It's pretty obvious from my dwindling blog posts that things have been a little crazy this past few months/year-ish. The biggest deterrent to posting has been that I've started back to near full-time work as an Adjunct Writing Professor.

Here's where the irony comes in.
The more I teach about writing, the more driven I feel to write more - while having less and less time to write because I spend all my time with the duties of teaching. Oh, and taking care of those amazing 5 kids - let's not forget that ;)

So when I had the opportunity to be sponsored by Taste of Home to attend this year's Build Your Blog Conference,  I knew it would plant even deeper in my soul the inspiration to get serious again about blogging.

Build Your Blog Conference

The conference had over 700 bloggers attending at the Little America Hotel. My biggest difficulty was choosing among the all the classes. If you know me, you know I just want to do it ALL!!


My favorites/highlights start with iBlog magazine, and their course on growing a blog. It was hilarious though because I was texting Tysen with a few of the things the speaker was saying about Podcasting, and it made for some crazy responses. Tysen's a little passionate when it comes to Podcasting ;)

Next was the information rich Taste of Home seminar on current trends. James Schend, the food editor, explained to us all about what is hot and what is not in the online world of recipes. Surprisingly, chicken - ALWAYS hot :-D

Then there was the fantastic and even inspiring class on creating content, with Katelyn Carmen from Family Share.  I was worried that, as a writing instructor, I'd be bored hearing the same stuff I cover, but it was an excellent and well-focused course. Having been invited to be a writer for Family Share at its inception (when it was still Family How), I was fascinated to hear about the site's progress.

Saturday I had to teach my writing class at the college in the morning, so I only got half a day in. Started with probably my favorite class of the conference from Susan Werner Jackson from Ahalogy, about Pinterest. As a Pinterest junkie, it was fun to hear about all the nitty-gritty of the Pinterest machine.

Sponsor Booths

Outside of classes, I had a great time visiting sponsor booths - where I learned about a bunch of cool business, like Chatbooks, MyCore, and Modify Ink. (Note, this is not a paid post - so I'm just loving and sharing these products because I think they're fun.)

If you don't know about these, Chatbooks makes your instagram pics into fun 60pg bound books. I love it because it doesn't take any extra effort - I just do what I do on instagram and get pictures out of it. My kids went even more crazy - maybe it's because they've hardly ever seen our pictures in print. (I'm such a slacker mom!)

MyCore is sort of a scheduling program - but a lot more. It helps convert a schedule into a system that keeps you on track with priorities and goals, plus provides access to experts in many fields. Links with google calendars and everything. Pretty awesome stuff, and I can't wait to get my life in order!

Modify Ink offers a whole bunch of art that you can customize to your room and taste, then they ship you the finished version for your wall. I'm totally fascinated, and want to re-decorate my whole house!

Slay Cancer with Dragons

Dinner that night was a Gala that included an extremely touching presentation from the Tyler Robinson Foundation. We heard from Tyler's brother, Jesse, about the origins of the foundation and about their March Fo(u)rth campaign. If you're unfamiliar, the Tyler Robinson Foundation is backed by the band Imagine Dragons, and it was inspired by the inspirational Tyler Robinson who lost his life to cancer. The foundation fights pediatric cancer specifically, as well as cancer in general. The March Fo(u)rth campaign aims to raise a gigantic awareness event worldwide on March 4th. We were asked to participate in the social media blitz - so expect to see lots from me next week!
By way of explanation, the dog-tag in my photo was one of hundreds placed at each seat. They are imprinted with the names and types of cancer each child supported by the foundation is fighting. It was overwhelming.

So that's the blogger conference. I'm still processing a week later.
I'm so grateful to have been able to attend, but I felt a lot of disconnect with so many serious bloggers with such focus and passion.  I love to write, but I've always felt this blog as a hobby.
What business have an elf, a dwarf and ghost in my blog post?
OK, now that I've totally humiliated myself with that REALLY bad appropriation and shown just how much of a geek girl I am, I can get on with things. If you're lost - awesome - you won't think any less of me!
My kids have grown-up loving dress-up, which is probably why they are drawn to drama, and also why they were ecstatic to discover Comic Con and Fantasy Con - making it ok for them to continue loving dress-up as they get older.  It also provides them with background for their Halloween costume choices. Realizing that I'm a busy person and unlikely to be making multiple costumes TOO many times a year, they plan ahead. They're smart little cookies! To that end, Lily and Isaac chose to go Lord of the Rings this year - cosplay themes that play well at the cons.


We've always been a fan of the Elves. Who isn't? I mean, they're just awesome.  Tall, etherial, graceful, wise - and that hair! So it wasn't a surprise to me that Lily wanted to be an elf. I've always wanted to be one too - but my short little self isn't at all elf-like. Lily's perfect!
The elves in the Lord of the Rings series, from Rivendell or Lothlorien, are gowned and flowing. What Lily was intrigued with was the Mirkwood Wood Elves from the Hobbit, particularly Tauriel.
Now, I know that there are all sorts of debates about Tauriel as a character, and Tolkien purists may go ahead and rant. I am a die-hard Tolkien fan (read the trilogy 3 times in my young adult life), and I'm not in this for a debate. All I know is that as a feminist, I like that my daughter is associating with this strong, intuitive, nature-loving, perceptive, compassionate character.
And debates aside, Lily was inspired by Tauriel's look, but is, as always, her own person. She used an elven name generator online to chose her own identity: Glorhel.
As for the costume, I used a vintage Vogue pattern for the jacket/shirt/dress part. I adore Vogue patterns.  They are beyond amazing. Difficult? Often. Worth it? Every time. This one is bias-cut, a pain in the neck using a ton of fabric, but the way it hangs cannot be beat. I switched it backwards, since the dress pattern zips up the back and I needed it to open in front.

 I wanted more drama, so I looked up elven designs online, then, since I'm always in a hurry, instead of being smart and making a solid real design, just started free-handing with paint on one collar side. Luckily, it worked out fantastic! Replicating it
onto the other side, however was a pain in the......  I also painted designs down the sleeves, using a woodland inspiration.  I'm often asked about fabric paint, since I paint MANY fabric projects.  I only use one kind of paint ever since I found this stuff.Jacquard Lumiere Metallic Acrylic Paint 2.25 Ounces-True Gold  I can't find it locally, which is a pain, but it is the best.  It is smooth, consistent, gorgeous on any type of fabric - lights and darks. The metallics are beautiful. It can be used as a dye (if you look at my Elsa cape and notice the ombre effect on the cape and sleeves, I used the blue metallic, watered down, to achieve that look, and it is spectacular).
For the elven vest, I used a dress bodice pattern, and sewed it out of a soft suede, reinforced with craft foam treated to look like leather. (Have I done a tutorial on that yet? Seriously? It's the coolest thing EVER!) Gold elastic chord made laces up the back.

Again, I used craft foam treated to look like leather to make the vambraces. I just used sharp scissors to carve the designs into the foam BEFORE treating it.  How do you treat it?  SO simple!  Just iron it. Use some parchment paper to protect your iron, and iron away. The foam becomes soft and pliable, and the surface stops looking foamy and looks leathery. While it's hot, form it to whatever surface you want.  In this case, Lily's arms. It doesn't bounce back when cool. Voila, bracers!

I used brown foam, then lightly painted the design with gold paint (same fabric paint as before, only WAY watered down - I just wanted a tiny highlight). Then rough the whole thing up with black shoe polish to weather it. A little furniture polish if you want it shiny in places.
Some people recommend Mod Podge, that gives a shiny, polished finish - like patent leather, and that wasn't the look we were going for.  I usually only Mod Podge if I've painted the foam, to seal it (like when I've made it look like metal - see the dwarf helmet later).

Elf ears were just cheap plastic ones cut to custom fit. And a cloak, of course!

It's all about the hair with Elves! No wig here!
And there we have a Mirkwood wood elf!


For the Dwarf, layers are key.  Layers, layers, layers.  Of course Peter Jackson's Dwarves wear lots of leather, which is awesome. But we made do.

What surprised me about dwarves is the fine line between dwarf and biblical costume. Yep. It made me laugh too. But think about it. Long tunic underneath long vest with detailed trim. I had to take a couple trims back because as I laid it out I realized it was looking like he was going to be in a Nativity Scene rather than mining for gold! Really, a super fine line.

In the end I had to hand-paint an oversized trim based on a pattern from a dwarf in the Hobbit film.
One thing I've learned about Elves and Dwarves is that Elves always use rounded, curving shapes and Dwarves use geometric, straight patterns. Keep to that and everything is OK!
Fur trim is always good. Added fur trim to the vest. Fur trim to the top of a pair of ugg boots. You can't quite see the tunic underneath, but there is a piece of fabric that looks like chain mail set inside an open neck. I was proud of that little detail :)
The beard I LOVE. Could have gone with a full Santa style beard, but he's a kid. This beard is hilariously perfect.  Had to be held on with spirit gum, but that's the price you have to pay.

The hat. Oh my. The hat. I wanted a wig. No wigs.
Husband bought the hat. A viking hat. Dwarves and vikings are NOT the same. The problem is, with a viking hat, the kid becomes a viking! The whole costume is a viking in that one detail! So out with the viking horns, and what do you do with two gaping holes? Cover both sides of the helmet with foam treated to look like leather, of course! Applied VERY patiently. Over lots of time. Ironed over and over, as the foam gradually learns to take a new shape without folds. Then glued in place. Make a front piece also out of foam, painted to match the metal helmet. And we're back in business as a dwarf. Whew!

But the cream on top is the gauntlets. Made ON Halloween day, with moments to spare, the kid suddenly, desperately needs gauntlets. I study the dwarf gauntlets to determine that they connect to fingerless gloves. Whip out the shapes.
One layer is thick foam, the other thin.  The thin foam is cut into the detail design. Both are ironed (tricky, because they do shrink, and thin shrinks more than thick). Glued together. Shoe polished.
Then here's the crazy. (If we haven't already achieved it) Sew the finished, shaped gauntlets to rectangles of knit fabric. Yep, I said sew. You can sew craft foam. It's trickier when it's been shaped, but it's possible.

Sew the gauntlets to the fabric. Sew the fabric into tubes. Turn. cut holes for the thumbs, and you've got fingerless gloves with gauntlets attached.  And you've got a dwarf.
Dwarves will always find tunnels!


Our final costume doesn't get much coverage.  Seth is in the musical "Peter Pan" at his high school right now, so he's NEVER home. For the same reason, I don't have many pictures.  He knew what he wanted, but wasn't here much to discuss it.  As it was, he turned out very cool.
He was the Hatbox Ghost from the Haunted Mansion.  He didn't know how to be transparent, so he opted for a full-color version - as if the ghost were in the world what would he look like.  Pretty creative! He couldn't find a hatbox, so he found a cool picnic basket and spray painted it.
This year, he passed out candy on our porch, where there was a blacklight to make his skull mask glow, and he was hilarious!  He scared so many kids.  I was super proud of him because he put so much of his costume together himself this year. I made the cape, and the mask is Tysen's (a very cool kind that is applied directly to the face so that it moves when the wearer talks. Seth applied more makeup after I took pictures so that his face and neck were more obscured), but the rest of the costume he found at second hand stores, costume shops, and out of closets throughout the house! Way to be creative, Seth!

Putting the PLAY in Cosplay

The best part of dress-up is playing. I love that my kids aren't too cool to play, no matter their age.  It's a little harder to get them to forget I'm there as they get older, but I love when they get goofy and have fun.  So here's the appendix of silly pics.  In my humble opinion, this is what it's REALLY about!

This first group of pictures I LOVE because they are Lily actually Being a Woodland Elf. I also adore them because even though they are not in focus, they look like watercolor paintings:

And finally we have Elf and Dwarf together. Hilarity ensues. I love the running series where Isaac gets into character by being Dwarf exhausted by Elf. 

Our elementary school this year had over 100 Elsa costumes and over 50 Anna's from Frozen! And my youngest two girls were among that number.  It was like a sea of blue!  My Elsa, predicting the large numbers, was determined to stage a sing-in of "Let it Go" during recess with everyone sporting the proper costume!

The thing I love most about costumes - and probably the reason I invest so much of my time and energy into sewing and creating them for my kids - is the amazing springboard they are to imagination. I am not a fan of Halloween because of ghosts and gore; I love Halloween because I love watching children have permission to be whatever they wish for that day. I watched Captain America somersault to hold open a door for a princess, who graced him with a regal curtsey. Every year I see kids come out of their shells and become the most outrageous characters and I love it!

This year all five of my kids wanted new costumes. That's a record. Normally a few of them plan something based off of something we've done in the past that requires me to make two or three new and modify some hand-me-downs. But this was unprecedented. And a little insane.

And because of the scale of it, I'm breaking my posts up as I did my sewing. Starting with the little girls - I'm covering Elsa and Anna by themselves. We'll get to the other kids in due time.


Honestly, I'm not sure if there is any girl left in the world without an Elsa costume who would need a tutorial, but since I used some rather interesting techniques, I'll still probably do a tutorial about the full insanity soon, but today I just want to get pics up. So here is how my Elsa turned out:


I can't imagine a more perfect personality for Anna. This was more than an ideal costume for my sunshine girl.


But the true story here is about sisters.

© 2012. Design by Main-Blogger - Blogger Template and Blogging Stuff