Some of us like candy, some of us like reading awesome books, some of us don't like to spend a lot of money. Okay, most of us like all of those things. Good news for those of you who like to read and want free books: you can go trick-or-treating for books this year! Awesome, right? I'm participating in Patricia Lynn's Book Blog Hop Trick-or-Treat this year with my uncanny romance short story book Tiptoe Through Time, which will be free from October 31st (Halloween) until November 3rd. So, for those of you who are a little too big to go door to door for candy, just hop from blog to blog and pick up your free books. No tricks. Just treats.
I've become a big Girl Genius fan, since I met the Foglios at their stand for Sasquan and attended a few of their talks. This couple is hilarious. They are also downright awesome writers/artists. If you've yet to discover the amazing Girl Genius, visit this link, and get started. However new you are to Girl Genius, I doubt you're new to Steampunk. Well, it's close to Halloween and many people want to go Steampunk but don't want to flimsy, expensive outfits they have in the Halloween stores and don't want to pay big bucks online. Well, here's an Agatha Hetrodyne (Girl Genius and Mad Scientist, or Spark, to be polite) costume I made for under $50. I wanted it to be nice, since I'm going to wear it to cosplay in at Norwescon this year (I'll be a panelist), but I also don't want to break the bank, so I'll give you budget cosplayers or Halloween DIYs some tips.
First Tip: Go to Thrift Stores for Clothing
The above outfit is perfect for Agatha and for Steampunk generally. While Agatha tends to be modest when she dresses, one could also just buy some bloomers and a corset. I tend to be like fully dressed Agatha: Victorian steam modest. This outfit is suitably Victorian: brass buttons on both the skirt and button vest and a flowing white undershirt. All covered, all long. I also got some red and white long striped socks (which Agatha is known for) and a blonde wig. Most people won't need the wig, if they are going for a certain character, but Agatha is blonde, so I needed one. Steampunk is about the feel of Victorian with flashes of metal and patterns. Not all things that look Steampunk will work, however, and I found this tutorial helpful for distinguishing which is which. This outfit cost: wig $10, shirt $4, vest $5, skirt $5, socks $5. So, $29.00 for the outfit, which is the most costly part. Without the wig and socks (you won't need these if you're not doing Agatha), it would have cost 14.00. Really affordable.
Second Tip: Use Household Items
A lot of the Steam/Mad scientist embellishments I made from my already full craft area. Some of these things you might have to buy, but I don't purchase anything overly expensive, so you could feasibly get much of this for under $10. I used two used coffee cups for the tubes below the lens on my goggles. I used metallic acrylic paint to paint the goggle and death-ray parts. I used cogs for decoration (I used to make Steampunk hats, so I had some in my craft area, but these can be pricey, if you don't salvage them). I used a colored report holder (I'm a teacher, so I used an old one a student gave me) for the lens. And I used mason jar tops for the tops of the goggles, to fit around the lid. My mom cans stuff, so I had them in my utensil drawer. I also got a pair of movable lens glasses from a garage sale for really cheap a long time ago, which I used on my goggles. Lastly, I used some food dye in the plastic ornament on my death-ray to give it a Hetrodyne-power supply feel. All these things were stuff I just salvaged around my house.
Third Tip: Go to the Dollar Store
Almost everything else I used to complete the goggles, belt, embellishments and death-ray I picked up from the Dollar Store. I bought the goggles at Wal-Mart for $3 and men's extra long belt $10, but that's the only exception. I couldn't find the right belt at the thrift store, otherwise, that would have been cheaper, I imagine. I bought a pair of work gloves, two fake leather cell-phone holders, some birthday tiaras (to use for texture on ray gun, you can also use the band for texture on goggles. See this site for more on how-to), some wooden ovals (so I could paint Agatha's trilobite embellishments), a fake over-sized key, a noise-making plastic gun, an a plastic ornament. All of that for $8. So, my grand total for the costume came to $50.
Tip Four: Other supplies I had that you might need to buy
I used the following things to assemble the parts: hot glue gun, hot glue, paint, paint brushes, super glue, scissors and a box cutter. I do a lot of crafting, so I had those already, but you will need them if you don't. You can get many of these things from the Dollar Store, too.
End Result: A Passable Agatha Hetrodyne
Up close, my work might not look as awesome as the professional shops on Etsy who work leather and metal, but it is a passable outfit for someone on a budget who has a little crafter instinct. If you're even a little handy, give this stuff a try. Below, is the final outfit, complete with death ray and goggles. I also posted a picture of a steampunk hat I made with 50% off materials from Michaels and Wal-Mart. They often run Halloween clearance the week after, and I suggest buying a lot of your Steampunk items then, especially hats, which are expensive, otherwise (Goodwill sells them for cheap after Halloween, too). I bought all of the stuff for the hat on Clearance for about $20.00 at Michaels. I sold that hat for $50, so it paid off. If you have any questions about Steampunk or cosplay ideas, please comment below. I love to help those willing to learn.
I am doing a few different posts on creating DIY costumes/areas for the Halloween season. I had a crafty mom growing up, so I thrive on doing fun little things for holidays or conventions. Holidays were always so fun for us because she put her little touches on everything. This time of year, I especially like to decorate the kitchen area where trick-or-treaters walk in to get candy. Last year, it was just general spooky, but this year I decided to make a mini-Great Hall from Harry Potter in my walk-in area. Here are just a few ideas for creating a HP atmosphere for a party or Halloween
Tip One: Go to the Dollar Store
This will always be my first or second tip. They have much of the decorations you will find other places, but for much cheaper. I picked up a toy rat, a large plastic cauldron, lunch bags, blow pop suckers and other candy, gold ornaments, pretzels, yellow sprinkles, wax paper, L.E.D. candles, plastic trays, black table cloth, two large bottles and modge podge. This was all about $18. And I only had to buy a few more things to set the scene.
Tip Two: The Great Outdoors
Go outside. You'll find sticks and pressed leaves make good decorations. I could have also used feather from outside, after cleaning them, since I feed birds and tend to get a lot of them in my yard, but I happened to have feathers, to make snitches, so I didn't. I used sticks from my continually shedding Alder trees for the top of my "witch brooms" for my HP Great Hall. I got the idea from Martha Stewart Online. The best: this is all free.
Tip Three: Scavenge Your Home
I had some things that will help set the mood in my cabinets. I have all the HP books in both English and Spanish. I have my own wand (because I'm a geek), and I have all the movies, and a few house scarfs. I will probably show one of the movies while the trick-o-treaters come in, and I'll hang my house scarves at the entrance. I'll put the books in various places to elevate the treat trays and cauldrons on the table. I will probably just put the wand on the table for decorative purposes. I also used some black wool yarn and tape, which I had lying around.
Tip Four: Go to your local cheap-o store
I go to Wal-Mart for the white chocolate, walnuts, sodas, juices and ingredients for Butter Beer. I went to this site, to choose my Butter Beer recipe: Butter Beer.
So, What did you do with these cheap finds?
I Here's what I made for my Great Hall Halloween for under $50.
Witch/Wizard Broom Favors:
Paper lunch bags and candy from Dollar Store, Sticks from Outside, tape and black wool yarn.
I followed the Martha Stewart instructions, only I used double-sided tape and yarn to tie the Brooms. They turned out great.
I used the sodas from Wal-Mart, a battered copy of HP and the Goblet of Fire (it was on sale at Goodwill, but was ruined by misuse, so I re-purpose it by using it to cover my bookshelves and to cover the soda labels on the bottles with HP words), and some labels I bought from an Etsy store a long time ago that sells a HP "back to school kit." If you don't have labels, I'd just use a sharpie and write the names of HP potions in fun lettering. I used the modge podge from the Dollar Store to put the pages of HP and labels on the sodas. Now they are drinkable potions for trick-or-treaters.
Pretzels, yellow sprinkles from Dollar Store. White and Dark chocolate baker's chocolate from Wal-Mart. I melt the dark chocolate and coat long, thick pretzels in the chocolate. I put them on wax paper to dry. Once dry, I melt the white chocolate (less than dark, since you only need enough for the tips), I dip the tip of the dark-chocolate covered pretzel in the white chocolate and I sprinkle the yellow sprinkles over the not-yet-dry white chocolate. I move them onto clean wax paper and put them in the frig until I want to serve them. I will serve them on a plastic, clear platter I bought from the dollar store.
I use the white chocolate and walnuts from Wal-Mart and food dye I have in the baking cupboard for this simple recipe. If you're worried about using nuts, you could always use coconut instead. I'll probably use both, and just put a "warning" on them, and set them away from the other foods, just in case of food allergies. I melt the white chocolate and mix in a few drops of green food dye. It should be pretty dark to get the right color. I mix in walnuts and coconut and drop large spoonfuls onto wax paper. I put them in the frig to harden and take them out just before serving. It looks like a green hunk of yuck when it's done, but it tastes good.
Flying Snitches and Candles:
I use the gold ornaments and L.E.D candles from The Dollar Store, along with some feathers and hot glue and string. I put two feathers on each side of a golden ornament, hang them on string and tape them to the ceiling. I put string on the L.E.D candles and hang them from the ceiling. TA-DA! Great Hall!
I got a large black cauldron and mini cauldrons from The Dollar Store. I put my main candy in the big cauldron. I filled the little cauldrons with candy corn and Bertie Bot's Every Flavor Bean, for the more daring. I live in a small community, so unwrapped candy isn't as big a deal as it is elsewhere. If you don't maybe keep things in packaging. You can get small packages of Bertie Bots.
Serveable Butter Beer:
I am going to use one of the butter beer recipes from the link above and fill a couple of pre-made butter beer bottles to serve it. I'm also going to make some whipped topping to put on the top (this is usually part of the Butter Beer recipe). I'll probably have cider for those less adventurous folks.
I am going to use my books, movie, scarves, black table cloth, my dollar store rat (Wormtail) and a few other HP touches to decorate my small kitchen. I bought some plastic wine glasses for the Butter Beer and potions and have an owl (Hedwig) bottle opener to use for decor and for the sodas. It should be a good time! I'll update the pictures after I get it all together.
No "Zombies" but Plenty of "Mullet": What Does Pop Culture Look Like in the World of The Walking Dead?
Cracked.com housed a recent article on pop-culture word origins called "6 Everyday Things You Won't Believe Famous People Invented." Coming in at number three was the hilarious obsession that the Beastie Boys (pictured below in the 1980's glory) had with with the long in back short in front hairstyle they coined as the "mullet." Besides creating a song by the name of "Mullethead;" their magazine, Grand Royal, hosted the first ever written appearance of the term in it's 1993 issue. So, it seems, the Beastie Boys coined the term mullet and even rocketed the term into popular use. Cool tidbit.
So how, you may ask, are the Beastie Boys related to The Walking Dead? Well, in the most recent season of The Walking Dead (Episode 5, Season 5) almost every character takes a jab at or mentions Eugene's unique and out-of-date hairdo. They might even use the word "mullet" more than they use the word "walker" in this episode, though I didn't count and don't wish to prove it. The point is in The Walking Dead world the Beastie Boys existed (probably pre-outbreak because, let's face it, the remaining members wouldn't want to be walkers without Adam Yauch, so they'd inevitably be walker food). My husband suggests that if the Beastie Boys did exist in The Walking Dead universe, Daryl would have to have known about them and possibly been a big fan. I tend to agree there. I mean, just look at him. He listened to the Beastie Boys. Next to Eugene, he is the character whose hair wears most like a "mullet," too, so it just makes sense.
One popular culture term, however, has no place in the world of The Walking Dead. The fact that "zombies" don't exist in this world is a necessary requirement. Robert Kirkman, the comic creator and TV series producer, explained on Talking Dead: "This isn’t a world the (George) Romero movies exist, for instance … because we don’t want to portray it that way, we felt like having them be saying ‘zombie’ all the time would harken back to all of the zombie films which we, in the real world, know about." The characters of this world, he confirms, are supposed to be completely surprised by the outbreak and the ways in which "walkers" operate. He wanted the terror to be fresh and hellish to deal with, and all new. The way the characters stumbled about in the first few seasons in dealing with the living dead confirms that they'd never faced the idea of "zombie" before. I mean, come on! Burn those jerks! They will die, wake up and eat you! I couldn't help but yell, "Burn em', Greenhorns!"
Since "zombies" don't exist but "mullets" do, however, fans can get a pretty good idea about what popular culture looked like in The Walking Dead world, and the Beastie Boys most definitely would have had their time in the spotlight. But who wouldn't?
The easy answer: Rob Zombie would have never made it in The Walking Dead world. I mean, this is a man who based (and still bases) his entire career on the idea of the undead. Since there's no White Zombie band, does that also mean that there was no Bella Lugosi fame? Lugosi's most popular movies, are, after all, Dracula and White Zombie. And I think it's not too big a stretch to assume that if there are no "zombies" this world is also without "vampires" because wouldn't that be what you called a living dead person who preyed upon living people, if you had no reference to the word "zombie"? I'd certainly search for the best comparison I had in my experience with the monstrous, if I didn't know what a zombie was. I'd think, Well, maybe they're sort of like vampires or Frankenstein's Monster. But that reference is never made, that I know of. No vampires means no Dracula, means no Anne Rice Queen of the Damned, means no Twilight, means no 50 Shades of Grey (stop cheering, people). No Frankenstein's Monster, no Mary Shelley. No numerous B+ horror movie takes on that book. As you can see, the impact is endless and a bit horrifying.
My husband and I started to think of the even more terrifying concept of a lack of zombie pop culture entertainment, and we couldn't help but think of the King of Pop Culture, Michael Jackson. Thriller was released in 1982, and though his fame was already set with the previous album Off the Wall, this album can certainly be said to have kept the King of Pop on the charts. The Thriller album is the best-selling album in history, and the copycats that have stemmed from that one video are too numerous to count. What would the pop culture world have been like without Thriller? Would Jackson's success had been as unstoppable without his best-selling album? Is there even a Michael Jackson in the world of The Walking Dead? Is it even a world worth fighting for without the music of Michael Jackson? Sure, you have the Beastie Boys, and that's nice, but not everyone can get down to white boy rap.
I can tell you one thing that would never have happened without Thriller, this writer would never have had endless nightmares of decaying Jackson chasing her through dark, damp side-streets. That video terrified me, as a kindergartner, but in an "I'm weirdly exited to be afraid" way. I was a thriller and horror reader growing up and I owe that mostly to Jackson and Goosebumps. Speaking of Goosebumps, there'd be a sizable gap in that series of books without zombies or undead beings, as well. Our pop culture is full of references to the undead. This little amusing list might only touch on the big names, but you, reader, can only imagine the implications of taking such an element out of our popular culture history. So, in the world of The Walking Dead, what else would be missing from our characters frame of reference? You tell me. And tell me this: would it really be a world worth fighting for? Just kidding. Sort of. I guess life itself is worth fighting for, even if you don't get to listen to some solid tunes when you come out on top.
H.M. Jones read far too much Goosebumps and Stephen King when she was in elementary school and junior high. She wrote the dark fantasy Monochrome, which upsets many people. She is the author of the short story "Tiptoe Through Time," which upsets no one, since they haven't read it. She is also a contributing author to Masters of Time: A Fantasy and Sci-Fi Time Travel Anthology. She writes poetry, blogs entirely too much, and is an English M.A. who still likes to research things and make strange references. Her husband encourages her to do so, if just to keep her busy.