Posts Tagged ‘Halloween’

October 31, 2018

Little Jedi

I love, love, love how these turned out.

We took our annual family group costume photo this past weekend. As a treat, we let the girls run around with their light sabors at dusk, so they could see them all light up. Of course I followed the girls around with my camera because, why not? Since it was only dusk the glow wasn’t very pronounced in the pictures in the pictures. Nicole was disappointed her blue light saber wasn’t showing up as nicely as Alexis’ green saber. She wanted to take more photos (in her own words “a thousand photos”) were you could really see the saber too. An idea was born.

The initial plan was just photograph Nicole and Alexis in costume with their blue and green sabers. I hadn’t gotten a light saber for Dana, what with her being nine months old and all. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted a matching photo of her with a sabor as well. I wasn’t too enamored with her with Yoda custom (either the original or the one I hobbled together). She kind of looked like a green lamb in her headpiece. Having a “Jedi Dana” photo seemed like a good way to make up for that fact, and to ease the pain of way over spending on our costumes. Domingo thought she looked at bit like Anakin Skywalker in her tunic and pants. We had a Kylo Ren sword (free conference swag) and so “Darth Dana” was born.

Only problem was the free light saber was terrible. It had just two LEDs in the base of the sword where Nicole and Alexis’ had at least nine running down the length of it. Those two puny LEDs did not cast enough light for the camera to focus well, or to illuminate her face. Having already spend a ridiculous amount on costumes this year, buying another saber was the last thing I wanted to do. I needed to improvise. I shot Dana with the blue light saber and changed the hue in my poor man’s photoshop.

As for the pose, I just got lucky. She was looking down at a toy in her hands and I happened to snap the photo as she was raising her gaze to look at me. The framing isn’t perfect, but it’s one of those moments you can never manufacture.

Technical details: the kids are standing in front of a black backdrop which is probably not needed, but doesn’t hurt. I used full manual mode: small shutter (~F/7.1) and fast shutter (1/200s or faster) to reduce any chance of blur. The raw photos are very dark, so when I bumped up the histogram they’re a touch grainy. Personally I think it adds to the look.

September 17, 2018

Costume Overboard

I blew it this year.

We’re a two costume family with separate school and trick-or-treating costumes. School costumes need to be light weight for warm October days (often in the 70s), easy for the kids to play around in during recess, comfortable to sit in and easy for the kids to get in and out of themselves. The only requirement for Trick-or-Treat costumes is that they’re warm enough for cold October nights. Once the sun sets, the temperature drops like a stone. In the past we had saved money by DIYing the school costumes, but after last year store bought seemed the right way to go.

I like to order the customs early, as I’ve had some mishaps in the past. Amazon market place is often the cheapest, but sometimes you don’t get quite what you ordered and I like to have time to get orders corrected. I was mostly worried about getting a cheap knockoff, potentially off brand costume, or the slimmed down non “deluxe” version without the cool accessories of the costume I ordered. As soon as the costumes arrived was I found the UPC number on each package and search the manufacturers website to be sure it was exactly the item I was expecting. No issues there.

What I should have been worried about was sizing.

Alexis’ belt is so lose it hangs off her butt on the tightest setting. On one costume Nicole’s capris pants look full length, which is better than her other costume where pants won’t even stay up. We had no choice but to reorder Nicole’s in the smaller size. Alexis’ costume is the smallest size the manufacture makes so we will have to make do. At least we can make do with it. Alas, we’re likely stuck with the too big versions, as the return is not easy and not really worth it. Something for the dress up corner, I guess.

I knew Dana’s costume was going to be big. It’s a trademarked character and, despite being a popular character, I could only find one costume manufacturing who was licensed to make it. According to that manufacture website the costume comes in 9-12 months, 12 to 24 months, as well as larger sizes. Dana will be 9 months on Halloween, so I needed the smallest possible size. No one was selling the 9-12 month size! Not Amazon, not Target, not Walmart, not the specialty costume stores. I even tried secondary markets like eBay. No dice. Not even used. The smallest size I could find anywhere was 12-24 months. Dana’s head circumference is in the 98th percentile and the costume is basically a headpiece and tunic so I decided to change it. The headpiece is large, but passable. The rest is ridiculous. I found a onesie that sort of mimics the tunic, and basic brown pants to fake it.

That’s three duplicate costumes! On top of our planned five! Shopping fail.

If I had another group costume idea I would be tempted to hold off on this one for another year so everyone’s costume would fit. Maybe we’ll just have a bonus dress up and picture day in the middle of summer next year when everyone’s costume fixes better.

Total Spent: $199.76 (Ouch!)
Nicole – $86.86 (That represents all 4 different costumes, so at least the per costume price isn’t that bad)
Alexis – $44.41
Dana – $36.34
Accessories – $32.15

October 28, 2017

School Costumes

This year Nicole’s second costume for school is a Scientist, “like Mommy.” One morning, as I was driving Nicole to School, we were discussing what she wants to be when she grows up. One of the options we discussed was scientist. I told her mommy was a scientist and she got really excited about being a scientist, just like like mommy. We had already settled on the girls being astronauts for Trick or Treating, so I told her most Astronauts are also scientists, and asked her if she wanted to be a scientist/astronaut for Halloween. My proposal was met with a resounding yes.

I love how non-conventional my little girl is!

I also fear that she will regret her decision once she sees the other girls in their Disney princess costumes, so we decided pretty early on that she wasn’t going to be a stereotypical scientist with tapped glasses. Scientists come in all shapes and sizes, after all. She’s going to wear her favorite dress under her lab coat, because why not? My two favorite details of her costume are her badge, and her astronaut necklace. The badge has her picture from her first day in kindergarten, title and the official NASA logo. She is an astronaut/scientist after all! The necklace is a special surprise I’m going to give her the day of her school party.

I had dubbed Alexis’ school costume “color explosion.” I was going to put her in a her rainbow fairy skirt and give her a rainbow lei garland. I thought she’d love all the colors. Unfortunately they had a dress up day earlier this week, and while my not quite three year old was initially content in her costume, she got upset when she saw all the other Elsa, Moana, and super heroes. Oh Irony, that’s what I was worried about with Nicole!

So Alexis is going to her school party in Nicole’s old Wonder woman costume from last year. Crises resolved.

Most of our second costumes came from the dress up corner. The safety glasses were an additional $3.59 for a pack of six, and the necklace was $3.39. I did purchase a Moana costume for Alexis when she was sad, but the only one I could find was a 4-6x. Technically she sometimes wears 4, but that size was too big in the astronaut. I was worried we’d risk another round of disappointment when the costume she coveted didn’t fit. When the Wonder Woman costume sufficed I decided to keep the Moana costume for the dress up corner. We should get a lot of good use out of it for a few more years still.

I think this may be the last year I will be able to convince my two kids to do joint costumes. Nicole’s love of all things astronaut did not transfer to Alexis. We went through quite a few negotiations to get her into her orange jumpsuit for our costume dry run. She’s actually wearing her favorite dress underneath. Hey, whatever works!

Other than getting the kids suited up, our costume dry run went well. Both girls had a lot of fun posing as astronauts, gazing into the distance and pointing up at the pretend stars. We did a little mock trick or treating as well, since I’m not planning on bringing my camera for the day. Any photo shoot that ends with candy is a win in their book.

I have the most ridiculously bad luck when ordering Halloween costumes online. I had an issue with Nicole’s Wonder Woman costume last year. The first costume came ripped, and even though it was still early October the store couldn’t guarantee a replacement in time. In fact, the replacement wasn’t guaranteed to arrive until November 28th! This year I decided to order in late September to be safe, and it’s a good thing I did as I ended up making four separate purchases!

The plan since August has been for Nicole to be a white astronaut and Alexis to be an orange astronaut.

The first problem was I wasn’t sure of the girls’ sizes. Alexis was sometimes in a 3T and sometimes in a 4T, Nicole was pretty solidly in the 5-6 range. the costume comes in 4-6x and 2-3T. I was sure Alexis would be a solid 4T by Halloween, but there’s a six inch height difference between the kids! I couldn’t believe they’d be in the same size costume with such a large height difference. Since the 4-6x would definitely fit at least one of my kids and the orange version was on sale, I ordered it.

It was big, but not ridiculously big on Alexis. It fit Nicole well, but Nicole’s heart was set on the white astronaut. So I ordered the 4-6x in white, and the 2-3T in orange. The 2-3T in orange fit Alexis just right. Perhaps it was a hair small, but the kind of thing that would only be noticeable to mom. I didn’t want to return the 4-6x, just in case Alexis hit a growth spurt between early September and now. It still has the tag, but we’re outside the return window. I haven’t decided whether it’ll go to the dress up corner, or I’ll donate it.

The white astronaut costume was a disaster. The company sent an Adult small instead of a child’s 4-6x. It was a different, much cheaper brand which didn’t have the accessories. The benefit of having ordered the first 4-6x in orange, I guess, was that it was immediately apparent to me that the mistake was on the costume company, and not mine. Everything other than the color was supposed to be exactly the same. I didn’t hesitate to return that one. At least it was still early enough to order from someone else.

Oh well, at least the kids look great and what’s one extra costume at the end of the day?

I have been slow to put up Halloween decorations this year. At first I blamed the wild life, as it was ripping up our lawn and wreaking havoc in our flower beds. Why risk the Halloween decorations being knocked over and damaged, I told myself. But as the weeks progressed I realized I’m just not that happy with our current set of Halloween decorations.

Most of our outdoor decorations just don’t work for our current home. There’s the “Welcome” orange street lamp that worked well on our town home front stoop, what with the non-existent front yard. At our home, it all but disappears from view on our porch. After nine years years the finish is coming off, it’s starting to rust, and it’s barely up right. There are the skulls and scattered bones that look cool, but you can only see them up close. Lastly there’s the posable spider which ended up being a huge mistake as it sheds like crazy and is hard to find a good spot for it.

We’ve been in our home now for two years, and plan to stay throughout the kids’ high school years. I thought it was time to do away with the decorations that just aren’t cutting it. Alexis has been a little fearful of some of the more animated and scary decorations, so I wanted something friendly and approachable while still being appropriate for the season.

My first concern was to light the walkway. I wanted to use luminaries, but rather than use traditional paper bag luminaries with LED tealights, I decided to go with candles. I found these. Ironically the reviewers chief complaint (that they’re too orange) made them ideal for me. It ended up being a bit pricey for luminaries ($24 for the candle holders, $10 for the tea lights), but they should last for years.

In the corner on the other side of our walk way I plan to put a non-animatronic stone statue and a lit pumpkin. I envision something made out of grapevine with twinkle lights. This would be perfect, if it was weather resistent. Alas, a carved pumpkin doesn’t work too well here. Last year our jack-o-lantern liquefied in 36 hours thanks to the intense UV rays.

I have my eye on a statue that will work, and am just waiting for the right sale. (I’ve waited this long, might as well wait a few more days.) The grapevine pumpkin is proving to be a bit more difficult. It seems to be a popular in door only decoration. Still, I’m nothing if not persistent. And frugal. Most of the time.

November 1, 2016

Trick or Treating With Two

Can I just say how much I love how well my kiddos eat? Yesterday was their Halloween party at school. They had a room set up for the 2 and older kids with candy corn sprinkled across the table and a cupcake at each spot. Alexis, whose a month shy of two, was invited to join and she sat next to her big sister. Both girls rejected their cupcake in favor of fruit, although Nicole did eat a bit of the frosting on hers. I loved it because not only did they get something healthy, but Mommy got to eat the cupcake Alexis licked and subsequently set aside. (Hey, it’s not like anyone else was going to eat it!)

When we got home all Nicole asked if she could eat one of her candies from her school party, and I told her she could have two from her pumpkin after we went trick or treating. She was ridiculously excited with the concept of two. I figured we’d have more back and forth negotiation the amount of candy consumption allowed, but when Nicole accepted two I decided to roll with it.

The kids were feeling warm to me, so I took their temperatures before dinner. Nicole was fine, but Alexis clocked in at 99.6. She wasn’t acting sick, so we decided “daycare rules” applied. (If they’re not sick enough to be sent home from daycare, they can probably go trick-or-treating.) Luckily the two candy limit had already been established. At the time I was thinking her fever was probably just teething related, but you never know. Why jinx a stomach flu by letting them gorge on candy?

Initially we were planning on sending the kids exactly as they were last week, with a shirt or leggings underneath their costume if it ended up being cold. Nicole was really excited to wear her new boots. Alexis too. But as luck would have it, Alexis ended up with her first pair of light up shoes on Sunday. When I asked her which pair of shoes she wanted, she choose the light up ones. Light up shoes are great for trick-or-treating! They were way brighter than the glow stick bracelets.

(pictures the day of were on my cell phone and didn’t turn out very well. This was the best.)

Speaking of glow stick bracelets, those were a major disappointment. One broke and leaked purple fluorescent liquid all over the place. Next year it’s light up shoes for all!

We had been working with Alexis all week to say “Trick-or-treat”. She had an adorable “Ahhh…TREAT!” mastered, but was a bit shy the day of. They shyness was mostly just around speaking, however. When we arrived at the second house I had to stop her from grabbing the door knob and letting herself in! Ringing the doorbell is just too inefficient I guess.

We started earlier this year (one of our lessons learned from last year) and finished right at seven o’clock. Alexis is usually in bed by 6:30, 6:45 at the latest. I asked her if she was sleepy. In typical little kid fashion her response was an emphatic “No!” while rubbing her eyes. We decided to visit one more house, and it ended up being that of one of Nicole’s teachers! She loved that.

When we got home we let the girls pick their two candies. Alexis objected when we put their pumpkins away, but her objection was short lived as Daddy was also simultaneously opening her second piece of candy for her. Both kids went to bed very happy and very tired. After they were asleep we raiding Alexis’ pumpkin pail for all the candies she was too little for. They were put in Nicole’s pumpkin pail and replaced with them with more age appropriate candies we had left over from our own trick-or-treaters.

This morning both Alexis and I awoke with heavy congestion. I’d blame mine on the shared cupcake, but I’ve had the sore throat precursor since Sunday.

I’ll write my usually monthly business progress report tomorrow, assuming I’m feeling a bit less foggy by then.

October 23, 2016

Costume Dry Run


One of our take aways from last year was that it’s very hard to get photos the day of. This year we thought it best to do a trial run in our costumes and scratch that photography bug so Mommy isn’t tempted to bring her camera when we go trick-or-treating. Given that Alexis took off running as soon as soon as her feet hit the sidewalk, the camera most definitely will not be in use on the 31st!

That super girl costume is an exact duplicate of one we already owned, right down to the size. The skirt ripped off the previous one and I didn’t think about replacing it until after Nicole settled on being Wonder Woman for Halloween. I’m both glad (because the photos are awesome!) and annoyed (who likes to buy the same. exact. thing. twice?!) The boots were a splurge that I felt OK with since my business is picking up. The prices were reasonable to begin with, and one pair was 50% off. Combined, the boots were a little more than the extra revenue I expect to make this month compared to last month. The boots really do help make the outfit. I’m hoping to do some more fall themed photos to really get our use out of them.

As a personal aside, I really need to learn that it’s ok spending some money some times. I love the photos of the girls in their outfits this year. Last year I bought a monster costume for Alexis that was $10 cheaper than the one I really liked. That $10 wouldn’t have mattered to use financially, but I probably would have been much happier with the photos. Hindsight.


This year we’ll be a 1.5 costume family. One of the primary motivators for the two costume idea is ease of use and function at daycare vs warm for trick-or-treating. Nicole’s wonder woman outfit is basically a dress and not a problem. In theory, Alexis’ wouldn’t be either, but it’s not fitting as well as it should. It’s both a bit long, and a bit tight. She’ll have an easier time playing in the chef hat and apron from the dress-up corner. (She actually managed to keep the chef hat on most of the day last crazy hat day.) Hopefully her chef hat will be acceptable replacement to her supergirl dress. She’s very much big sister’s shadow these days, and I could see her insisting on wearing her costume if big sister get’s to.

In retrospect, my dual costume idea works a lot better in years where the school’s Halloween party is not on Halloween, or when there’s a large gap between the end of the school day and trick or treating. The kids’ daycare is having their party Monday until 5:30. We’re going to try and get the kids home earlier so we can have a quick (and hopefully healthy) dinner before hitting the streets by 6pm. They’ll be hyped up on sugar from the party, and excitement at the prospect of more sugar.

November 1, 2015

Our First Trick-or-Treating

This year was Nicole’s first as a trick-or-treater, and our first in neighborhood with young children. Our town home was gated and secluded, the apartment complex full of recent college grads starting careers. We received one trick-or-treater back in 2012 or 2011. That was it.

Pausing only to snack on a piece of candy.

As much as it was Nicole’s first Halloween, it felt a bit like our first Halloween too. We were all excited. She counted down the days on her fingers. We bought another bag of candy every few days. For the trick-or-treaters, obviously.

Our big day went well, but there were a couple things we can improve upon next year.

Our Timing Was Way Off

Domingo and I weren’t sure when to start our trick or treating adventure. I remember spotting trick-or-treaters on my way to pick her up from daycare last year. That would have meant they were out around 5:30. Domingo was sure our neighborhood wouldn’t start until after six, as most of our neighbors don’t get home from work until then. (The fact that it was a Saturday slipped both our minds.)

We opted to wait until the first trick-or-treater stopped by our house: 6:20. We were in our costumes and out the door five minutes later.

By 7:00 all the “big kids” were out. Big kids as defined as bigger than Nicole. Normally Nicole is shy around other kids. That is, until candy is on the line. Still, she’d wait her turn standing next to the stoop while one group of kids would get their candy, only to be over crowded by anther group coming up the walk way. When we encountered our first group of highschoolers I decided it was time to turn in.

Next year we’re starting earlier. If some of our neighbors aren’t ready yet, that’s OK. They’re will be plenty of other houses to visit.

We had too much candy

Our home is on a Cul-de-sac on a hill. The slope necessitates the housing being a little more spread apart. The street below connects several circles of tightly packed houses on level ground. Our street is not prime picking. Not for an enterprising young kid who wants to maximize candy acquisition while minimizing energy expenditure. While on our way returning home Nicki and I encountered four other kids who warned us that there wasn’t many houses “up the hill”. They’re verdict: trick or treating on our street was only half worth it. Domingo handed out candy to 34 kids all night. Nicole and I easily encounter twice that during the brief time we were on the street below.

Next year we’re buying less candy. Or telling the kids to take more. One or the other.

No photos

The sun had set 20 minutes before we left our house and the light was already mostly gone. I was planning on bringing my camera with us, but as soon as I stepped outside I knew it would be for naught. I took 1 way under exposed photo, and 2 extremely bury of Nicole trick or treating at our own house, then left my camera at home.

But ‘No Photos’ doesn’t always mean ‘No Photos’.

This afternoon we dressed Nicole up back into her costume and went outside to play. I ended up getting some great photos during the golden hour, a happy accident thanks to Daylight Savings Time. Since it was after Halloween, I didn’t care if she ruined her costume having fun. Basically it was ‘trash the dress’, Halloween toddler style.

Next year we’re also taking photos. Duh.

Happy Halloween from my monsters to yours!


My little monster love, love, loved her last year’s purple monster. She got a ton of extended us out of it with pretend play, so it was fresh in her mind when we started looking at costumes this year. When she saw the green monster she was hooked.


I wasn’t going to get Alexis a second costume this year, as she’s too young to go trick or treating. Then I was in Walmart and found an adorable baby monster costume and couldn’t resist the photo op.


I was afraid she’d hate the headpiece, but she didn’t seem to mind it much at all.

Material Cost
Nicole’s Costume – $16.15, or $0 depending on how you think about it. It’s her Trick or treat costume. (Amazon)
Alexis’ Costume – $15.97 (Walmart)
Total Cost – $32.12

October 27, 2015

Two Costume Family

It turns out that we are a two costume family, and not because we have two children. Each child apparently gets two costumes.

Alexis as Mini Mouse (her daycare costume)

It all started two years ago when Nicki was super girl. Her not-costume, costume was a big hit and school. Since it was basically just a dress, it was convenient for diaper changes. It also lacked some of the bulk of traditional toddler costumes, making it easy to play in without getting uncomfortably hot. Her teachers loved the practically of it. I loved that my child was happy all day.

The following year, Nicki was a monster. The week before her class’s costume party I began to fret about her losing the fur cuffs at school, or ripping the tulle skirt. I loved her monster costume, but it just didn’t seem practical for a day of playing at school. I thought back to the previous year, and how much her teachers appreciated the non-costume costume. We opted to save the monster costume and got her a pair of cat ears and tail to pair with a black shirt and pants for the party instead.

The costume that’s comfortable for all day play is not necessarily the costume that’s comfortable when trick or treating at night. I’ve come to accept that fact, and that we are a two costume family.

Still, the thought of being one of those parents who spends $100 on costumes gives my inner cheap skate heart palpitations. I’m on the hunt for good, cheap costumes which can double for pretend play after Halloween. I want to get the most bang for my buck.

So far most of my daycare costume finds have come from the kid’s clothing section at Target. That’s where I got Alexis’ mini mouse dress, and Nicole’s super girl dress (Not quite the same one, but very similar.) They hold up well enough that Alexis was able to re-wear the super girl dress for Super Hero Day at school. Target seems to always have those not-quite-costume clothes, especially the super hero and frozen variety. I’ve also seen some at Babies R Us, but we don’t have one close by so I don’t shop there as often.

I’m also a huge fan of the costume accessories. The cat ears and tail cost under $5. (We got a similar bunny set for pretend play which can double as a daycare costume if we need it.) Add a $1 mask and now she’s a cat burger. Or pair the mask with a tutu and cape (already owned) and now she’s a crime fighter. Every year we check out the accessories to see if there’s anything good for pretend play.

The other place I like to shop is online. Once Nicole picked out her costume, I used the reverse image search on the stock photo. Most retailers use the same the stock photo created by the manufacture. By doing a reverse image search on the stock photo I can find all the websites where the photo is shown, i.e. all the retailers selling the same item. From there it’s a simple process to find the one with the best price.

This year I spent $33.12 in total on Nicole’s costumes, and $34.97 on Alexis’. That’s only $5-7 up from the $27.85 average, and each girl get’s two! I’ll take that!

Material costs for the above photo
Mini Mouse Dress – $18 (Target)
Bow – $1 (Walmart)
Backdrop – $12 (JoAnns – not purchased for this photo session, but I thought I should include it anyway)
Total cost – $31

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