Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My Beautiful Serafina

Of course I have a black cat!

She, like the rest of my pets (another cat, an orange tabby named Ryan and a mish-mash dog named Phineas) is from the Humane Society.  We adopted her a week before Thanksgiving 2009.  Luckily, I waited until after Halloween to adopt her because apparently a lot of animal shelters don't allow people to adopt black cats during the month of October because people are horrible and do horrible things to them.

Serafina really hit the jackpot with us if I may say so myself.  As did all our pets, the dog is currently taking up more of the bed than I am....She is so loved and spoiled and sweet.  Well, most of the time.

 When I was pregnant she would literally follow me around the house.  Up and down the stairs, sit on the mat in the bathroom while I took a bath, slept with me nearly every night.  When my daughter Violet was born she would sleep next to her crib (sometimes in the middle of the day I would bust her sleeping IN the crib) and occasionally outside her bedroom door.  She is a fierce protector of the other females in the house. 

But she doesn't like everybody.  Or most people.  She doesn't even really like the other cat that much, and she scares the dog.  The dog will literally stare at her and wag his tail as an invite for her to play with him, one hiss in his direction he starts to whimper and his head goes to the floor. 

Serafina has inspired my step-son Quinn to be a champion for black cats.  He wrote a paper on the neglect they suffer (black cats are the least adopted animals out of shelters.) And plans to open a shelter just for black cats when he is older. 

And there is this CD we have at the shop that plays during Halloween, and it is so bad and so out-dated, there is a song that is basically a man who is suppose to sound like WolfMan Jack saying "Black cat, black cat Jack attack.." it's terrible, and I sing it to Serafina more often then I would like to. 

Fancy Dress!

The shop I work for in downtown Anoka is called Party Papers.  It is primarily a costume shop, with a party shop towards the front of the store that sells greeting cards, tableware, napkins, plastic silverware, that sort of thing.  I have been lucky enough to work there on-and-off since 2007 (and it's haunted!  Even on the ghost tour!)  The people I work with there are some of the most creative and imaginative people I have ever met.  From make-up artists, to actors to costumers.  I was hired for my customer service skills.  I love being around all the accessories and costumes and creativity that comes with working at a place like this, but this is my usual go-to costume when I am working...

Just to clarify, we only dress in costume during the Halloween season.  It would be a little cumbersome to have to wear a costume every single day working a retail job.  But, there is always room for improvisation!

This mannequin, for example, was put together by one of my incredibly talented co-workers who is a costumer by trade.

So when it comes to the costume aspect of Halloween, that is where I struggle a bit.  I have all this product and resources at my disposal to put together an amazing costume, I just struggle with it!

The most ambitious I think I ever did was my corpse bride costume I did in 2007.

Here I am with a former co-worker at the Grand Day Parade in Anoka.  This would be my first Halloween at Party Papers and I wanted to make a good impression because those people don't mess around.  The dress is an actual vintage wedding dress the shop's owner Mary sold to me for ten dollars.  It was about 3 sizes too small, so the sleeves and the bust I just tore open.  As for the rest of the deterioration, the dress was burned, ran over on a dirt road and left outside for a few days (along with me and my handy hot glue gun attaching the cobwebs and spiders.)  Since the top was completely torn open and it's flipping October in Minnesota I had to fashion something to keep myself warm.  The top piece is a faux fur shall from a theater in St. Paul that closed and sold Mary a bunch of their old costume pieces.  I got that for a steal as well.  The head piece is a veil I got from Classy Consignments, a consignment shop in Anoka that has a large bridal section, and I soaked it in a sink full of tea for several hours to get the stained effect.  The wig was probably the most expensive part of the costume, it is the cheapest wig Party Papers sells for 27 dollars and I sprayed it with white hair spray.  The make is Ben Nye "Cadaver Gray" color, and I only did my face because I didn't want to spread make-up all over my arms and hands and then end up getting make-up on everything else I came in contact with.

The next year, I attempted some sort of blue fairy.

 Here I am flanked by my mom (who is wearing an authentic dress from the 1970's) and my sister.  I sprayed my hair blue, and I attempted to tint my skin a blue color too with a Ben Nye product.  It didn't go so well so I just threw a bunch a glitter on my chest.  Those horns come from the Renaissances Festival and the dress is actually a cheap, slutty-ish Marie Antoinette costume from Hot Topic.  I'm proud to say those pretty gauzy wings now hang on my bedroom wall.  Needless to say, this costume was much easier to work in than the corpse bride.

I call the next costume Drunk Flapper!

Because I totally was.

Then came Halloween of 2010....I was as pregnant as pregnant could be (I was due on November 1st...but didn't have my daughter until the 9th of November).  So I enjoyed the parade....

And then went to my mother-in-law's house and did my brother-in-law's make-up for a party he was attending later that night.

That Halloween weekend I laid incredibly low.  That Halloween night I did manage to take my step-son trick-or-treating but it was slow moving, and hurt my...entire body.

This year for Halloween the extent of my costume at work was this.... 

Anything I could plop on my head!  I thought my costumes were half-assed before I became a mother....

I am more into homemade costumes though than the kind you can buy.  Which is a terrible thing for me to say since I work at a costume shop.  But we are a quality costume shop that does a lot of theater work and have a large vintage and custom pieces, so I don't feel all that bad saying it.  Our shop is the place you come to to make your homemade, beautiful, awesome, creative costume even better!

My husband Jim made a great homemade costume a few years ago...

Super fun, super simple!  Fake blood, a dress shirt he no longer had use for and his son's hand-prints!

And my dear friend Kristi in her homemade Zachary Quinto costume....

Now that's creative!  And clever!  And hysterical!

And every Halloween my mom manages to be a hippie....but it's authentic, because it's all her clothes she wore in that decade!

All of that came out of her own closet!  Here she is posing with my friend Doty in Downtown Anoka...he is also wearing a homemade costume.  Doty is fastidious in the historical accuracy in a costume, so I don't quite remember what he was suppose to be but I think it was a World War II something or other...

There is nothing wrong with buying a costume out of a plastic bag, some of them are great and really well made, but I love to encourage people to make your own, do your own thing and be creative and have fun!  Halloween is the only time of year we get to be anything we want!  But, I am really tired of people being pirates....

Oh!  One last picture!  Here is a picture of the stock room stairs in the basement of Party Papers.  Good ol' creepy downtown Anoka!

Halloween Weddings

I would have loved to have had a Halloween wedding.  Me and Jim ended up getting hitched the second week of April with lovely hot pink neon green crazy magic fairy garden theme (in my head that's what it was, in reality it was a lot of spray painted hot pink terracotta pots filled with chocolate and my flower girl wore fairy was a $5,000 dollar wedding, don't hate.) I didn't have a Halloween wedding mostly because the idea and the execution of a Halloween wedding are usually two very different things.  And Halloween didn't land on a Saturday in the year I wanted to get married and people usually aren't keen on middle of the week weddings.

 I do love to look at Halloween weddings online though.  The ideal....

Usually turns out to be more like this...

Because A. Most people aren't supermodels with limitless budgets...
and B. Most of us Halloween types just don't know when to quit.  Oh, wait here's another one.

God love them, they're being themselves.

Aside from the bride and groom another aspect of a Halloween wedding that seems to lose perspective is the decor.  A fall themed wedding is one thing, with oranges and reds.  I knew a girl who got married at the end of October and used pumpkins as centerpieces, how cute!  But when you veer into a Halloween-specific themed weddings, well the reception runs the risk of looking like the stock room of a Party City.

And, personally, I feel graveyards have no place at weddings.

Please, don't lean up against my dead relative.  I like to take walks through cemeteries but I do so respectfully, and enjoy the history behind it.  And I certainly don't pose with the monuments....Okay, I did take a picture of this tombstone on a walk last summer because, dear God, how do you pass that up?


Then, with a Halloween wedding comes the question of what to dress the wedding party in.

This isn't terrible.  There is some symmetry to the bridemaids, groomsmens and whatever that gal in the black down in front is suppose to be.

But then you may also run into mishmash if you just let anyone wear whatever they want.  And there is no symmetry or cohesiveness.

For my wedding I wanted all of my bridesmaids to wear fairy wings, but my maid of honor, my sister Cori was like "Hell to the no."  So I quickly but the kibosh on that idea, and just my flower girl wore them.


Just the right amount of cute and costume.

However, a classy Halloween wedding can be done!  I have found some awesome evidence of that!

This offers the same cemetery feel, without, ya know, the dead people.  But an outdoor wedding in October is tricky.

  And holy cow!  Look at that cool cake!  Really, the best thing about Halloween weddings are these cakes.  Google Halloween Wedding Cakes to get all the "Neat-os!" out of your system.

And remember, if you do want to have a Halloween wedding, don't use a Halloween costume for a dress.  Get an actual dress.  It's your wedding, for pete's sake!  (See the beauty of a dress above.) 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Got to Hell, MI!

When I was a teenager I made a half-assed attempt at being goth.  It was the late '90's/early 2000's and goth had yet to transform into emo yet, and I don't even know if emo exists anymore because I'm 28 years old and I don't care anymore.

I listened to a lot of Nine Inch Nails (which I still enjoy) I wore a lot of band t-shirts and black eyeliner and I even dyed my hair black.  I did it in such a haste because I thought my mom would come home and bust me doing it and be mad at me and maybe try to make me wash it out, I did it so quickly I missed a few spots and my sister called me "Patchy" for a few weeks.

Along with my new found goth-ness I felt I needed a new spiritual path.  A path that a mopey teenager dressed in all black could really get behind, a path called Wicca.  I read the Wicca books, and realized it was a lot of damn work.  Going outside was involved, and I wasn't really into that when I was 15.  As was like, knowing a lot about the earth and herbs and stuff.  And direction was important, and I still don't know if I'm facing west unless the sun is rising (that's west, right?)  It was incredibility interesting to learn about and I respected those who dove in head first and did all the rituals and whatnot (especially if they did them skyclad) but it just wasn't for me at that time in my life.

Recently, I've revisited Wicca, mostly for a project I'm working on, and I have a new found respect for it.  I'm still not going to hang out and be naked with people I don't know while they celebrating me having my period during a full moon or whatever (that may be a broad generalization) but I appreciate it's pro-woman attitude, and the thing I love most about it is that it forces you to take responsibility for your thoughts and actions as they are occurring.  It doesn't allow you to do something bad when you know dang well you are doing something bad, and then later just ask your deity for forgiveness and everything is just fine.  I think being present of mind and being respectful to all things and all people is important, and it is something that is lacking in today's society.

The other thing I like about Wicca is the disbelief in evil.  There is no Satan.  And even if you believe in Satan you are giving something negative power, which makes itself manifest.  Again, being mindful of your thoughts and actions.

And that is why Hell, Michigan shouldn't even try and bother make itself Halloween Capital of the World.

if we are going to be nitpicky then if Halloween originated from the Pagan festival of Samhain, which was re-appropriated when the Christians took over everything to be a Saint's festival, but the old traditions held steady and fast and it became a general celebration for the dead (since Samhain was a celebrations that signaled the death of the land, bring your cows in from pasture because it's gonna snow, you guys) and then once again re-appropriated by the United States as a yum, yum, gimme some candy night....nowhere do I see the devil in these details.

Hell, Michigan. Tsk. Nice name, btw....


The Halloween Captial Of The World!

For those who live outside of Anoka, Minnesota not much is known.  On a national level, Anoka has become best known for the devastating number of middle school students who committed suicide after being victims of bullying.  Also, Anoka resides in Minnesota's 6th District, which is represented in Congress by Michele Bachmann.  So, not great things.  On a state level, the other 'burbs assume Anoka is a hot bed of meth and white trash that votes Michele Bachmann into congress and bullies middle school students to the point of taking their own lives.  None of which is untrue.  Anoka has no doubt earned it's reputation of intolerance and general political grossness.  I live in Anoka.  I have lived in the city limits of Anoka for the last two years, but Anoka has always been a part of my life.  My aunt and uncle have lived in Anoka for as long as I can remember and we spent massive amounts of time at my aunt and uncle's house growing up.  Anoka, geographically, is a beautiful city.  We are nestled on the confluence of the Rum and Mississippi River's and we have a rich history that I will not go into here ( I am a little obsessed with the history of Anoka.  It used to be such a vital little town!) Anoka has a great old school Main Street and downtown area with cafes and shops, of which one of the shops I am proud to say is my place of employment. And has such beautifully restored old homes that pay great tribute to Victorian architecture of the late 1800's. And lets not forget, the county jail is in Anoka too.

There are good people who live in Anoka, Minnesota.  People like me, who vote democrat and support human rights.  The thing that baffles me is I know a lot of people in this town, and I don't think a single one of them voted for Michele Bachmann, but then again, I don't know everyone in town, but I digress.  The good people of Anoka champion our little town with the black smudge on it's face because we know what a great place it is, and what good people live here.  And that it is the Halloween Capital of the WORLD!  Woot!  Woot!  Yes, it is self-declared, but it's official, dammit!  Made so by the powers that be in 1937 when the city of Anoka, who had by then been calling themselves that since the early 1930's (but having Halloween celebrations as early as 1919) sent a 12-yea- old boy to Washington, DC to make it official.  We have been tried to be usurped, by the likes of Salem, Massachusetts and Hell, Michigan (which is just stupid, more on that in another post) but no one can take the title away from the scariest little town on the Mississippi!

However, even with that kick-ass title, in my opinion, Anoka struggles with the celebrations.  We have three parades, seriously.

This past fall I sent away for free travel information for Salem, MA (I like to send away for free things) and I received a pamphlet on all the celebrations and activities the town has during the month of October for Halloween.  It was an embarrassment of riches of awesomely spooky stuff to do.  I still follow their Haunted Happenings on Twitter because I was so impressed.  Along with your basic witch trial things (plays, museums, etc) they have numerous ghost walks, which makes sense since towns in New England are the oldest in the United States and have tons of history.  Anoka had a ghost tour, which I am proud to say I was a docent of this past Halloween!  Oh, and docent is a fancy word for "tour guide" which took me like, a week to figure out.  Our Ghosts of Anoka tour is a brisk walk to several private homes and a few businesses close to Main Street that claim to have hauntings, it's fun...but a little dry.  I tried to spice my tours up a bit with my youthfulness (I am the youngest docent, by far...) but it could pack more of a punch if it wanted to.  This particular program is through the Anoka County Historical Society, so it is a bit heavy on the history, which I loved, but a light on the ghost stories, which the tours didn't love.  In fact, the best ghost story comes at the end of the tour about Billy' Bar and Grill that used to be a hotel/brothel and a murdered prostitute! 

Salem also has population and sheer acreage on Anoka.  The shops they are able to offer, mostly witchy in nature, Anoka cannot compete with.  Same with tourism.  Curiosity of the witch trials and the beautiful coastal setting will keep 'em coming back every time.

I think we could do it though, we could give Salem a run for their money if we really wanted to.  Probably cut back to maybe just two parades.  And maybe embrace the Pagan-ness of the holiday a bit more.  Yes, in these parts shying away from the status quo, especially when it comes to religion, is a big risk, but than don't live in a town that so readily aligns itself with a holiday a lot of types (I won't name names or point fingers) think is evil.  I say we have a flat out Samhain festival with bonfires (and no, the bonfire in the City Hall parking lot after the Light Up The Night parade doesn't count, and that's the parade I'm getting rid of anyway) and dancing and sell a beer or two, maybe.

And something more for the kids.  Halloween Fun at the Library was lame and PACKED!  If you could find a fun, free activity for us broke parents to enjoy that wasn't someone reading spooky store then having the kids march around the library in their costumes (yet another parade!) while that Saturday morning weirdos who come to the library for the free internet access look on, think of how popular that would be!  A carnival, perhaps, or a pumpkin carving something or other.  And don't get me started on the Police v. Fire Dept. Chili Cook-off, which would have been a huge hit if it wasn't held at the police station and you didn't have to walk past interrogation rooms to attend.

With all my wonderful ideas why don't I volunteer to be on the board of the Anoka Halloween committee?  Well, I did e-mail them a while back and never heard anything from them, which is unfortunate.  Plus, I hear the people who do run it are stuck in their ways and don't like change.  Well, then, I'm just what they need!  Someone with a passion for Halloween and can make our city live up to the title we fight so hard to keep for some reason!

Viva La Halloween Anoka!

Paranormal Porn-Welcome to The Halloween Honey

February 28th is probably the best day of the year to start a blog about Halloween. Halloween is the best time of year, and the end of February, March, until about late April, is the worst time of year. It's been cold for too long by now, the snow isn't pretty anymore, it's muddy and more than likely a giant mound of it is taking up the majority of a parking lot somewhere and I'm just in a bad mood until the first above 50 degrees day. Halloween on the other hand, makes me inexplicably happy! Even though end of October is nothing but a warning signal of the cold weather months about to come in and darken my mood significantly.

I have always loved Halloween. I loved the scary movies (but not too scary) shows and movies that always play at that time of year, the colors, the imagery, the black cat and pumpkin, the witch and ghost. I love it all. When I was a kid we never were terribly extravagant during Halloween. One of my mom's favorite stories to tell is when all she bought me for a Halloween costume one year was a plastic black mask that only covered the upper part of my face but I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Even more of a testament for my love of the holiday. I think my mother plays a big part in my love for all things Halloween. She has a not-so-passing interest in the paranormal, and when my sister and I were kids she used to get these Time Life Paranormal books and Cori and I would sit on her closet floor without her knowing and flip through them looking at all the pictures of ghosts and aliens and Bigfoot, Loch Ness Montster, real life vampires...kind of how per-pubescent boys find their father's porn stash and flip through it and try to learn about women and was paranormal porn. I was convinced all of these things were real, and that they all came out on Halloween.

Don't get me wrong, I was not a brave kid, and I am not a brave adult, I still get afraid of the dark sometimes (“Everything is still where it was when the lights were on” my brother-in-law recently told me after I told him how freaked out I was when the power unexpectedly went out the other night.) Scary movies do scare me. A lot. And I sometimes can't even watch ghost hunting shows on TV because they keep me awake at night and afraid to get up and go to the bathroom. I've been in approximately one haunted house my entire life, and it was at the Minnesota State Fair and I couldn't wait to get the hell out of it. But, for some reason, the idea of all the creepy crawly things in my mom's books being among us one night a year didn't scare me, I loved it. When we would go out trick-or-treating I looked hard for ghosts (but god forbid someone answered their door to us wearing a scary mask of some kind, I would hid behind my sister and cousin for the rest of the trick-or-treating duration) Halloween was a safe night to be scared and to be scary and to believe in scary things.

I hold Halloween very dear to my heart, for countless reasons that I am going to attempt to share on this blog. I have grown to love and appreciate it even more as an adult, and now especially as a mother myself. I hope you enjoy it and visit frequently! I will be updating as much as the Halloween spirit strikes me, which is quite often!

(Sarah-I promise this time!)