Too Darn Cute

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Five Books to Read this Halloween

There are hundreds of Halloween stories out there, maybe even thousands. To help you sift through some of the lame ones to find the real treasures, I wanted to share five of my favorites with you today. Since most of the books I read these days were written for people who can't tie their own shoes, you'll probably appreciate this list most if you have children. But even if you don't, I'm confident you'll find something on here to add to your Goodreads list. So without further ado, here is my list of five books you must read this Halloween. And please leave a comment and let me know one of your favorite spooky stories. I need to start my list for next year!

1. Goodnight Goon
Written and Illustrated by Michael Rex

This "Petrifying Parody" of Margaret Wise Brown's classic Goodnight Moon is a must-read this Halloween! Inside the cold gray tomb, we watch as a werewolf tries to go to bed while a naughty goon comes and terrorizes his room. You'll find the same catchy rhythm as the original but with "a skull and a shoe and a pot full of goo" and lots of other hilariously Halloween-themed rhymes. No matter how many times you've read Goodnight Moon (in fact, the more the better), you'll certainly enjoy this silly version of the story.

2. Go Away, Big Green Monster!
by Ed Emberley

This is absolutely Leo's favorite story in the bunch. We've been reading it at least one time for every nap and every bedtime story (and usually a few times in between) since we checked it out from the library. This is a simple picture book that uses creative cutouts to build the Big Green Monster one feature at a time. But just as the monster reaches its scariest form, the reader declares that, "You don't scare me!" and the monster disappears just as quickly as he came.

I think his favorite part is the very last page that tells the monster, "and don't come back! ...Until I say so." He giggles every time. You should definitely check this one out for your favorite toddler!

3. Creepy Carrots!
Written by Aaron Reynolds
Illustrated by Peter Brown

Jasper Rabbit is the hungry main character in this story. He is passionate about carrots and loves to snatch up a couple for snacking whenever he passes through his favorite field. That is, until he starts getting the feeling those carrots are haunting him. He starts to see them everywhere and they are really creeping him out. He finally comes up with a plan that he thinks will stop those carrots from scaring him.

This one was a Caldecott Honor Book in 2013, so you know it's going to be just as fun to look at as it is to read. The illustrations are all done in black and white - and orange. The pops of orange make sure the reader thinks Jasper is just as crazy as he sounds. The text is simple, it's a quick read, and the pictures are engaging, which make this one a great story to share with your little ones. Especially if they like slightly weird, scary stories. But don't worry, this picture book parable has a happy ending.

4. The Graveyard Book
Written by Neil Gaiman

This is the story of Bod Owens, short for Nobody, who was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Owens. He is a mostly normal boy except that he lives in a graveyard and his adopted parents are ghosts. Because of his unique situation, Bod is given the "Freedom of the Graveyard," which means he can walk through walls and graves and is invisible to most humans while he's in the graveyard. And he's supposed to stay in the graveyard. But Bod doesn't always follow that rule so we get to follow Bod through many of his adventures as he learns about his mysterious beginnings, explores the strange world around him, and faces the villain that has been haunting him his entire life.

Both children and adults will love this uniquely spooky Newbery Medal-winning novel. There's something so sacred and alluring about a graveyard. While I enjoy imagining the people connected to the names found on tombstones, I've never imagined growing up in one! In Gaiman's story, you'll find ghosts, witches, ghouls, werewolves, and other mysterious creatures, but sometimes it's the regular old humans who are meaner and uglier. This is an adventure, a mystery, and a coming of age story all in one. Gaiman's magical writing and curious characters make this one a page-turner and a story that would be a lot of fun to read together with your slightly older kiddos or even your spouse this Halloween.

5. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Written by Mary Roach

When my 5th graders decided to keep a praying mantis as a class pet, I obligingly bought a bag of crickets each week to feed it. Although it was so disgusting, my eyes were glued to the cage every time "Gilbert" carefully watched its prey, snatched it with incredible speed, and then furiously ate the cricket. It was so gross and fascinating! Reading Stiff is a little bit like that. Mary Roach shares all kinds of horrifying ways cadavers have been used (and obtained) throughout history. But she weaves those facts with tons of interesting information about the helpful ways cadavers have contributed to our history as well. While some bodies are used in anatomy labs for future doctors and helped with new surgical procedures, Roach explores some lesser-known uses for cadavers as well: helping scientists study decomposition in order to pinpoint time of death and other crime scene investigation techniques, helping car manufacturers design safety features to save lives, and even helping plastic surgeons practice and perfect their facelift skills.

With so many unknowns about our life after death, it's fascinating to read about all the things we have learned about our bodies after death. And although it's a book with a morbid subject, it's anything but a somber story. Roach skillfully weaves respect and even humor into a book that might easily become depressing. It is a gripping novel that will teach you, disgust you, and amuse you all at the same time. What better way to celebrate the Day of the Dead?

Friday, October 3, 2014

A Pinocchio Halloween

I love Halloween! It's my favorite holiday. I usually feel slightly guilty for saying that because it's obviously not as meaningful as Christmas, Easter, or Thanksgiving. It doesn't have a rich, patriotic history like Independence Day. It doesn't even cause you to reflect and set new goals like New Year's Day. But I can't help it. It's my favorite. There's just something about pumpkin cookies and spooky decorations that gets me really excited. And the costumes! I love a good reason to get creative and dress up. Halloween is the perfect time to dress up and play pretend all day long. And if you've got kids, you can dress them up HOWEVER YOU WANT! I've decided I really need to maximize on the years when I get to choose my children's costumes.

See? Halloween decorations are SO CUTE!

Last year I spent WAY too long browsing blogs and Pinterest for costume ideas but finally settled on a Pinocchio theme. It was just way too cute. It turned out to be quite the project to make his little costume, but it turned out so great. My two main inspirations came from For the Good Days (who breaks down each part of the costume) and Crafting Zuzzy (who helped me make the killer shorts and suspenders).

I'm glad he was as excited about his costume as I was

I like to call this my Goldilocks costume because the shorts took me three tries. I used her free pattern and the first pair were way too small. I tried to adapt the pattern on my own and the second pair came out way too big. I adjusted the pattern again and the third pair came out just right. It was a lot of work, y'all! She has updated her blog and you can now purchase some updated patterns and it might really be worth it!

I added some cool ribbon to the sides of the shorts to make them a bit more like Pinocchio's shorts and loved that it made them more authentic. A couple of large wooden buttons really completed the look.

I used an old white shirt for the collar and followed For the Good Days' DIY description. It took a little fiddling to get the sizing just right, but was pretty simple to sew. I've made lots of little boy bow ties and for the Pinocchio costume, I just made an extra large bow tie. I added some snaps to the collar and tie so I could just snap it on or slip it over his head. I found the yellow onesie for a few bucks at H&M.

The hat was definitely a little tricky. I looked at lots of pictures and costumes before drawing up my own pattern on some yellow felt and playing around with it until I came up with a shape I was happy with. I added some blue ribbon with hot glue and stuck in a single red feather.

I love a good theme so of course we had to play along. Jacob was a good trooper and let me dress him as Jiminy Cricket and I went as the Blue Fairy.

"I dub you Pinocchio's conscience, lord high keeper of the knowledge of right and wrong, counselor in moments of high temptation, and guide along the straight and narrow path. Arise, Sir Jiminy Cricket." It seemed appropriate that Pinocchio's father should be Jiminy.

"Prove yourself brave, truthful, and unselfish, and someday, you will be a real boy."
-The Blue Fairy

Our costumes were pretty easy. I had made Jacob's pants a couple years ago for a 20's costume party and he already owned the socks, shirt, tie, and sweater. I sewed a very basic yellow vest (since it wouldn't show much) and hot glued some yellow ribbon on a blue top hat I bought at a Halloween store. I still had this amazing blue dress that I found at DI for a 70's party years ago. I knew it would come in handy again and I'm sure glad I held onto it. I bought the wings on clearance at Joann Fabrics and just added a blue headband.

"What are conscience! I'll tell ya! A conscience is that still, small voice that people
won't listen to. That's just the trouble with the world today..." -Jiminy Cricket

Everything came together so well! Pinocchio is a classic character, but not done very often. And it sure made a cute costume for my happy little guy!

Curious to know what we're doing for Halloween this year? I've got something great up my sleeve, so stay tuned to find out what happens!