Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Ellie Kitty

Doesn't this little kitty have the prettiest blue eyes?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Other Halloween Fun

Trick or treat!

I mentioned earlier this week that we really stretched out our Halloween fun this year, and took part in a myriad other celebrations. Most of them allowed the kids to get more wear out of their costumes, so that was a bonus!

The first event was a Halloween picnic in Hemming Park. I got the kids suited up and we took the train over for the festivities, which included a MyGym play station, painting, free cookies, a little Halloween parade around the park and trick-or-treating at the vendor tables. This was Ellie's first taste of trick-or-treating this year and man, was she hooked.

Rapunzel and Pascal on the Jacksonville Skyway

Just looking amazing.

Painting a paper pumpkin

Flips with MyGym


Taking a break to eat some candy by the shark

Poor sweaty little Pascal!

We also went to the Zoo Spooktacular again this year, and had a nice time. Ellie was able to get her first use of the glowing feature of her Rapunzel dress, and we did some more trick-or-treating. Ellie got a little nervous in the "spooky" part of the zoo (the Nightmare Before Christmas-themed portion), but for the most part, both kids enjoyed it.

E.J. was so tickled by Woodstock!

High five for koala bear

With Wendy and Tinkerbell

"That candy better have come from E.J.'s bucket, woman."

For another round of trick-or-treating, we went to trunk-or-treat at Ellie's preschool church. That was such a nice event! People went all out with their trunks and treats (E.J. was especially fond of a Thomas the Train-themed one), and they served fun food for cheap. The kids enjoyed trick-or-treating and then playing in the pumpkin patch.

Trunk or treat!

Cute little pumpkin!

The day before Halloween we went downtown for a Halloween-themed storytime at the Main Library which included not only the usual storytime, but also a parade around the library and a Halloween craft. Then we went back out to Hemming Park and the surrounding area for Trick or Treat In The Street, which was trick-or-treating at local businesses. We didn't last long, because naptime, but still had a nice time. Trick-or-Treat In The Street would probably be really fun if you could devote some time to it and really walk around and get a feel for the downtown area and check out some of the local establishments. Mental note for next year!

E.J. making a Halloween mask at library art class

Ellie trick-or-treating in a restaurant on Laura Street

The night before Halloween we ditched the costumes in favor of some more comfortable Halloween wear and went to San Marco Square for the Halloween/FL-GA Bash in Balis Park. We had a great time! They had live music and food and beer for purchase, plus a FL-GA cornhole tournament and trick-or-treating at surrounding businesses. Ellie loved dancing to the bluegrass music and E.J. just wanted to walk all around the park holding my hand, so that was highly enjoyable for me, too!

I was able to get Ellie out of her Rapunzel dress by promising her she could wear her black cat dress with her kitty ears and—the kicker!—I would put whiskers on her. She was OBSESSED.

Cute little mummy!

Festive signage at the entrance to San Marco Square

The lions were looking rather nice for the occasion too!

Ellie and Eric dancing to the live music

Walking with E.J.

And that was it! Quite the Halloween Spectacular, eh? We really know how to get our money's worth out of a holiday. Bring it on, Christmas!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

"Tangled" Family Halloween Costumes

I wanted to do a little in-depth recap of our Halloween costumes, because we had such a great time putting this ensemble together. Ellie has been a hardcore Tangled fan for months now, and she loves playing the part of Rapunzel (of course). Always one to go fully into character, in her daily play she has assigned the rest of us roles in the Tangled cast, so it was an easy fit to assign parts for our family Halloween costume.

I'm not going to do any full tutorials this year, largely because, well, I don't feel like it. Ha! But also, most costumes were just embellished by me, and not made entirely from scratch. There are a couple of exceptions to that statement (most notably, Eric's Flynn Rider vest, which was my largest sewing project to date), but for most of those things, excellent tutorials are already floating around out there on the Internet so I see no reason to reinvent the wheel. I will, however, direct you to my inspiration and any tutorials I followed!

So, let's put together a Tangled family Halloween costume!

* * * * *


Ellie (3.5 years old) as Rapunzel!

Ellie was so excited to play the lead role in this year's tale, and she did so beautifully in a store-bought Rapunzel dress. It was a special dress, brought from Tokyo Disney just for the occasion (thanks to her aunt who returned from Japan with dress in tow just in time for Halloween)! Ellie loved it.


Of course, the coolest part of this dress was that it had a little battery pack in it that made the skirt light up—a big hit with Ellie, and perfect for trick-or-treating in the dark!

Ellie's light-up dress!

No Rapunzel costume would be complete without "long, long hair," so I made Ellie a long braid out of yellow yarn using this tutorial. After making the braid I glued a ton of pink and purple flowers all over it to mimic Rapunzel's braid in the movie.

Rapunzel's braid, heavily adorned with flowers

My interpretation

As for shoes, as Ellie will tell you, Rapunzel "wears barefoot" but obviously that's not an option for trick-or-treating. So, I picked up some plain white shoes at a consignment store and covered them in purple glitter (using this tutorial, which I also used to make Ellie's Tinkerbell shoes last year) and glued some gemstones on the toes. Because, you know, if there's anything to get Ellie to slightly break character, it's glitter and jewels. As expected, Ellie loved them.

Shoes fit for a long-haired princess!

And so our Rapunzel was Halloween-ready!


Of course, Rapunzel needs her trusty chameleon friend Pascal by her side.

E.J. (15 months) as Pascal!

I got really lucky with E.J.'s Pascal costume: I found a frog costume in his size for cheap at a consignment sale, and I was able to use that as the base. It was the full suit with hood and mittens, which was all the hard stuff! With a few modifications, that frog became Pascal.

One big change was the eyes. The frog eyes were narrow and squinty and I wanted them big and round and expressive like Pascal's eyes are. So, relying heavily on this full Pascal costume tutorial, I added some stuffing and felt to the eyes to fill them out a bit.

The eye on the right is the original frog eye, and the one on the left is my modified version. I rounded them out, added "eyebrows," and gave the eye itself more dimension. (He still got called a frog, but hey, let's just say he made a darn cute amphibian and not get ourselves worked up over it.)

Naturally, Pascal also needs that curly chameleon tail. I once again used the tutorial linked above to make a tail, and then I sewed snaps to the tail and the suit so the tail was removable. It didn't look quite as nice as it would have if I just sewed the tail directly onto the suit, but my purpose was twofold: 1) I wanted to be able to remove the tail so E.J. could sit comfortably in the stroller or car seat in his costume; and 2) I wanted to make a babywearing version of his costume (more about that momentarily), and by using snaps on the tail I was able to remove it and snap it onto the carrier cover I made for an easy transition from toddling to wearing.

Pascal's curly tail

I also wanted to make some little feet to go over E.J.'s shoes. I used the same tutorial linked above to create little feet, which I sewed to the bottom of the suit legs. I attached elastic to the bottom of the feet so they would stay on top of his shoes, and voila: chameleon feet!

Look at those little chameleon toes!

Now, I also wanted to have the option to wear E.J. in a baby carrier for all of our various Halloween outings. But, I didn't want the carrier to cover his adorable chameleon-ness. So I had to make a cover for my carrier. I once again lucked out and found a dinosaur costume for a dog in the Dollar Spot at Target for only $3. It fit perfectly over my carrier! The straps of the costume that go around the dog's neck fit nicely over the shoulder straps of my mei tai (I added Velcro at the sides of the carrier to hook them on better), and the waist strap of the costume hooked right around the front panel of the carrier. Perfect! All I needed to do was chop off the dinosaur tail, trim down the spikes and add some snaps so I could snap on the tail I made. Voila!

Chameleon-wearing! (My cape had arm holes which were perfect for threading my mei tai straps through for back-wearing!)

Our whole family: the babywearing version

And that's how we created our happy little chameleon!

The sweetest Pascal!

Flynn Rider

Eric as Flynn Rider

Ah, Flynn Rider! My biggest labor of love this year. Most of the costume was easy: Eric already had the white shirt and khaki pants, and we ordered some cheap boot tops on Amazon. His "satchel" was a brown purse of mine. He wore a belt he already had.

The vest, though, was a project. Pinterest served me well with vest tutorials and I referenced both this one and this one pretty extensively. The vest isn't actually a vest in that it doesn't open and close; it goes over his head like a shirt. I used blue fleece and traced one of Eric's shirts for the "pattern," leaving a little extra length at the shoulders to make faux "sleeves." I sewed lines on the front panel of the vest to give it a little texture (as described in this tutorial), made a collar (using this tutorial) then sewed on the buckles and other details. I was so pleased with the end result!

A closer look at Flynn's vest from the movie

My interpretation!

A better look at some of the details

That's one handsome outlaw, if I do say so!

Mother Gothel

Last year was a nice break from being the villain for me, but I was back at it this year!

Mother Gothel!

My costume required the least work of all of them. I found this Renaissance dress on Amazon and thought it was a near-perfect match. I paired it with a black cape I already had, as Mother Gothel often sports a black cape while she's out and about.

Looking rather wicked

The rest was just makeup. I used spray hair color to color my hair black, and did my best to do some gold/bronze eye makeup using this picture as a guide:

Mother Gothel's makeup

I'm far from a makeup guru, but at least I felt I looked the part!

Mother knows best!


Last but not least, we have crime-fighting palace horse Maximus, played by our dog, Achilles!

Achilles as Maximus

Achilles' costume was the only one I made completely off the cuff. For his mane, I cut a piece of felt to go across the top of his head like a hat, and cut two ear holes in it. I sewed an elastic strap to the bottom to hold it on his head, and I attached a long, loose strip of faux leather to the top of the elastic pieces to serve as the reins. Then, I wrapped a pipe cleaner around the hat piece and let it extend down the back of his neck. I tied pieces of white yarn to the pipecleaner to create the mane.

For his saddle/harness, I sewed a piece of black felt onto red felt to look like the saddle on top of a blanket. I sewed straps to the bottom of the red blanket piece to hold it to him, and secured them with Velcro. I also sewed a little ribbon loop at the top of the vest where the pipe cleaner from the mane met the saddle, so I could hook the pipe cleaner to the saddle and hold it all together.

I also sewed two strips of brown felt to the front of the saddle piece in a V-shape to make the harness, and attached one strip of faux leather from the point of the V back to the Velcro straps on the saddle blanket so it all went on just like a regular dog hardness would. I decorated the brown V-straps with yellow puffy paint, adding the gold dot detail and sun emblem to the center.

I must say, Achilles is getting better and better at posing for pictures. He was on his best photogenic behavior this year!
Look at that poise!

What a noble steed!

 * * * * *

And there you have it! This marks four years now of family costumes for us, and I've had such a blast with each one, it's hard to pick a favorite:

This was definitely a fun one!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Halloween 2015

Happy November, friends! I hope you all had a wonderful Halloween. We had a great weekend, though really we stretched our Halloween out for the better part of October so I have lots to share with you. Today, however, we'll just talk about good old October 31st itself.

We kicked off our Halloween with a Dunkin Donuts treat, kindly retrieved by Eric and Ellie, who was dressed to the Halloween nines in skeleton pajamas and jack-o-lantern headband.

That girl does not mess around when it comes to holiday apparel.

This year, we can't talk Halloween without mentioning the Florida v. Georgia game. The Gators always play the Bulldogs on neutral ground in Jacksonville the last weekend in October, so this big game is usually linked to Halloween. This year, however, the game actually fell on Halloween, which I know left many Jacksonville parents with a dilemma: go to the (entire) game, or take the kids trick-or-treating? We didn't make plans to actually go to the game, so we were not faced with such a predicament, but we did want to include the festivities in our plan for the day.

Shockingly, in the five years Eric and/or I were in Gainesville for college, and in the two years we've been living in Jacksonville, we have never made it to a FL/GA game. This game includes an epic tailgating event primarily based at the Landing, known as the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. We weren't able to go to the game itself, and weren't exactly on board to partake of any drunken craziness with two small kids in tow, but we wanted to somehow be a part of the FL/GA atmosphere. So, for our morning outing, we walked over to the Landing just to check out the scene.

It was a beautiful day for a nice walk across the Main Street Bridge, and the Landing was already starting to look a bit orange/blue and red/black. Most places were still setting up but it was fun to be a part of the early moments of what must have been a rather fun day out there!

Family on the Main Street Bridge, with the Landing behind us!

E.J. was looking festive!

Eric and Ellie on the bridge

Now we can all say we were at the Landing for FL/GA 2015. We just won't mention the part about being so early that not much was happening yet!

After walking around the Landing we went over to Hemming Park where the kids played with the big blocks for a while. Then we took the Skyway back home, fed everyone lunch and got the kids down for naps.

Ellie and me, just a couple of astronauts sitting in our spaceship

E.J. loved rolling the circular blocks all around!

As the kids napped, we watched the first half of the game and were thrilled to see the Gators take a 20-3 lead. They ultimately won 27-3, so Happy FL-GA weekend, indeed! Go Gators!

When the kids got up from naps we fed them dinner then all got outfitted in our costumes. We snapped a few more pictures and then set out to trick-or-treat!

Let's do this!

Our trick-or-treat plan was about the same as last year: we walked to the neighborhood surrounding our favorite "seahorse" park and trick-or-treated there. Let me tell you, Ellie loved it. She happily hopped out of the stroller and/or walked between houses, eagerly running up to every door and singing out, "TRICK OR TREAT!" She did get a little nervous about the "spooky" houses but for the most part, she was just totally game. As for E.J., he was a bit bewildered but put forth a good effort for several houses before happily excusing himself to the comfort of the stroller and the joy of a snack cup full of animal crackers.

Time to trick-or-treat!

The cutest!

Ellie was a big hit at this house!

E.J. and Eric

Family trick-or-treat pic!

Poor, hot little E.J. That costume was not really Florida-appropriate. I hoped and prayed for cool weather, but naturally we had record high temperatures for Halloween. Bless his sweaty little heart.

Walking with my Rapunzel and Pascal!

Ellie and Eric doing their thing

One house was handing out popsicles (which seemed like a very odd choice, until we ate them, and then it seemed like a GENIUS idea). E.J. found the popsicle quite hilarious!

The annual "Ellie looking like a crazy person as she runs back from a house" picture! She had so much fun!

We stayed out for about an hour, just going up one side of the street and back the other. We had a great time and the kids came home with a pretty nice little haul! Lucky parents kids, eh?


Eric and I had big plans for wine and Halloween candy and a movie, but alas, we were spent. By the time we had dinner and washed all the black hair color out of my hair, we were pretty much ready to pack it in. Gone are the days of all-night Halloween partying, my friends.

Even still, it was a perfect day and the kids had a great time. I'm so excited for the rest of the holiday season to come—they're just going to love the next two months!