a "been-there" mom of six offers encouragement
to wives, young mothers, and those not so young,
and simple common-sense approaches to
the "ings" of life:
child-rearing (hints and helps), homemaking (all areas),
cooking (simple, cheap, and do-it-yourself)
making (toys and gifts), preparing (for the unexpected),
maintaining (sanity and peace in this increasingly crazy world) and more---
all aspects of making the most of making do on little---
and having fun in the process.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Halloween: Homemade, Cheap, and Creative

These costumes took so long to make, I made them wear them until
the foot bones connected to their knee bones.
I really regret that --- even to this day, 40 years later.

A long, long time ago Halloween was a fun holiday for both young and youngish kids. Costumes, for the most part, were cute and happy and imaginative, and very often homemade. Even the scary ones were only gently scary. Trick or Treating was really special when you went to a home that handed out homemade treats. We even remembered, from year to year, the homes that did that! 
In most areas, that holiday is long gone. Homemade goodies are rarely acceptable.Candy must be commercial and securely wrapped. Even then, many city hospitals provide free x-rays to further secure the safety of what has been passed out.It's sad but it's a fact of life.

TRUNK or Treat
Hopefully you live in an area where kids can still be kids---safely. Trunk or Treat has become a popular replacement in many areas. Church parking lots become the "homes" and treats are handed out from car trunks. It is even more fun if the "distributors" take the time to decorate their trunk and/or themselves. Everyone knows everyone so homemade is okay.

It took hours and hours to make the skeleton costumes above. The skeletons themselves were painstakingly cut from oil cloth (a heavy waterproof plastic-y fabric that was commonly used for tablecloths) and then even more painstakingly appliqued onto the body of the costume.  The kids loved them----for the first couple of years. Because of all the work that went into them, I continued to make them, and then their younger siblings wear them until the foot bones literally came only to their knee bones. That is sad, and kids, I am sorry.

Years later Dave and I chaperoned a costume dance. One of the guys came as a terrific skeleton. It cost him $2 and about 20 minutes time. He bought a life-size cardboard skeleton--the type with movable joints and he disjointed it by using a pair of scissors to pop out the rivets. Then, wearing a black sweat shirt and sweat pants he had someone pin the bones onto them. The bones moved with him, and even stood slightly away from him at times. It was very effective.

A Bag of Beans!
Our daughter-in-law Cheri shared this idea for a cute, simple, and inexpensive costume, which can be adapted for either children or adults. Cut arm and leg homes in a clear plastic trash bag of the appropriate size to fit the individual. Once the person is in the bag, fill it with small oval inflated balloons in a variety of colors. Gather the top opening of the bag around the wearer's neck and tie with with a piece of ribbon. If you really feel further identification is needed for this bag of jelly beans you can make a paper label and fasten it to the front of the bag.

Homemade Halloween Make-up (from Amy Dacyczyn's book, The Tightwad Gazette)

Theatrical-type Grease Paint: Combine 2 tsp. vegetable shortening, 5 tsp. cornstarch, and 1 tsp. flour. Add 2 to 3 drops glycerin (available at drugstores) for smoothness. Add food coloring as desired. Brown Grease Paint: 1 tsp. vegetable shortening, 2-1/2 tsp cocoa powder, and 2 to 3 drops of glycerin.
They can be removed with cold cream, baby oil, or vegetable shortening.

Scar Tissue is created by mixing unflavored Knox gelatin with drops of hot water to make a paste. Apply "drooping open flesh" with a spatula. Gently apply a layer of baby powder using a powder puff or cotton ball. Pain with acrylic craft paint to resemble flesh and blood.

Looking for a special treat for a special time? A friend from long ago shared the recipe for chocolate caramel apples she used to make every year for the trick-or-treaters that came to her door.  She hadn't realized just how popular they were until she discovered that the kids that use to come to her home were now driving their own kids to her door on Halloween.

Mary Sue's Chocolate Caramel Apples
(recipe makes enough for 12-24 apples, depending on their size)
small, crisp tart apples
popsicle sticks or skewers
1 cup butter or margarine
2-1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
dash salt
1 cup light corn syrup
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 squares (2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped peanuts

Wash and dry apples. Insert stick or skewer into stem end of each. Set aside. Butter baking sheets. In large, heavy saucepan, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar and salt. Add corn syrup and mix well. Gradually stir in milk; add chocolate. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, about 12-15 minutes, until candy reaches firm ball stage (245 degrees on candy thermometer). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Dip each apple into caramel sauce, turning to coat. Scrape excess off bottom. Dip bottom in peanuts. Set on buttered pan. After they cool, slide them onto cupcake papers. The apples should be made the day they will be served.

'til we eat again,
            Simply, Gail


Heidi said...

As Gail's oldest kid and only daughter, I had the "privilege" of wearing one of those skeleton costumes for several years. They really were AMAZING...and people were so impressed at our mom's incredible talent (and not just in the skeleton arena, either). We did have to wear them a few more times than we would have wanted (only because kids want something new every year...and I was probably hoping for a lipstick-wearing princess-type outfit or something...which would not have been a great hand-me-down costume for my younger brothers = )...but wearing them so many times has made them a great memory for us. So, Mom, no regrets. Those costumes were the COOLEST things ever and a definite part of our great childhood memories!

Anonymous said...

I loved those costumes mom, so no complaints from me!

Your oldest son (who doesn't have time to figure how to set up an ID)

Simply, Gail said...

Thanks kids, for your support and your forgiveness. Now,if only your younger sibs feel the same.