Halloween is in just two short weeks, which means you may be looking for Halloween costume ideas. Or you may have children like mine, who start planning next year’s Halloween costume on November 1.
I have many failures as a mother. I am not very tidy. I don’t volunteer in my kids’ classrooms. I refuse to iron anything. I don’t check my 7 year old’s homework (not that I could do anything with it – it’s all in Spanish). My kids eat fish sticks for dinner not-infrequently (don’t tell the home cooking police). But I have two points of pride: Homemade birthday cakes, and homemade Halloween costumes.
In the collage above, you can see the Nuni’s creations over the years. I am not a great sewer, but I’m good enough for Halloween. From the top, Tinkerbell (I made the tutu!), a Ladybug (made the jumper, with black tights and black wings and homemade antennae headband), the cutest lopsided Cinderella ever, Bernadette (this was me last year, from this book – easiest Halloween costume ever), Merida and baby brother (my mom sewed the Merida dress, and the baby was in a bear hat and black pajamas), and last year’s Eloise and Max).
Max (from Where the Wild Things Are) breaks my homemade rule – this is a PBK costume that I love so much I bought it when Bootsy was tiny (on clearance, after Halloween) and he’s wearing it again this year.
Eloise is my favorite genius costume idea.
If you’re not familiar with Kay Thompson’s Eloise (with drawings by Hilary Knight) you should go out and read it right this second. I’ll wait.
OK, back? I leaned hard on the Nuni to be Eloise last year when she was six, because Eloise after all is six, and it remains and will remain my all time favorite kid’s Halloween costume.
The great thing about this costume is that it was very easy to put together black pleated skirt, black suspenders, white blouse, knee socks, black mary janes and pink bow – but you can wear all of it again! The Nuni wore the skirt and blouse to school as part of her uniform for the rest of the year, and the knee socks and shoes went into the regular rotation, too. We even got a little stuffed weenie dog to hold.
We’ve got great things planned for this Halloween too, and I’ve got to log some sewing time this weekend. The Nuni is requiring me to dress up this year, too. What about you? What are your Halloween plans?
Last week I peeled walnuts. I sat down with a sharpened skewer and a bowl of walnuts, doused in boiling water. I slowly, methodically, lifeted the sheer skins off the nut, scraping each surface, excavating each tiny canyon.
Most of my days are measured by time. I wake (too early) to the alarm, then it’s rush all day long to meet one deadline after another – beat the traffic, get to school by the first bell, get to work on time, get to daycare before it closed, get the children fed and bathed and in bed by a reasonable hour, and then squeeze in whatever leisure I can before I must go to bed, too, in order to have the energy to tackle the next day.
Meals, too, are hurried affairs. What breakfast can be eaten in the car? Do I have time to pack lunch or is it cafeteria day again? How quickly can I get dinner on the table? Do the grownups get to eat before 9 pm? What I’m primarily looking for in a recipe is some combination of efficiency, taste and health – I don’t have time for precision or technique.
But occasionally, I will be able to steal an hour to sit down and peel walnuts.
I was making chiles en nogada – a Pueblan dish of stuffed chiles topped with a creamy walnut sauce and pomegranates. We had guests visiting from out of town, and I wanted to make something special. The recipes I found warned that the walnut peels added a bitterness to the sauce, and so I sat down, ignoring the piles of laundry, the dishes in the sink, the emails to be answered, and I lifted the skins off those walnuts with a pointed skewer, bit by bit, seeking, as I did so, the touch of the sublime.
There is joy in this kind of work, if you can find it. If you can leave behind the deadlines for some time and work with your hands at a tedious task that will take your finished product one step closer to perfection. If you can inhabit your task, thinking only of what is in front of you – not today’s crises, or tomorrow’s challenges, but only this – the walnuts, the skewer, the bowl of creamy nuts, stripped of their protective skin.
This is why I love to cook, and the type of cooking I love to do – to take the time to make something, to take the extra time to make it well, to make it right. Not every meal is like this. Heck, not one in ten meals is like this. But if it weren’t for these meals – these meals prepared without the pressures of the world – I couldn’t make the others – the dinners on the table in ten, the breakfasts on the go, the brown bag lunches. There have been a slew of articles lately about people who hate cooking – the drudgery of it. I get it! I do! Getting meals on the table can be a real slog. I value shortcuts – and I share them with you here – because I need shortcuts. I need the tips and the tricks to keep the domestic front from losing us the war. And that’s why a lot of the recipes I post here on The Domestic Front are just that – recipes that help you get meals on the table, even when it’s a chore (and by you I mean men and women. I’m not trying to tie women to the kitchen. But we need to eat, and our kids (if we have them) need to eat, and there is value in eating good, home-cooked food, in a culture of cooking, and of developing skills and self-reliance.
But if the only cooking you ever get to do is the kind you have to do, it will always feel like a slog. It will be hard and hateful. But if just sometimes you can take the time, have the luxury to cook something because you want to, not because you need to, take the time to make it just a little better without bringing down the whole operation, find your groove in a quiet kitchen – that’s where the good stuff is.
I didn’t peel all the walnuts. I decided, after an hour or so, with my fingers pruned and my shoulders hunched, that I would prefer bitterness in the sauce to bitterness in my soul if I continued. It was delicious anyway. The point is in the process.
image: U.S. Army Civil Corps of Engineers, Europe Division via Flickr
It’s that time of the year! The time when we collectively go indoors and proceed to spend the next six months infecting each other with any number of upper respiratory illnesses. You can stop (part of) the cycle! Go get your flu shot!
Vaccines are in the news a lot lately – measles and whooping cough are on the rise because of unvaccinated children. I’m not going to go into childhood vaccinations (but really, vaccinate your kids!) but even reasonable adult people, who would never think TWICE about fully vaccinating their kids, don’t get a flu shot. Why is that?
It takes five minutes. It doesn’t hurt much at all – less than stubbing your toe. It can protect you AND people you love from a terrible illness. Sure, you have to repeat it every year, but why not? It’s probably covered by your insurance, and many local grocery stores with pharmacies and pharmacy chains will give you a discount on your purchases if you get your flu shot there. Get protected from the flu AND save 10% on your groceries! There’s literally NO downside.
I see reasonable people throw out all sorts of reasons why they aren’t getting a flu shot. None of these are good reasons. Let’s look at them, shall we?
I don’t need a flu shot; I never get the flu!
You never get polio, either, and I bet you’re vaccinated against that. Besides, there’s a first time for everything.
I don’t get a flu shot because one year I got the flu shot and I got the flu.
This is scientifically impossible. Flu shots are manufactured from a deactivated virus. You CANNOT get the flu from them. (You can potentially get the flu from the nasal spray, but the potential is very, very slight because the virus is extremely weak). What may have happened is that a) you were already exposed to the flu because you waited too long to get the shot and it takes two weeks to take effect or b) you caught a cold because (as I said above) it’s upper respiratory illness season. A cold is not the flu.
I don’t get a flu shot because they don’t work!
Look, the flu shot isn’t perfect. The manufacturers make a calculated prediction of which strains of flu will be most prevalent in the upcoming winter. And sometimes they’re wrong. And even when they’re right, the efficacy is still 70%-90% in clinical trials. However, do you know what works less well than getting a flu shot? NOT getting a flu shot. Not getting a flu shot has 0% efficacy in preventing the flu. Also, there’s this thing called herd immunity. The more people who get a vaccine, the more effective it is in preventing the disease in a population, because fewer people are exposed to sick people. Let’s aim for that, shall we?
I don’t get a flu shot because the flu is not that serious.
You’re thinking of a cold. A cold is not that serious. The flu (not the stomach flu, which is something else) will land you in bed for a week, even if you’re young and healthy. And there’s the potential for serious complications, such as pneumonia, which land 200,000 Americans in the hospital each year and kill 36,000 people (according to the CDC). Plus, even if you are young and healthy, chances are that you meet people who are not. The flu is especially dangerous for young children and the elderly. Don’t you think it’s worth a stick in the arm to not kill children and grandmas? Yes, yes it is.
I don’t get a flu shot because there are dangerous chemicals in the shot
There’s more mercury in a can of tuna than in the flu shot, which is extensively tested for safety (as are all vaccines.) The chances of a reaction beyond a sore arm are extremely rare – FAR more rare than the chances of getting the flu and having serious complications. Driving to the supermarket carries with it far more risk than getting a flu shot. If you’re seriously concerned about mercury, they do make shots without it for pregnant women and children.
I don’t get a flu shot because it hurts too much.
Put on your big girl panties and deal with it. My seven year old is terrified of needles. It took three medical personnel to hold her down to administer her Kindergarten shots. But she now realizes that she should just suck it up. I’m sure you have as much maturity as a seven year old. Also, I already got my flu shot this year and I swear there was no sore arm for more than about 15 minutes. It’s light this year. I worked out the next day and didn’t feel a thing.
In short, get your flu shot. 15 minutes of a sore arm could save lives, including your own. At a minimum, figure you’re doing it for the good of society, and pat yourself on the back. It’s your good deed for the day! There’s literally NO downside.
It’s October, and you know what that means – cool, crisp days, fires in the fireplace, scarves and boots, hot apple cider … Oh wait. I live in LA, and that means it’s ONE HUNDRED DEGREES today. I’m always irrationally mad at Southern California for ruining my favorite season. I’m sure you’re all tired of me bitching about the weather, so the good news is that this is probably the turning point, and that some time in the foreseeable future I may again be able to wear clothing with sleeves. Now on to the links to love:
1. From the Archives:
Now that it’s October proper, I feel like we can indulge in unabashed pumpkining. I’m totally going to make this pumpkin pie french toast this weekend, and pretend that it feels seasononal.
One of the reasons I love October despite being a native Californian with all the potential for awful weather that implies is because it’s my birthday month! I’m going to ignore the gray hair, and take a page from the Nuni’s book to focus on … presents! One of the things I’ve become moderately obsessed with this year is these absolutely chic ear pebble earrings from Catherine Canino. I love that combination of classic and modern, and they could really be worn with everything. (PS, they’re also available – and aptly named! – at Anthropologie.)
“All eyes are fix’d upon thee, most entranc’d-/thy coronation as the Queen of Dance!” — Abba
5. The Semi-Serious Feminist Article
Only this one’s all sexy. Have you guys been watching Outlander on Starz? You all know I’ve been a fan of the books since I read the first one (in college! I was 20!) and the TV series does not disappoint. Created by Ron More (who also created BattleStar Galactica), it’s a little slow-paced, but makes up for it with gorgeous scenery, authentic period details, fine acting, and eye candy. Lots of eye candy. This article from Maureen Ryan (Huffpo’s TV critic) helps explain what feels so FRESH about the series – it’s sexy times! For women! The women aren’t just getting raped and fondled (ahem, Game of Thrones – I love you, but I don’t love that about you) – they’re (and by “they”, I mean “she” because there’s still only one real female character) getting their jollies on! That sounds very salacious, but I promise you, it’s a good read.
We have family in from out of town and I have my book club this weekend, so there will be much gadding about. What are you up to this weekend?
I'm Kate, and between my day job and my home job, life is pretty full. Look around to find some of the recipes, projects, stories and tips that keep me sane on the domestic front. Read more about me here and feel free to email me with any questions or feedback!