive!!! I bought two mixed bags on Saturday and I was shocked!

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  3. My Mom, who should have been a professional costumer and make-up artist, made all my costumes when I was a kid. My two favorites were a tiger and Olive Oyl. I, alas, did not inherit her gene. Hank, Rhys, and Lucy, you are dress up geniuses if you ask me.

    The dressed up kiddies look so adorable! and Julia - Trunk or treat?

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    1. Little kids in costume are so cute! Bees and baby lambs and pumpkins.

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    2. Pottery Barn Kids had a "pumpkin princess" costume this year that was the cutest thing I've ever seen, but, alas, the smallest size was 3T so too big for Wren. Kayti and I are hoping it will go on sale after Halloween and we can get for Wren to wear next year.

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  4. I was usually one of a lot of ghosts made with our mothers' sheets. Most of the kids where I lived were traditional about their costumes. We spent a lot of time talking about what might happen on Halloween, because we had some real beliefs regarding the religious aspects, and we were afraid of evil spirits! Of course we wanted the treats, but there were houses we would never go to like the ones on wooded hilltop or close to the river. It was a very scary night that was a lot of fun!

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  5. Trunk or Treat is a type of trick-or-treating. Adults park their cars in a safe location, such as a church parking lot, open the trunk (where the candy is stashed), and the kids go from car-to-car trick-or-treating. It's a nice idea but I fear it's an attempt to replace door-to-door trick or treat.

    I live in a small town where we still get lots of trick-or-treaters and I love it. I've notice that in the last few years it has truly become a family activity with they whole family dressed up, which often includes the dog. :)

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    1. When I was the kid at the door, we would only go up and down the block where we lived, and only to neighbors we knew. The haul was not huge, but we never had to x-ray anything. I think, with greed for more candy, comes greatly increased risk. Trunk or Treat, church and school parties, or other events centered around a group of people who all know and trust each other, make a lot of sense.

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    2. My street has sadly aged out. When we moved here almost 20 years ago, we went through 10 bags of candy! It was crazy. Now most of the kids are grown and we’re down to 2 bags.

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  6. And I think it’s so funny how truly little kids, way too young to know what’s going on, have no idea how funny they look! It’s all for the parents, know?
    And thank you for the kind words! Jonathan is a terrifically good sport.

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  7. that's so sad that we are reduced to x-raying treats. I remember the big event came after trick or treating, when we'd get home with our loot--AND THE TRADING WOULD BEGIN!

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    1. My kids always had to graph their trick or treat booty for math class. How many Reese's Cups, Tootsie Rolls, Snickers minis, etc.

      Which was a bummer for me, because they'd know exactly how many of the good chocolate stuff Mom filched when they were at school.

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  8. Right! We'd ditch all the apples and cookies, first of all. And ditch the raisins. I had a little advantage in that I don't like Milky Ways, and I love licorice, so I had some good trading power.

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    1. You don’t like Milky Ways??? How is that even possible??? LOL. You can have ALL the licorice.

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    2. I bet you loved Good n' Plenty, Hank! Am I right?

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  9. I admit to being horrible at costumes. It was okay-ish when the kids were very small and I could get away with the ladybug or Tigger onesie-style things (complete with anntennae or ears/tail). When they got to school age, they wanted costumes from a store to compete with their friends so it was a constant battle between "I want this" and "I'm not spending that kind of money on something you'll wear once" (with a girl and a boy, there were no hand-me-down opportunities). Plus said costume was rarely appropriate for the Catholic school activities, so I had to cobble together something on that front (generally themed).

    It was easier when they started having opinions and were able to put together the costumes on their own. All I had to do was help procure the pieces.

    The Boy hasn't mentioned anything this year, but The Girl mentioned about going with one of her friends as a cheerleader for school. They don't trick-or-treat as The Hubby has very firm opinions about teenagers trick or treating. It's supposed to be cold and rainy; I am not expecting a large crowd.

    Mary/Liz

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  10. Halloween is my favorite "holiday". Steve tells everyone we have four times as much Halloween decor as we do Christmas. (I think he's off by a factor of two.)

    As the oldest of four, I coordinated the costumes for all of us. My mother doesn't have a creative cell in her body, but she encouraged me in many ways, including buying me a sewing machine. Thirty-five years of child-raising gave me plenty of occasion to make costumes, too: princess, fairy, stop sign (adorable on a three-year old), bat, dinosaur, Laura Ingalls Wilder, yellow crayon, and so on.

    We usually have a Halloween party every two years, but had to skip this year. I enjoy making us couples' costumes: Jill Sparrow and her first mate, cowboy and cowgirl, Snow White and Dopey, Batman and Spidergirl, Wicked Witch of the West and Wolfman. My favorite, though, was Fay Wray and Karamojo Bell, the Great White Hunter. Something about safari wear, complete with pith helmet and boots!

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    1. It’s my favorite, too! Candy and costumes and thrills and chills, honestly, what’s not to love?

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  11. Oh I remember the fear of razor blades in the treats. We could only eat what was packaged and sealed on arrival. No apples. no loose pieces of candy.

    I made a mistake this year and bought a bag of Star Burst. The good news there will be plenty left tomorrow night for trick or treaters. The bad news is they taste awful. The chocolates on the other hand...

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  12. One of the local schools sponsors a trunk-or-treat event--the parents get into the act by decorating the trunks and dressing up, too--all of the towns around publish their trick-or-treat times and you will see families taking their kids to several events. For the boys first Halloween, they went to two neighborhood trick-or-treats, so all their aunties and uncles could share in the fun. The oldest was two--as Tigger he made many elderly couples smile with his bouncy-bouncy-bounce! The youngest came into his own when he won best costume in the kindergarten parade at school--cutest purple dinosaur you ever saw!

    Love all the costumes in the photos--Deborah, Wren is adorable--what a smile! And the 'spiderboy'--spiders should always be so sweet!!

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  13. If you want to be challenged on homemade costumes, check out Kristen Cashore's--http://kristincashore.blogspot.com/

    My two favorite costumes were a pumpkin and a storm.
    The pumpkin involved hula hoops covered with fabric with my head and legs sticking out.

    The storm was my invention. Black fabric with "Boom!" "Crash!" and such written on it. I took coat hangers, bent them into the zig-zag shape of lightening, and covered them in aluminium foil. I could spin them around in my hands.
    Libby Dodd

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    1. Libby, you are brilliant! And checking the link now!

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  14. Karen, you are not alone in decorating more for Halloween for Christmas. We know quite a few people who do that (some who need storage facilities just for their Halloween stuff!) I'm still in the Christmas camp, but I have a few Halloween things, including my new Mexican painted ceramic jack-o-lantern I bought at the grocery store on Saturday. He's adorable! I'll post him on FB tomorrow.

    Funnily, as un-costume-creative as my mom was, she loved Halloween. After we moved into this house, one of her favorite events of the year was sitting on our porch swings and handing out candy to the little trick-or-treaters. I wish she could have seen Wren...

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    1. Wren is completely adorable. You're so lucky they live close by.

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  15. My mother didn't sew much, but she encourages us to be creative with costumes and we had a whole trunk of "dress up" items to help us. And yes, sometimes we would have preferred to buy a glitzy costume from Woolworths! Of course. I have fond memories now though, and fonder ones of my own children creating costumes. Perhaps the strangest was the year my (then) high school daughter pulled a suede miniskirt from the back of my closet - a souvenir of my youth - and paired it with tie-dyed tights, Cleopatra eye makeup, flowing hair and a bandanna around her forehead. My own life now costume status.

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    1. Ah, but you were cool enough to own a suede miniskirt . . .

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    2. It was lemon yellow, most frivolous clothing item I ever had the nerve to buy. I wore it on first real date with husband :-)

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  16. It will be interesting to see what happens to Halloween here in Southern Maine. We were hit very hard by the storm; 70% of the households in the area are without power, and our electric company says we may be waiting days for the lights to come on. They're not even working on power restoration until tomorrow - they're concentrating on clearing roads of downed trees and power lines.

    Looks like a trick instead of treats for us...

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    1. That will put a damper on things. I remember when CT got hit with early snow in 2011 - what a mess!

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  17. My neighbor across the street goes over the top with decorating for Halloween, nice because I get to enjoy it. And she has a huge party on the Saturday before. Great fun. If you are a party person. Which I am not.

    As a child I recall being either a hobo, a gypsy and a witch. All home made. Rinse and repeat.The big deal was to be one of the first to trick or treat Aunt Rita Schenkner, who made hot donuts for the first few dozens to knock. My mother made popcorn balls, also a big seller.

    Now we have either no trick or treaters or 300, hard to know. They get 2-3 pieces of candy or more if the traffic is light. I love seeing them. I bought myself this net poncho sort of thing that looks like a black web with skeleton bones painted on in phosphorescent paint. I'd planned to wear it over black shirt and pants to the Saturday night party but it was raining and neither of us felt good. So maybe I will deck myself out for Tuesday night.

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  18. I'm horrible at costumes. Not only can I not come up with any ideas, but I also can't figure out how to do them if I do have an idea, and I don't want to spend money to buy them from stores.

    My sister-in-law, however, is very talented. You should see the costumes she has made for my niece or nephew. They look much better than store bought.

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  19. Let me tell you about my grandkids -- the little girls had a party yesterday, both dressed as Dorothy (they have a vast collection of dress up clothes, in addition to fancy Belle and Jasmine dresses they will wear on Tuesday). The party theme was OZ has been taken over by Trump and is now a catastrophe. They created a haunted house in the basement to go along with the theme. I did some of the catering -- gingerbread with a lacy spider web made of confectioners sugar and a skeleton made of veggies, with humus for a face.
    Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, the youngest was dressed as a disco ball (purchased on line) and her dad was one of those light-up disco dance floors. There is a picture of him lying on his back with the baby dancing on his tummy.
    As a Mom, I did a lot of Halloween sewing. My favorite creation was for Amy and her friend -- I made those black and white jester outfits, and painted their faces.
    Halloween is such a production these days! Even baby Fern has already been to three parties, and Halloween isn't until Tuesday.

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  20. My years in CT required costumes that kept out the cold, ergo a cat and a mouse, Little Bo Peep and her sheep and so on. Moving to FL the girls became a bit more creative in their thinking.. one asked to be a giraffe.. that took some thinking to produce.

    My maiden name was Battin, which led to me insisting on a bat costume. This was before Batman. I did have a crafty mom. She stitched away and I spread my wings
    that year. good haul of candy too as I recall.

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  21. The only time of the year I've ever lamented not sewing is at Halloween. I love Halloween, and, thus, it does pain me not to be able to whip up magnificent costumes from the sewing machine. But, my kids seemed to get by okay without despite my dearth of sewing skills. They are creative, and I am that, too, if not able to express it in sewing. My favorite costume over the years is one that is vintage and has become a tradition. I somehow ended up with a black satin dress of my mother's when she must have been very young. It is a simple streamlined, long-sleeved number that usually comes about mid-calf on the wearer. I determined one Halloween that it would make a perfect witch costume for my daughter, along with the usual witch accessories of hat, broom, etc. My daughter loved it and wore it quite a bit. Now her daughters are wearing it. I love that a piece of my mother has survived the years with us, celebrating such a fun time of year.

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    1. Thanks, Gigi. I'm big on sentimental connections.

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  22. I remember having a wonderful Robin Hood costume when I was about eight or so. Beyond that I don't remember much about costumes, except that my sister went as Nancy Sinatra one year, stomping around in go-go boots and singing badly. The neighborhood that we just left was extremely popular all around town; we would get over 300 folks stopping by. After a couple of years of running back out in the middle for more candy, we decided to go out every Halloween.

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