DIY Captain Underpants Halloween costume

I have a draft of a post from July still waiting to be published. I have two birthday party posts yet to be shared. But right now I want to share this year’s Halloween costumes: superheroes!

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I don’t know how many years we have left of doing family costumes without any dissenters, so I was happy that Corban and Mara ended up on the same page with their costume selections: Flash and Wonder Woman (for a while it was looking like Princess Leia or Elsa were going to win out for Mara, but in the end she said she wanted “star underpants” — which, still, she did not get, but it was enough to convince her to join Corban in the Justice League).

This is Haddon’s first Halloween, so I had almost full control over his costume since he had no concept of the holiday. Going along with the superhero theme, Haddon’s pick was a no-brainer. I knew he’d actually be excited (and not just confused) to dress up as Captain Underpants. After the five of us saw the “Captain Underpants” movie this summer, he has had an affinity for running around the house in a diaper and cape shouting, “Captain Underpants! Tra-la-la!”

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My original ambitions were to make everyone’s costumes myself, but time got the better of me and we ended up ordering Mara’s and Corban’s on Amazon so we’d have them in time for some festivities two weekends before Halloween. I was actually really impressed with their costumes, considering they were both $20 or less. Here is the Wonder Woman costume and here is the Flash costume. I ended up sewing the Wonder Woman belt to the dress just to keep it in place (a tiny stitch just at the center of the waist, not all the way around), but otherwise they both worked just fine straight out of the package.

Captain Underpants seemed simple enough to make, and I also found the store-bought versions really creepy, so that was my project this year. Here’s what I did.

(Past DIY Halloween costumes: Berenstain Bears, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Peter Rabbit, a mouse)

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The bod

Nude long underwear is apparently difficult to find in toddler sizes (though for an older kid, this would be perfect) so instead I bought a white long-sleeve shirt, thick, cotton tights and a package of tan Rit dye.

This was my first experience dying clothing, and it was really simple to do on the stovetop, although the shirt ended up with some weird dark dots on it (not ideal but I don’t think it was too noticeable). I used the powder dye, so maybe the liquid dye would be more reliable? The color turned out darker than I was anticipating. It worked fine for Haddon’s skin tone, but for a fairer child you would probably not want to leave the clothing in the dye for the full amount of time.

The underpants

I drew lines with permanent marker on a pair of white underwear to match the look of Captain Underpants’ underwear.

The head

To achieve Captain Underpants’ bald-headed look I crocheted a simple skin-toned beanie for Haddon. This also was convenient because it ended up being fairly chilly for our trick-or-treating last night. Here’s the pattern I followed (via video). I am not a crocheter—I’ve crocheted two or three hats in the past but that’s it—yet this was simple enough to knock out in spare moments here and there over a few days.

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The cape

I bought this $6.99 red satin shawl and cut it in half (the other half became my Supergirl cape). If I owned a sewing machine, I would have hemmed the cut edge, but un-hemmed it survived trick-or-treating and a Halloween party with only a few stray strings. To make the cape fully authentic I drew seed-shaped black dots on it with a permanent marker.

That’s it! Totally doable, and Haddon loved his costume. You could also add a plunger as an accessory, but Haddon had enough work just carrying his candy bucket.

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Other Halloween notes:

At the last minute I decided to dress up as Supergirl—literally 10 minutes before trick-or-treating started I printed out a Supergirl logo and pinned it to a blue shirt, pinned the remaining red scarf into my collar for a cape and cut a strip of yellow fabric and tied it around my waist with a red skirt. Pure luck that I already had everything for that one.

Peter’s Clark Kent costume included woodworking safety goggles since he couldn’t locate any normal fake glasses in our house.

Haddon was my pumpkin-carving sidekick. He mainly enjoyed sticking his hands in the pumpkins and playing with the scooped-out seeds. I roasted the seeds to perfection this year (I’ve found the best route to success is soaking the seeds overnight in a bowl of water with lots of salt before roasting).

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I managed to carve three of our five pumpkins (the kids lose interest after about 10 seconds so it ends up being my solo project). They got to choose the designs, though, and I’m sure you can guess who’s pumpkin is whose.

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All in all, it was another very fun Halloween, made even more special by getting to introduce Haddon to the holiday and share in his excitement.

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Berenstain Bears Halloween costumes

We did another full-fledged family costume this year for Halloween. Last year it was Jake and the Neverland Pirates. This year: Berenstain Bears (yes, that’s how it’s always been spelled).

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Corban discovered the Bear family thanks to the extensive collection of books my parents have from when I was a kid, and these past few months we have been compelled to read multiple Berenstain Bears books a day. You can’t get away with shortcuts with Corban either—he notices if you skip so much as a sentence.

This is a good thing, though: good moral lessons, childhood reminiscence, enjoyable storylines. Naturally, Corban draws connections between the Bear family and our own family of four. He is Brother Bear, Mara is Sister Bear.

So despite a new Star Wars obsession that has them plotting next year’s costumes already, they were excited to dress up as the Bear family for Halloween.

You can’t just go out and buy a Berenstain Bears costume (I looked and came up empty), so we had to get a little bit creative.

Thankfully, I came across this Etsy shop, which sells handmade embroidered Berenstain Bears masks. They only come in kids sizes, so they looked slightly off on Peter and me, but they were perfect for the kids. Without these masks the costumes would have been really obscure, especially since the Berenstain Bears are not normal-looking bears.

Brother Bear was the easiest: blue sweatpants and a red long-sleeve polo (found at Old Navy).

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Papa Bear was simple, too: Overalls and a yellow plaid shirt.

My original plan for Mama Bear was to buy a blue nightgown and paint white polka dots onto it, but upon realizing how expensive even the most basic long-sleeve nightgowns and dresses are (at least the ones that I could find), my mom offered to sew me a dress. She has years of sewing experience and has made many Halloween costumes throughout my life, and I’m grateful for her expertise and eagerness to help! She used blue polka-dot fleece fabric and modified a basic dress pattern, adding a white collar.

Sister Bear was my project. For her shirt, I just used fabric paint to paint pink polka dots onto an old long-sleeve shirt of Corban’s. I could have bought a pair of regular pink overalls, but Sister’s overalls are slightly different—they have scalloped straps and a straight line across the front and back (no bib). So after hunting around unsuccessfully, I got inspired by something I saw on how to turn an old pair of jeans into shorts overalls.

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I bought two pairs of pink fleece sweatpants (thank you, Walmart) and went to town. First, I cut two rectangles out of one leg of one of the pairs of pants in order to bring the waistline up to nearly chest-height. I sewed those two pieces together then sewed them to the waist of the other pair of pants.

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Unfolded:

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No hemming needed with fleece; yay!

For the straps, I put the newly modified pants on Mara, measured the length the straps should be and cut a scalloped pattern out of poster board.

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I took the other extra pant leg and cut along the seams to create two long rectangles of fabric. I folded each long rectangle in half lengthwise and cut the scalloped line out of the open side. Then I pinned the edges to prepare to sew them:

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I carefully sewed along the scalloped edge.

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Then I turned them inside out and ironed them flat (in the photo below, the top strap shows it before being turned inside out and the bottom one after).

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I sewed the front of the straps to the front of the pants, and my mom sewed snaps onto the inside of the back straps and back of the pants. The snaps ended up being unnecessary, though; Mara just pulled the straps up over her arms. I did end up pinning the shoulders of her shirt to the straps so they wouldn’t fall down (thanks to the double layers of fleece, you couldn’t see the pins).

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Oh, and the kids were super excited to wear these gorilla feet slippers we spotted at Walmart. They look enough like bear feet, I guess. They weren’t the easiest to walk in while trick-or-treating, though.

I also concocted some furry gloves for all of us by sewing some felt pieces to cheap cotton gloves to make it look like fur was coming out of our sleeves. If I were to do that again I would have hot-glued the felt…my quick hand-sewing job didn’t really hold up. Mara also refused to wear them, so there’s that.

It was a fun Halloween weekend: costumed play date party Friday morning, adult party Friday night (my solo Mama Bear costume isn’t quite as cute without the rest of the fam…), pumpkin carving and trick-or-treating Sunday and a Halloween party for the kids at our gym this morning.

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Hard to believe we are entering November already!

Past years’ Halloween costumes: Pirate/Tinkerbell (2015) | Peter Rabbit/bumble bee (2014) | mouse/cat (2013) | lobster (2012)

Jake and the Neverland Pirates Halloween costumes

Corban’s favorite TV show is “Jake and the Neverland Pirates”—it’s a spinoff of Disney’s “Peter Pan” about a crew of nice pirates (Jake, Izzy and Cubby) who interact with Captain Hook, Smee and their gang. He’s been in full Jake/pirate mode since last year, so naturally he wanted to be Jake for Halloween.

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Of course this is the prime age for adorable coordinating sibling costumes, so I convinced Mara to be Tinker Bell (she makes a guest appearance on the show once in a while—it’s set in Neverland, after all).

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Corban wanted to get the whole family involved, including stuffed animals, so Peter dressed up as Smee and I was Izzy. The stuffed animals were on their own for costumes, though. (Corban sighed last night, “But Quacky doesn’t have a Scully costume…”)

After browsing the costume selection available online, I decided it would be fun and easy to make all of our costumes.

Fun, it certainly was. Easy? Well, that would be a stretch. It was definitely doable, but all the little details added up and this ended up being the most ambitious costume undertaking I’ve attempted.

But I really did have a blast putting all four costumes together, and I’m pleased with how they turned out.

If you’re looking to make a DIY Jake, Izzy, Smee or Tinker Bell costume, read on for details on each of them.

First, some highlights from our Halloween:

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Halloween crafts at the library, and the first test run of the costume. 

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Somehow we wrangled 15 kids into a Halloween party photo.

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There’s my Izzy costume.

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This poor pumpkin didn’t stand a chance.

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Carved a pirate pumpkin.

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And got a little fancy.

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Eager to start trick-or-treating.

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Tink didn’t end up doing much walking. Plus, it was cold and misting.

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Pretty good haul. I showed them how to sort their candy.

Now, for the costume tutorials…

 

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Jake the pirate

There are three basic parts to a Jake costume: The shirt, the vest and the boots. Let’s start with the easiest one.

Jake’s T-shirt

White T-shirt
About 10 inches black ribbon

Cut the collar and sleeve hems off the T-shirt. Cut a few slits in each sleeve and make a 3- or 4-inch cut down from the middle of the collar.

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Cut two slits on each side of that cut and slide a black ribbon through to form a loose X. Tie the ribbon at the bottom inside the shirt.

Jake’s vest

Navy blue T-shirt
Yellow bias tape (found in the sewing department of a fabric/craft store—it is more like ribbon)
Fusible bonding web (such as Stitch Witchery)
4 yellow buttons
Yellow thread and needle

Cut off the shirt’s sleeves and collar and cut straight down the middle of the shirt to make a vest.

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The 3T shirt ended up being a little too small, so for the final version I used a 5T (Corban is 3, going on 4).

Iron the bias tape to remove any creases. Iron the vest to make a collar.

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Starting from the bottom of one flap of the vest, use the bonding web to attach the bias tape along the edge of the shirt. Since bias tape consists of several layers folded lengthwise, I actually attached mine around the edge—using bonding web on both the inside and outside of the vest. This looks nicer than just attaching it to the outside of the vest.

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Work your way along the edge of the shirt, lining the flap of the collar*, around the back of the neck**, back down the other collar and around the back of the vest, cutting the bias tape into sections as needed (I used six separate sections of tape).

*I attached part of the collar flap to the shirt with bonding web to help keep it in place:

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**”Pop” the collar up as you go around:

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Sew two buttons on each side of the vest. (Side note, why are buttons so expensive?! It took me a good hunt to find inexpensive yellow buttons that were the right size and color.)

Jake’s boot covers

This was a serious challenge for me, so I’m pretty proud that they turned out. They fit over shoes and are a lot cheaper than Uggs (plus, you can paint Jake’s signature “J” on them). Here’s what you need:

4 yards brown felt
This pattern
Yellow paint (I just used some acrylic I had)

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I followed this tutorial. The biggest challenge was to decipher the instructions since they were a bit confusing at parts. One thing I didn’t realize until my mom stepped in to help is that “right sides” in sewing lingo means the sides you want to show in the end, not the sides opposite the left. With felt, it doesn’t matter, but knowing that will help clarify the linked instructions. Another helpful hint: at the start of step 5, turn the boots rightside out.

One thing we (my mom) added was to fold and hand stitch the tops of the cuffs into the boot. (Yikes, it’s not easy writing sewing instructions!)

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After the boots are constructed, use a paintbrush to paint a solid gold rectangle on the tops of the feet and Js on the insides of the cuffs. Strangely, the J on Jake’s left boot is a mirror image of the right, so it’s backwards. (I’ve Googled “Jake pirate” images an embarrassing number of times while working on this costume.)

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Other Jake elements

Red headband—just a thick strip of red fabric (we already had one from a pirate costume I’ve worn)

Hair—Find some mega extreme hold hair gel (that’s how the one I used marketed itself) and spike that hair straight up in front.

Thick black belt/cummerbund—you could cut up an old T-shirt or do what I did and tie a pair of black tights around your son’s waist (tuck in the ends in the back)

Wooden sword—Peter insisted we buy this instead of attempt to make it. I’m glad we did even though we payed way more than we should have on Amazon for an apparently discontinued Disney Store set of Jake accessories. It’s foam and nice and Corban loves it, plus it came with a spyglass (much better than the paper towel roll I had planned) and pouch of gold dubloons.

Tinker Bell

There are a lot of routes you can take with Tinker Bell. I wanted to be as authentic to the Disney version as possible while making it appropriate for a two-year-old (um, look at Tink…she is a mature, scantily clad woman).

My plan was to do something like this, but use a leotard instead of sewing the body myself. I found an adorable mint green leotard, but at the last minute decided the mint green didn’t look right, so ended up hand-sewing an alternative last night. It was a smart move. Here are the elements of our toddler Tink costume.

Tinker Bell’s skirt

1 1/4 yards green fabric (get something that won’t fray)
Matching green thread
Non-roll elastic (for the waist)
Ruffled ribbon/trim (for the waist)
1 roll cream or white tulle
Thin elastic (for the waist of the tutu)

I followed this tutorial for the skirt. It was simple, even for a sewing novice like me. The ruffled ribbon is a good addition to cover up the seam along the waist.

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Tulle tutus are the easiest thing to make. Just loop-tie strips of tulle to a thin elastic waistband. It’s a fun touch for under the Tinker Bell skirt.

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Tinker Bell’s top

White long sleeve shirt
Leftover green fabric from the skirt
Matching green thread

Cut and pin green fabric to the shirt, starting under the arm on one side and continuing all the way around the shirt. Hand stitch the fabric to the shirt, then stitch it down the side. You’ll tuck the shirt in, so don’t worry about the bottom.

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Tinker Bell’s wings

This took me a bunch of finagling and trial and error. I will try to explain what I did, though.

2 white wire hangers
Pliers
1 pair white adult women’s tights
Small piece of tape
Thin elastic
Glitter glue (optional—I never ended up adding it)

Tink’s wings each have a tall pointed section on top and a smaller, round part on bottom. For a toddler, one hanger is plenty large enough for each wing. First, untwist the necks of the hangers and use pliers to form each into the shape of the wings. Leave a few inches of the end sticking out from the middle and use that part to hook the two wings together by twisting them around each other.

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Now, unhook the wings from one another (stay with me for a minute). Cut the legs off the tights and stretch them tightly over the wings starting over the top section of wing. I twisted them a little in between the two wing sections to help keep the shape, then pulled the open end of the tights back up to the middle after going over the bottom section.

Poke the end of the wire (the part that will hook the wings together) through the tights once the tights are in place. Now, re-connect the wings. The ends of the tights will just be hanging out for now. Wrap tape around the connecting pieces of wire to keep them together (it’s OK if it’s not totally secure at this point).

Tie the thin elastic into a loop that will fit across your little one’s back and hook around her arms. Poke the elastic into the hole of the tights on one wing and finagle it to loop around a section of wire inside, then repeat on the other wing so the wings now have elastic straps coming out from the middle.

Tie the loose ends of the tights together around the connecting wire, pulling one leg around the back, then tying it together with the other leg on the side of the wings that will be facing out (the side without the elastic straps), then bringing both sides around to the side with the elastic and tying them together there (so the legs are tied together on both the front and the back of the wings).

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Paint glitter onto the wings if desired.

Tinker Bell’s magic wand

1 chop stick or other thin, wooden stick
Silver washi tape
White or cream tulle

Wrap washi tape around the stick in a spiral motion to cover.

Make two tulle pom poms. To make each, cut 20-30 4-inch strips of tulle (1/2-inch-wide). Lay a wider (2- to 3-inch-wide) 4-inch strip of tulle down and stack the 20-30 strips perpendicular on top of it. Tie the thicker strip around the center of the stack of strips and knot it tightly, then knot the ends around the end of the tape-covered stick. Repeat to make the second pom pom and tie it to the same end of the stick but on the opposite side. Tape the ends of the tulle strips you used to tie the pom poms together down to the stick, using the same spiral taping motion to cover them completely.

Separate the 1/2-inch strips in all directions to form a puffy ball, trimming where necessary to form a sphere around the tip of the stick.

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Other Tink elements

Shoes—Make tulle pom poms as described above, but tie or pin them to the toes of a pair of white or green ballet flats (technically Tink wears green shoes).

Hair—She wears her hair in a high bun with a little ribbon around it and bangs sweeping down and to the side.

Izzy the pirate

Izzy’s shirt

Light pink T-shirt
Darker pink permanent marker

Cut the hems off the sleeves and bottom of a light pink T-shirt. Cut wide scallops around the bottom and sleeves. Outline the edges in marker, adding loops between each scallop. Outline the neckline, adding an upside down V shape at the neck (I messed this part up so it looks pretty bad).

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Izzy’s bandana

Medium pink bandana or old T-shirt
Light pink fabric paint

If using an old T-shirt, cut the hem off the bottom, then cut straight up the middle as high as you can get before hitting graphics, or up to about the sternum or mid-back. Cut all the way around the shirt from that point, so you end up with a large rectangle. Cut it into an obtuse triangle.

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Paint loops and dots along the edge of the triangle, as pictured.

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Izzy’s pouch necklace

8-inch circle of yellow fabric
24-inch strip of felt (1/4- to 1/2-inch wide) or two 12-inch strips (or use brown yarn, string or cord)

We had a pouch lying around so I just used that, but you can easily make one by cutting a circle from yellow fabric and gathering the edges together to form a pouch. Tie the felt strips or string around the top to secure it. On the show, this pouch contains pixie dust.

Other Izzy elements

Hair—Pigtails, or if your hair is really long like mine then add braids in to keep it under control. Wrap strips of brown felt around each pigtail. Corban called me out because Izzy has a piece of hair sticking out from the front, so if your hair is the right length to do that, you should probably do it.

Boots—I just wore my Minnetonkas, but you could make boot covers like the Jake ones I made, just without the painted parts (note the pattern I used is for toddler size 8 to 10).

Pants—Izzy wears purple pants. I found these purple fleece-lined leggings on Amazon for $5. They are super warm and comfy, though not the greatest quality (but hey, only five dollars!).

Earrings—Like any good pirate, Izzy wears gold hoop earrings.

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Smee

This is oh so easy, hence the reason I switched from the original plan of Peter being Captain Hook.

Hat—Bright red stocking cap.

Shirt—Blue and white striped T-shirt.

Shorts—Royal blue (it was cold so Peter wore jeans).

Glasses—He wears round glasses on the tip of his nose. (Forgot this.)

Belly—Stuff a pillow in if you don’t naturally have a pot belly. Peter was going to, but ended up not bothering.

DIY Christmas card box from a produce box

In year’s past, I’ve hung the Christmas cards we’ve received with ribbon on our kitchen cabinets. I loved being able to see the smiling faces of our friends and family and the beautiful holiday designs of the greetings they sent, but this year that just seemed like too much work and too cluttered.

Instead, I was inspired last night by the cardboard box housing the clementines I had just purchased. It’s a nice box, so why throw it away?

I pulled out some gold card stock, scissors and a glue stick and in less than 20 minutes had transformed it into something worthy of sitting on our coffee table.

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First, I traced each side of the box onto the gold card stock.

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Then I cut them out.

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And glued them securely to the sides.

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The blue insides kind of ruin the effect, so I glued some card stock over the blue parts, too. Had I a tad more ambition and time I would have covered the entire inside.

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There you have it!

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Our friends and family are really killing it with cute photo cards this year.

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I also love how the shape of the box sort of looks like Bethlehem’s skyline (at least how it’s portrayed as we often see it).

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It’s also nice having them out at kid-level so Corban can browse through them at his leisure. He loves seeing his loved ones’ faces.

Of course, that also means they’re at Mara’s level and thus will probably end up strewn around our family room most of the time…

How do you store or display your Christmas cards?

Decking the halls

Blame the early deadlines at work (we were taste testing holiday cookies in October) or the mini polar vortex, but I’m totally in Christmas mode.

My minimal fall decor didn’t last long this year, but I do want to share this little fall leaf project with you.

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Corban helped me pick out some leaves from the yard during peak color season, and I ironed them between pieces of wax paper, using this method, to preserve them. Then I just taped them to white paper and framed them – so easy!

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My other fall DIY project was this “Boo” door hanging. It took about 10 minutes to make – tie wooden letters together using twine, make a nice big burlap bow, hang the letters from the door and paper clip (really) the bow on.

Corban started requesting Christmas music the day after Halloween, so we’ve had our children’s Christmas CD on repeat for weeks, but Peter convinced me to hold off until this weekend to fully embrace the season ahead. We went straight from the “Boo” front door to what I’m calling my transitional Christmas wreath (since it has some fall colors in there).

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Yep, it’s my all-seasons wreath again (here’s the Valentine’s Day version and the fall version.)

Peter’s parents gave Corban a Little People nativity set that we only bring out during the holiday season, so Mara was sufficiently distracted by the “new toy” while I got all the decorations out.

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I think it’s the cutest.

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Then up with the tree…

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For some reason I struggled to make the mantel look cohesive this year. After much rearranging (and removing, adding back and removing again several pieces), here’s what I settled on.

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The stockings are from Hung By The Chimney on Etsy. They have so many great fabrics! It’s not easy to choose. (Looks like they have a $1 off sale going on right now. I ordered mine in the off season so they were discounted, but not sure if that’s how it always works.)

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Then, trimming the tree. Corban helped me with this after Mara went to bed.

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A new ornament this year (gift from Peter’s parents last year):

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I also love this little bird a friend made for me last year. Adorable, and kid/cat friendly enough for the bottom of the tree.

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My favorite ornaments are my babies’ newborn handprints.

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The project will make you scream with frustration, but if they turn out they’re worth it.

In ornaments-that-didn’t-make-it-on-the-tree news…

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The cozy glow of the Christmas tree was my main motivation for getting the decorations up early this year, and I must say, it sure made driving home from work in a blizzard on November 24 that much more rewarding.

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…even if our cozy glow is having some issues with a section of lights not working…

(Oh, and here’s how to make the burlap tree skirt – all you need is a glue gun, burlap and ribbon!)

Merry early Christmas! Or should I say, Happy Thanksgiving.

A sweet Halloween

Goodness. The longer I go without blogging, the higher the hurdle seems to jump back into it. I’ve been procrastinating on sharing updates on my dear little ones, Mara’s first birthday and other thoughts… but I’ll keep this at least relatively timely and share some Halloween pictures first.

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I feel like there is so much pressure in these young years for the Halloween costumes to be timeless, adorable, matching and fitting for each child’s personality. Oh and homemade, of course. That’s insane, I know, but those kinds of thoughts contributed to my procrastination in actually deciding on Corban’s costume.

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When it came down to the wire, though, we went with Corban’s current favorite character: Peter Rabbit. And after all my stewing, it actually did unintentionally live up to all my ridiculous standards! He was so adorably excited to “be” Peter Rabbit (in a very real sense, to him) and that’s how I knew we couldn’t go wrong with this costume. It was really simple to make, too.

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Mara had two options I was excited about — both costumes we already owned. A lobster (a la Corban’s first Halloween) and a bumble bee. The bee won in the end.

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Starting last year, fall will forever be a special time of year for me. This fall I was reminded of all the wonderful memories we made last year with newborn Mara and sweet toddler Corban, while I was off work and the weather was gorgeous. This fall seemed to fly by, but I couldn’t help but reminisce about that blissful season last year, and it makes me want to savor this time of year even more.

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Halloween marks the turning point, for me, between warm, carefree evenings outside and the bustle of the holiday season. It’s the most social night of the year for our neighborhood–a kind of culmination of Wisconsin’s warm months. It’s a night where we relax outside with neighbors–some of whom we may rarely talk to the rest of the year, and we most certainly won’t see much of once the snow falls and the temps drop.

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And this year we really got good bang for our Halloween buck. Our trick-or-treat hours were the Sunday before Halloween. The weather was perfect and both kids had a blast (we also got candy from a local radio personality who apparently lives down the street from us). We also celebrated with friends the morning of real Halloween, then drove to my parents that afternoon, trick-or-treated again with family/friends and then left the kids with my parents and actually went to an adult Halloween party at a friend’s in Chicago. An absolutely perfect mix of people and events that made the long day totally worth it.

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Toddler Valentine’s Day

In all the hype surrounding the romantic side of Valentine’s Day… gifts, cards, dates, chocolate recipes (especially when you’re planning content for a lifestyle site – I have been living and breathing all of those topics), I had almost forgotten how much fun Valentine’s Day was as a kid.

Disney Princess valentines torn along the dotted lines. Candy hearts. Stickers. A pink hair bow. An exciting whirl of an afternoon slipping cards into your classmates’ decorated shoeboxes.

Peter and I did go out for a nice dinner this year on Valentine’s Day eve. It was romantic and very adult. I tried foie gras. But Friday morning I was reminded how fun and festive the holiday of pink and red is for those to whom a kiss is the thing that makes an owie better and a heart is one of the five shapes you can identify.

We went to a little party with some of Corban’s best buds and their moms. It started with lots of playing – with 11 kids ranging from age 5 months to 5 years it’s more like strangely choreographed chaos interrupted by occasional tears – and eventually moved to craft time for the older kids.

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Yes, Corban is now one of the “older kids.” I don’t know when that happened and why it now seems like he’s always been one.

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They decorated picture frames for their dads with fun Valentine’s Day stickers.

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Then they made drawings to put in the frames.

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Somehow the pictures make this seem like a calm and controlled affair, but it was more like trying to keep a bunch of cats sitting at a table. I’m glad I was able to sneak away to snap some pictures, but crafts with a two-year-old are always very hands-on adventures!

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After Corban completed his frame, he decided to rip all the stickers off and throw them on the floor. I may have done a bit of reconstruction.

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Next on the agenda: cupcakes.

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Not hard to keep kids still for the approximately 2 minutes it takes to eat a cupcake!

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Then, the valentine exchange.

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There are so many cute ideas out there for DIY kid valentines. Oh, the puns! I promised myself I wouldn’t get too ambitious this year, but I wanted Corban to have some sort of hand in what he gave to his friends. Here’s what we ended up making:

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These were very easy to throw together the day before. I made a heart stamp from an empty toilet paper roll and had Corban (admittedly with the help of his nanny, not me) stamp hearts with white paint onto folded pieces of red construction paper.

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Then I filled resealable sandwich bags with about an inch of Valentine’s Day M&Ms…

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…and folded the tops down and stapled the construction paper sandwiched over the bag.

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So simple and fun to put together.

If you’re wondering what little Mara looked like on her first Valentine’s Day… well, I’d be happy to show you.

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Sweet and smiling as usual.

Hope you had as lovely a Valentine’s Day as we did. I’m hoping to get back here with some more updates soon since it’s been a while!

Fall front porch

My DIY wreath, which had such potential to change with the seasons and be a happy, holiday-appropriate fixture of our front door, is finally living up to its potential! Last year I attempted to update it for fall and then for Christmas, but both were fairly sad attempts. I am pleased with this round though.

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Our entire front porch got a tiny bit festive for fall.

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See the neighborhood watchman?

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I just tucked some fake leaves behind fall-colored felt flowers that are attached with bobbi pins.

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Our previous doormat lasted five years — and by lasted I mean it lay there for five years. It probably should have been replaced much sooner, but this find was worth the wait. It ties our blue door trim in with the fall colors.

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Corban helped us pick our family of pumpkins from Cozy Nook Farm’s pumpkin patch. They aren’t quite to scale.

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We learned the hard way that mums apparently require sunlight. Or at least that’s why I’m guessing ours died and our neighbors’ across the street are thriving.

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Happy fall! Although now it’s pretty much time to change over to Christmas decor. I’ll share that as soon as I get it up!

My mini mouse (an easy DIY costume)

My mom made almost all of the Halloween costumes I can remember from my childhood. Bride, witch, Barbie doll, Grinch (my brother)… she found patterns to sew, and when there was no pattern she made up her own. I didn’t realize at the time just how much work it was, but I loved every Halloween costume and went all out with it every year through high school, and even college (though by then I was putting together my own costumes).

I would love to do the same for my kids, but this year I found myself browsing Pinterest with less than one week until trick-or-treating, still undecided about Corban’s and Mara’s costumes. At that point, it had to be something simple if it was going to be homemade.

Then I found a pair of mouse ears from my sophomore year of college, when two friends and I dressed up as the three blind mice.

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(I forgot how un-mouse-like that costume actually was…)

Bingo! It would be easy to make him a simple mouse costume, and Mara could even be a cat.

It only took one (long) naptime to make this costume, and I didn’t have to buy anything at all!

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Here’s what I used:

Gray sweatshirt or jacket (light gray is best, but I used what we had)
Gray sweatpants
Two 8 1/2 x 11-inch sheets light pink felt
One 8 1/2 x 11-inch sheet gray felt
Needle and thread
EyelinerMouse ears

I cut one sheet of the pink felt to make the pink belly, and sewed it onto Corban’s gray fleece jacket using only a handful of single stitches spaced a few inches apart. I wanted to be able to easily remove it after Halloween without any damage to the jacket.

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I just pulled it over his head to put it on him come trick-or-treat time.

I decided to make mouse paw mittens, which aren’t really essential to the costume, but ended up being my favorite part. If you have gray mittens, you can just sew the pink paws onto them instead of making the mittens themselves, but for some reason I find that hand stitching a pair of mittens is less stressful than going out shopping to find a pair.

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I used Corban’s mittens as a pattern and cut a mitten shape about 1/4-inch larger than them. Then for each mitten I hand sewed two pieces of mitten-shaped felt together. If you have a sewing machine this will only take a minute, but it took me a couple episodes of “The Mindy Project.”

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I turned the stitched mittens inside out and prayed that they would fit Corban (he was still sleeping). Then I cut a few rough circles of pink felt and stitched them onto the palms of the mittens.

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Lastly, the tail. For this, I just hot-glued some pink felt into a roll, including in the middle of the roll a thin piece of wire we had lying around. I ended up making the tail way too long (this is what happens when your child is not in your range of vision — you forget how short he is!) so I pinned it pretty high up inside the back of his jacket once he was wearing it.

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For the nose and whiskers, first I tested out some homemade, all natural face paint by mixing a little bit of baby lotion with cocoa powder (for brown) and frozen raspberries (for pink). I did not want to put face paint on my babies for fear of exposing their gentle skin to potentially dangerous chemicals.

The homemade face paint was a giant fail! If there were a natural way to make black face paint, that would be one thing, but the brown just looked like chocolate (or you-know-what) on my face when I tested it. The pink actually turned out OK, but I don’t think it would have lasted very long on Corban’s or Mara’s noses.

So I went the eyeliner route instead. I’m sure there are chemicals I don’t want to know about in eyeliner, but I just told myself since it’s made to be applied near one of our most sensitive areas (the eyes) it can’t be that bad on baby cheeks and noses.

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My little kitten wore cat ears we already had, a black onesie, black tights and a small boa tail.

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Trick-or-treating was on Sunday in our city (I know, the Milwaukee area is weird and every city has its own trick-or-treat day and time, which is often not on Halloween). We went with friends who have two toddler girls and it was such a blast watching the little ones scramble up to each door on our street and reach their mittened little hands into bowl after bowl full of candy.

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Corban also helped me carve our big pumpkin that afternoon.

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It all reminds me once again what a fun age he is at.

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Your turn: What are your little ones being for Halloween? Or what were you as a toddler? Toddler Halloween is the cutest!

But you don’t need a card to tell you that

As I made Corban’s Father’s Day card for Peter last night (praying Peter wouldn’t come walking into the room and ruin the surprise), I felt really grateful.

Here’s the front of the card:

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On the inside I wrote the truth: “…but you don’t need a card to tell you that.”

That simple truth made me smile.

Corban is so in love with Peter, and it’s obvious. Sure, he loves me, too, but right now Dada is number one.

He covers Peter in kisses, plants himself in his lap for story time and bawls his eyes out when Peter goes out the front door just to get the mail.

As adults, I think we often find ourselves using birthday and holiday cards to tell people the things we’re not sure we effectively show them in person. It was special knowing there was nothing I could write in that card that Corban doesn’t already show Peter every day.

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We all had a really fun Father’s Day (although I’m pretty sure every day is really fun for Corban – playtime, storytime, naptime, park, stroller ride… this is his everyday life).

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I hope that as the years go by, Corban’s love is still impossible to hide, and mine becomes so evident that cards do nothing more than state the obvious.