Oct 17, 2013

Jimmy Olsen as Jimmy Olsen for Halloween

Jimm Olsen as Jimmy Olsen (2013)
Halloween is just two weeks away. Time to start thinking about costumes!

My husband, Daniel, is a pretty big comic book fan. Our first son is named Ozymandias Lovecraft Joseph (Ozzy, for short), and he went dressed as the Watchmen character Ozymandias for his first Halloween. But now we have two little ones to becostume. Our second son, James Olsen Bradbury (Jimmy, for short) was born in July. Before he was even born, I knew he just had to go dressed as Jimmy Olsen for his first Halloween. And since Superman and Jimmy Olsen are such great pals, it made perfect sense to dress Ozzy as Clark Kent. So we'll have two little Daily Planet staff members out trick or treating this year.

It was pretty easy to put the costumes together. We had about half the clothing items we needed already, and I found most of the others at thrift or consignment stores. The pants and shoes can be casual, but the other clothes tend to be on the slightly geeky side. While "researching" via a Jimmy Olsen google image search, I saw a lot of sweater vests and bow ties. Freckles (made with a brown eye pencil) would make a nice touch since Jimmy Olsen is a red head. And he's a photographer, so I wanted to make sure he had a camera. I wasn't sure I would be able to find a suitable sized toy one (or cheap real one), so I was very happy when I found this printable camera template. It looks very real, and was just the right size for my little guy who will be just three months old this Halloween. Plus, I just love cutting things out and gluing them together - Kindergarten was the peak of my "career" as a student. I printed it on medium weight cardstock and it turned out perfectly! I can't say I made it exactly as instructed (the steps are in Japanese!), but it really is the perfect size and weight for his little hands.
Ozymandias as Ozymandias (2012)

I made the press passes myself. I found a Daily Planet logo I liked and designed the pass using PicMonkey (I still need to teach myself how to use GIMP). I took pictures of the boys dressed as their respective characters to print out and glue on to their passes (you could also just add a picture to the pass before you print it out). I used some self-laminating sheets from the dollar store to laminate them. Jimmy's needed to be cut down to size (rounding the corners), then I punched a hole in it and attached it to a lanyard we already had. I cut the lanyard loop in half at the top so that I had two strings to tie together rather than a loop, otherwise it would have been way too long for him. Ozzy's was printed 3" by 5" and left without a hole so that it could slide into the band of his hat rather than hanging down in front of the Superman logo on his chest. Also, it just looks cooler that way.

Ozzy was not in the mood for putting on the glasses and hat, unfortunately, so there are no pictures (yet) of the full Clark Kent costume. Here's the best I could do for now. Hopefully there will be some more pictures to share in two weeks' time.

Happy Halloween! And here is a blank Daily Planet press pass in case you want to go as Jimmy Olsen or Clark Kent (or Lois Lane) for Halloween.

Oct 8, 2013

Halloween Playlist

Please enjoy this Halloween playlist I put together on Youtube. The songs all make mention of Halloweeny things (spiders, ghosts, skeletons, etc.) without necessarily being obvious songs for the holiday. You can enjoy it while you browse costume ideas, make cookies, hand out candy, or stay in and read a book. (Okay, you probably don't listen to music while you read, but I just wanted to include the link to my 13 Free eBooks for Halloween post.) Side note: While it's pretty clean, I did not set out to make this playlist "kid friendly," so you may want to vet it before playing it in front of your kiddos.

List of Songs:
1. Blink 182 - "I Miss You"
2. Band of Horses - "Is There a Ghost?"
3. The Decemberists - "Shankill Butchers"
4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Skeletons"
5. The Cure - "Lullaby"
6. Coldplay - "Trouble"
7. The Specials - "Ghost Town"
8. The Deadly Syndrome - "I Hope I Become a Ghost"
9. Wintersleep - "Weighty Ghost"
10. No Doubt - "Spiderwebs"
11. Tegan and Sara - "Walking With a Ghost"
12. Say Anything - "Spider Song"
13. The White Stripes - "Little Ghost"
14. The Kinks - "Wicked Annabella"
15. The Who - "Boris the Spider"
16. Fleetwood Mac - "The Ghost"
17. David Bowie - "Ziggy Stardust"

Oct 7, 2013

DIY Sock Dinosaur Tutorial

My nephew turned nine this weekend, and for his birthday he requested I make him a sock dinosaur. You got it, buddy! I hit up Pinterest, as I do when I'm looking for a free pattern or tutorial. (Recently, I've just been going there and using the search bar rather than going to google when I need a pattern or a recipe.) I took a look around, found a few that looked cute and easy, studied them a bit, and then came up with a plan. And guess what? My plan worked!

I took pictures all throughout the process, hoping it would turn out well enough in the end to write up my first tutorial. So, here it is - instructions and pictures and all step-by-step like. Welcome, my guinea pigs! Please let me know how it goes for you or if you have any questions along the way. And please send a picture or a link if you make one!

Oct 4, 2013

An Apron for Baking Season

...Or any season. But it's baking season, so let's celebrate by making an apron! (And eating cookies.)

This is my sister-in-law, Shannon, sporting the apron I made for her birthday. My brother took the picture for me, and needless to say, he is very excited that baking season has begun!

Shannon provided the link to a pattern for an apron she liked. It looked super cute, so I was glad the directions were easy to follow and the pattern was fairly simple. I would say you need minimal sewing skills to make this apron. To be honest, anything I make would require minimal sewing skill because I definitely still consider my self a beginner.

The pattern is from Amy Hearts It, and as I mentioned, it's pretty easy to follow. You only need to be able to cut out rectangles, sew hems, create pleats (she explains this part well), and... well, that's pretty much it.

I followed her pattern except for two things. First, I did not make the apron strings as long as the pattern said to make them. The pattern calls for two 43" strings. That seemed really long to me, so instead of actually measuring them out, I took an apron whose strings I felt were a good length, laid one of the strings out against the fabric, and made that my mark for cutting.

Second, when I attached the pieces together (steps 1, 4, and 5), I used a french seam. The pattern suggested either surging or using a straight stitch and then a zigzag, but my genius mother suggested a french seam. I then asked her what a french seam is, and she found this lovely little tutorial for me to follow. So easy! And it means the frayed edges of the pieces don't show on the back of the apron. Neat.

I'm pleased with the results, and I might even make a few more for Christmas presents if I can find the time and the fabric. 

[ L I N K S ]
Apron pattern: Amy Hearts It
French Seam Tutorial: Craftsy

Nov 26, 2012

Dairy Free Banana Bread

My son turned one this week, and to celebrate, I made a bear-shaped "cake" for our little Ozzy bear. I say "cake" because it really was just banana bread. Well, not just any banana bread. Dairy free banana bread for his little dairy-free tummy. I also bought some mini chocolate cupcakes because, you know, it's a birthday after all.

Hmmm, what is that little chunk of green hiding there?

Rather than do it the boring way and just google "dairy free banana bread recipe," I decided to be adventurous and try something new that I invented. Okay, turns out this was one of those moments where I thought I had come up with something original only to look it up and find I was late to the party. But anyway, my stroke of genius for dairy free baking is to replace butter with avocado. That's right, avocado. Maybe you've heard of this and thought it sounded crazy. Well, I'm here to tell you it works, my friends. At least in banana bread. I am happy to report that I did not taste one bit of avocado while enjoying this yummy, moist, bear-shaped "cake." Ozzy also loved it, so all in all, it was a big hit.

All I did was take my mom's recipe for delicious, whole wheat banana bread and replace the butter with avocado and the sour cream/buttermilk/plain yogurt with almond milk.

Here's the recipe (makes one loaf):

Dairy Free Whole Wheat Banana Bread
1/2 cup avocado
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
2 bananas
1/2 cup almond milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream avocado and brown sugar; beat in egg. Mix dry ingredients in separate bowl. Combine bananas and almond milk in separate bowl. Add half of dry ingredients to sugar mixture and mix. Add half banana mixture, then the rest of the dry ingredient, then the rest of the banana. Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake 50-60 minutes, checking for doneness at 40 minutes.

The original recipe also calls for an optional 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips, but I did not feel like shelling out $5.00 for a package of dairy free chips, although they are delicious. Whether you add chocolate chips or not, I hope you enjoy this "adventurous" recipe. And be sure to let me know if you come up with any other genius uses for avocado in baking.

Oct 27, 2012

13 Free eBooks for Halloween

Having recently finished The Lovely Bones, I needed new reading material for that time in between when I brush my teeth and when I fall asleep at night. For some reason, I can't just lay there and wait to fall asleep; I need to read. So, I grabbed Daniel's Kindle and started looking through the fiction he has downloaded. The stories that caught my eye all had something in common - they were kind of spooky. The other thing I noticed was that they most likely were all free to download. It got me wondering, how much spooky, gory, haunting, literature is out there for free? How much can I read between now and Halloween? (Probably not much since I actually don't like reaaallly scary stories, especially not right before bed.)

I've done some searching, and here is a list of Halloween themed stories you can download for free. I've included links to Amazon, where you can dowload the Kindle version for free. Don't have a Kindle? If you have an iDevice, you can get the Kindle App for free in the iStore (am I getting all those iNames correct? I don't live in that world). If you have neither an ebook reader or an iThingy, you can download a computer friendly version from Project Gutenberg. You can also simply read it online at the PG site.

In no particular order...

1. Dracula by Bram Stoker
Kindle | PG

You may also be interested in Dracula's Guest, widely believed to be the original first chapter of Dracula that was taken out by the publisher due to its length.
Kindle | PG

2. The Jewel of Seven Stars by Bram Stoker
Kindle | PG

''Widely considered his best supernatural novel.''

3. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Kindle | PG

"A Gothic novel of romance, honour and tragedy with a creepy, obsessive underbelly." 
-Daily Telegraph

4. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
by  Robert Louis Stevenson
Kindle | PG

"There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something downright detestable." 

5. Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Kindle | PG

"I saw—with shut eyes, but acute mental vision—I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. Frightful must it be, for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world."

6. The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
Kindle | PG

The Granfather of all alien invasion stories.

7. The Works of Edgar Allan Poe
[vol. 1 Kindle | PG] [vol. 2 Kindle | PG] [vol. 3 Kindle | PG]
[vol. 4 Kindle | PG] [vol. 5 Kindle | PG]  The Raven on Kindle

“Mr. Poe is too fond of the wild — unnatural and horrible! Why will he not permit his fine genius to soar into purer, brighter, and happier regions? Why will he not disenthral himself from the spells of German enchantment and supernatural imagery? There is room enough for exercise of the highest powers, upon the multiform relations of human life, without descending into the dark, mysterious and unutterable creations of licentious fancy.” 
-Richmond Compiler, February 1836

8. Tales of Terror and Mystery by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Kindle | PG

"This volume presents some of Conan Doyle s unduly neglected masterworks. Each begins in a quietly factual way, making all the more dramatic the crescendo of fear and puzzlement that ensues as each new circumstance is revealed. Even without his supremely logical brain child, Sherlock Holmes, Conan Doyle shows that his tales are unbeatable for thrills and excitement." 

9. Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Witches, murder, a ghost, spiralling into madness... What's not to love?

10. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

This is the story I chose the other night when I needed something to read. A fun, quick, slightly spooky story that is, in fact, so short and simple that I'm puzzled how it could have been made into a movie so many times.

11. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Kindle | PG

"While I paced softly on, the last sound I expected to hear in so still a region, a laugh, struck my ears.  It was a curious laugh - distinct, formal, mirthless.  I stopped"

12. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Kindle | PG

"In Wuthering Heights the reader is shocked, disgusted, almost sickened by details of cruelty, inhumanity, and the most diabolical hate and vengeance, and anon come passages of powerful testimony to the supreme power of love—even over demons in the human form."
-Douglas Jerrold's Weekly Newspaper, 15 January 1848

13. The Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft 
cthulhuchick.com (click the link in the right-hand menu to download zip drive)

 "The twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale."
 -Stephen King

Oct 20, 2012

Christian Halloween Costumes (sort of)

I'm not full of ideas, but I do have a few. Especially when it comes to Christian themed Halloween costumes. That's right, we Christians can celebrate a night of dressing up and eating enough candy to make your tongue hurt without it being sacrilegious. Just make sure to go out dressed as something Biblical. *wink*

Here are some ideas to get you started.

The Holy Ghost: Start with your regular ol' white-sheet-with-two-eye- holes ghost costume. Simply add some more holes randomly all over the sheet and you will be the Holey Ghost. Don't forget to take some apples, oranges, and bananas with you to pass out. When someone asks what they are for, tell them it's the fruit of the Spirit. Duh.

"I had a little trouble with the scissors."

An Archangel: Again, start with your garden variety angel... Wait, no, that would be a fairy. Start with your normal, heaven variety angel and just carry around a protractor measuring arcs all night. Just make sure people understand that you are an angel and not an angle.

Archangel's friends

Multiplying Loaves and Fishes: Dress as a calculator (sandwich board style), but instead of numerals, draw little fishies and loaves of bread on all the buttons. Don't forget the "x" button. That one's pretty important.

Jesus cat is Jesus.

Balaams' Donkey: There is a talking donkey in the Bible. Seriously. All you need to to for this one is dress like a donkey and talk. I know you all have a donkey costume in the back of your closet that you've been waiting for the exact right moment to use. This is that moment.

Make sure you don't look like that
annoying donkey from Shrek.

The Red Sea: This is the laziest easiest one of the bunch. Just tape a red "C" to your shirt.

You could be as cool as this kid.

Judas Priest: Yes, like the band, except holier because you will be dressed like a priest and will go around kissing your best friend on the cheek all night. (And then Roman soldiers will come and arrest them and your other friend will cut off one of their ears, so on second thought maybe that's not such a good idea.)

The other Judas Priest.

Bonus Group Costume: Have someone dress as the Holey Ghost as per above, a second person dresses as a priest, a third person dresses in a sun costume. Boom! Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Bonus points if the Father and Son are actually father and son.

Have fun and be safe out there, you crazy kids!