This year we celebrated Thanksgiving in Singapore with the my side of the family and decided to travel by train, having already done cars, planes, and buses. (As a cute aside, we have been reading C a book called “Pigeon Loves things that GO!” which has a little phrase that goes with each mode of transport. We were were completely impressed with ourselves for reading it to her when she was able to identify and say “train” along with “choo-choo!” upon seeing the train. She’s done the same for planes but it still impresses us since she sees both modes of transport in real life so rarely.)
We set off with a 7.5 hour red-eye train from KL to Singapore that left at 11pm and arrived in Singapore at 6:45am. It was a 2nd class sleeper car, which meant that we were in a long car with bunks lined up against the walls. S had a top bunk while I took the bottom bunk (my enormous tum made us think twice about having me climb a tiny little ladder). Initially it seemed like our little lady was interested in what was going on with Daddy on the top bunk but her interest in that faded as soon as I let go of her hand to take this photo:
It was a memorable journey but one I am not likely to try and repeat, as we were forced to book bunks at the end of the car (all the other berths were booked) and found ourselves next to a not-so-tightly-closed sliding door which people were constantly going in and out of to use the lavatory at the end of the next car, smoke, or move about. It made me a bit paranoid that C (who was sleeping with me) would somehow climb out of the bunk where we were sleeping, wander (or be accidentally jostled!) out that door, and be flung from the train. Based on how rocky the ride ended up being (I truly wondered at times if the train would fly off the rails) I wouldn’t have been surprised. Ultimately the noise and light and constant foot traffic didn’t allow C to sleep and I ended up having to give her some Dramamine (a la S) so that I could get a little rest without worrying that my zzz’s would end in tragedy. After arriving in Singapore my parents picked us up and, after eating breakfast together, our little family all slept at least 2 hours more before getting up to help with the Thanksgiving festivities. It was definitely proof of how tiring our experience had been.
With that in mind, we were mentally prepared for a rough journey home. Managing one’s expectations can work wonders because we certainly enjoyed the ride to KL much more than the ride to Singapore. It definitely helped that this time were were in a First Class sleeper cabin, which meant we had a little room all to ourselves with much nicer beds, privacy, and lights that we could control. When we arrived at our car C immediately lay down on the lower berth and requested a cookie. I have to say, my service was good. She got both a cookie and the caramel popcorn ball that I had been about to eat:
We were able to all take drug-free naps, eat a meal that my Mom sent us off with, check out the food and beverage car, use the in-cabin lavatory (that had a shower!), and watch a few films on the iPad during the journey. The ride was still a little rocky but without having the outside screeching of the tracks whistling through my ears and scaring me all night, I think I didn’t notice it as much. As you can see, things ended a bit happier than they started:
All-in-all I’d say that the fancy bus (which we’ve taken a number of times in the past) is usually a much better option for the KL-Singapore round-trip trek if you can count on everyone staying in their seats (sleeping, watching movies, playing handheld games - those all count) just because it’s *so much faster* (4-5 hours vs 6-8 hours). That being said, the train was completely on schedule and for the nice first class sleeper cabin we took, it cost about the same for our two-berth cabin as two seats on the fancy bus. The train makes a lot of sense for a small family like ours, where we needed the a door that could close and keep our toddler from running around and disturbing other people / endangering herself while also providing a place to nap and lavatory reserved just for us. Additionally, for the budget traveler the least expensive train ticket (second class seats for MYR30+) can be cheaper than a ticket on the cheaper aka non-fancy bus (the cheapest I’ve seen is MYR40+).
End conclusion? Taking the bus is the best option for people who can be counted on to actually sit in their seats but riding the train shouldn’t be ruled out in cases where you’re traveling with someone who needs to move around, have more privacy, or is just low on funds and has the time to take it.
I love getting together but sometimes I’m just not together enough to make it happen so a friend and I decided to finally make a gathering happen after talking about it for ages. As we were putting together our thoughts she mentioned that she had cute headbands for every holiday but had lost her Thanksgiving one. I love headbands and since we were throwing a “Fall Fest” I decided that I wanted to make us both Fall-themed headbands. It was very simple -
- Gather your supplies:
- 4 pieces of fall leaf-colored felt (i.e. deep green, maroon, darn orange, etc)
- cinnamon sticks
- red thread
- plain headbands or pins
- clear resin glue (I used UHU)
- Trace fall leaf shapes on felt. You can use a simple template (I used this one) or draw freehand.
- Cut the leaves and arrange into an overlapping fan shape, with all the “stems” forming the apex of the fan.
- Hold the leaves in the fan shape and sew together approx. 1/2” away from the stems
- Place the cinnamon stick over the area where you have stitched the leaves together (covering the stitches) and tightly attach the cinnamon stick to the leaf fan using large stitches that chris-cross decoratively over the top of the stick
- For headband: sew leaf fan directly to the headband, anchoring thread to felt directly below the cinnamon stick and looping over the headband. Use the glue to secure the leaf fan in position (especially if using a headband without “teeth” as I did)
For pin: use 5 or 6 sturdy stitches to attach the pin to the underside of the fan directly below the cinnamon stick.
My friend and I wearing the finished product:
…and the pins I made to decorate the recipe booklets as party favors:
Choosing to make a Transformer
After getting inspired to make a transformable Transformers costume after having dreamed about making one last year I decided to broach the idea with S. After reviewing geeky (Halloween-geeky and Transformer-geeky) blogs and videos, I finally decided I thought I could make a tank costume modeled after one I saw in a video from a fancy-dress event. When I showed it to S at first he was skeptical - I thought it might be because he wasn’t excited about the idea but it turned out that he had two concerns:
(1) he thought that there wasn’t actually a Tank Transformer (except that there is! I found out right after Halloween that there’s a Tank Decepticon named Brawl) and
(2) he was worried that making something like that would take a lot of time, energy, and expertise that I might not have and it could end up looking terrible and being very frustrating for me.
After lots of careful question asking (because I, too, didn’t want to waste my time) it turned out that he felt that if the costume really looked like what he saw in the video he would really like it, regardless of whether or not it was a “real transformer”, and that was all I needed to know to decide to go ahead. In a way his low expectations were comforting because I knew that if it totally failed I wasn’t going to have to disappoint him and I’d have had a chance to try making something I was very curious about. At the same time, though, I knew that if it ended up working out, he’d love it! Both ways I knew I would win so I went ahead and got started.
How I Did It
- Review Inspiration: Repeatedly watched the video of the costume I wanted to replicated to observe the “mechanics” of the costume and try to see it from all angles.
- Pattern-Making: Drew a pattern/design based on what I saw and planned out what supplies I needed. (Supplies List below)
(I’ve got to admit, this part took a little while and reminded me of how amazing my mother is. She sewed prom and wedding dresses for myself and each of my sisters from patterns that she designed after we told her about what we wanted. Finishing this project made me really want to improve my sewing skills because cloth creations last longer and travel better than cardboard ones.)
- Gather Supplies: Gathered boxes from the recycling bins at my husband’s office, prompting questions from the workmen there who were probably appalled to see a 7-month pregnant woman rooting through what they thought of as trash (which is another man’s treasure, right!?)
- Cut and Tape: Cut the boxes according to my pattern and duct-taped them together, modifying as needed, and discovered I didn’t have enough for the wheels, treads, and back flap.
- Gather More Supplies: rooted around the recycling bins for more boxes, purchased green, silver, and black spray paint, green and black duct tape, masking tape, box cutter, and glue, and found A4 flexible card board for the cannon in my stationary drawer.
- Set Up Spray-Painting Area: Made a floor covering of newspapers and masking tape in my outdoor laundry area and tested out green spray paint on the cannon, which looked like the right color. Began spray-painting the body of the box to have the green can of run out of color after painting only one segment.
Note: despite all my good intentions spray paint “dust” was all over the floor at this time, with C, my new helper, and I getting green feet multiple times and and my new helper doing a lot of mopping. I am very glad she was there for the clean up and also for keeping C away from the paint and sharp things
- Measure and Cut Wheel-Tread Pieces: Proceeded to cut and tape together the wheels and treads as well as the back flap. The treads turned out to be pretty tricky because I needed to bend the cardboard so that it would curve around the front and back wheels. Additionally, I needed to use math (read, simple SAT I-level geometry) to figure out the 1/2 circumference of the wheel which I’d be curving around plus twice (top and bottom of the tread) the diameter of two wheels was the length of the cardboard for each tread piece.
- More Supplies: With the back flap attached, it seemed like I should finish painting the body. I went to the store to get more green paint and a clear finishing coat because the two different textures of flexible cardboard for the cannon made the front half seem glossy and the back half dull after I sprayed it with black.
- Finish Base Spray Paint: Began spray-painting green again for what I hoped was the final time and the can ran out halfway through the job. Argh! It got pretty frustrating because I decided to try to buy paint at closer store than the one I’d been going to and they had all the colors I had bought except for the green color I needed. Luckily, I saw a friend at the shopping center and she generously drove me to the store to get it (as I’m still car-less). Finally finished the green painting portion and then spray-painted the black base coat for the wheels and treads.
- Cut Templates: designed and printed a wheel pattern one the computer and also blew up a picture of a decepticon logo (S chose to be a Decepticon before we even knew that the tank was a real transformer!) to print out as well. Cut out my patters and traced each pattern onto two taped together pieces of A4 card-stock. This took a a few hours but some of that time was definitely lengthened by my hike up the learning curve.
- Spray Template patterns: Carefully used masking tape to keep the templates in place during the spray-painting process and used silver to paint the tread and wheel patterns on. Used black spray-paint for the Decepticon logo.
- Camouflage and Finishing Coat: Spray the entire body and cannon with the clear finishing spray. As I was going over the decepticon logo, however, I noticed that the logo was a bit smudged and tried to touch it up with a black sharpie. When I went to get the clear finish spray to cement the touch up, however, I accidentally picked up the silver can and made a huge diffuse silver streak over the front of the costume. There was NO WAY that I was going to buy more green spray paint to cover it up so I decided that the diffuse silver streaking was how I was going to create a camouflage effect. I randomly streaked silver all over the costume, re-sprayed the logo, used both a silver and black sharpie for touch ups, and then went over the whole thing in finishing spray again. I was just relieved that it ended up not looking like a “mistake.”
- Fitting for Tread-Wheels and Cannon Attachments: I taped on the cannon with green duct tape and had S try on the whole costume to make sure he could pop his head out and also see where to tape on the treads. He was able to put it on and transform in and out of the tank shape so after seeing him in it in tank form I noted where the treads lined up against the body of the tank and attached 2 tread pieces to the body’s “wing” pieces with black duct tape.
- Attach Tread Ties: Tape and glue four fabric strips into each of the remaining treads to create two ties in each tread piece. One should tie above the knee and the other near the ankle. Add safety pins (or basting stitches) to the black sweat pants above the knee (as guides for threading the ties) to keep the treads from dragging on the floor.
- Finishing Touches: When wearing the actual costume, wear the all black outfit and ski goggles with so that only your lower face is visible, which you should cover with the silver make-up.
- Final Product:
Creator with Owner/Wearer at the costume party where S won the costume contest for his second year in a row. Below that is S after transforming for some kids at the family Halloween party. As you might have guessed, the costume took a beating with the kids and the squeezing through crowds of people etc but it still held up through the whole night.
Final Supplies List
- 6 large cardboard boxes
- 6 rolls duct tape (2 green, 2 black, 1 silver)
- 2 rolls masking tape (1 skinny, 1 thick)
- 6 cans spray paint (3 green, 1 silver, 1 black, 1 clear/finish)
- 2 Sharpie markers (1 black, 1 silver)
- 1 boxcutter
- 1 pair scissors
- 1 tube strong glue
- 1 ruler
- 1 construction measuring tape
- 6 sheets A4 cardstock (for logo, wheel, and tread spray-paint templates)
- 2 pieces flexible A4 cardboard (i.e. backing of A4 notepad - for cannon)
- 8 strips of sturdy black cotton cloth (for tying on the back tread pieces)
- 6 safety pins (as guides for the tread ties)
- 2 copies freebie newspaper (for protecting the floor during painting)
- 1 nose/mouth mask (for breathing during spray-painting)
- 1 pair ski goggles or colored visor
- 1 tube silver face make-up
- 1 complete set of black clothes (black sweatsuit, beanie, socks, shoes)
In the end, S was really happy with it! He successfully transformed over and over again through the night He was worried that I spent so much time on something he would only wear once but I just enjoyed the fact that he liked it so much and that I got to successfully make something challenging and fun (and which I probably won’t have time for after I start working again / baby #2 pops out!)
As you can probably tell from just from meeting us (or reading up on our past celebrations) Halloween is my husband and I’s favorite “just for fun” holiday. By default that means that it’s also going to be our family’s favorite holiday for a while (at least until our little one(s!) are big enough to have an opinion that we will hold as valid on the matter). We find that it’s fun to coordinate and this year we had a little more time to think about what we wanted to do (it seemed like last year we’d barely moved to Malaysia and started unpacking the boxes) so we decided to go with the family costume theme of “Toys.” In many ways, this was mostly inspired by the fact that I was pregnant and still had my pregnancy costume (as a blue-haired Treasure Troll doll) from when I was pregnant with baby #1. Almost two years ago I went to Shanghai to celebrate with my doctorate-studying husband, found him to be ill, got ill myself, and wore the costume for 15 minutes just to get in the spirit of things/take pictures/buy myself candy from a convenience store, and went back to bed. I felt that I hadn’t really gotten the use out of the costume I wanted so I decided we could break it out again.
When S heard that I we were going for a “toys” theme he really wanted to buy C a costume. I was pretty interested in perhaps doing something DIY but he was insistent that store-bought costumes were better than home-made. I conceded that this was our biggest holiday outside of Christmas and looked online at toddler costumes until we found a Mr. Potato Head costume, which looked a lot like the Mr. Potato Heads that are S’s all-time favorite toy:
Since my costume was all settled (as a Treasure Troll of early 90’s American fad fame),
we moved on to S’s costume. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to be so we looked around for a while and finally he decided that he wanted to be He-Man, the beloved 80’s cartoon character and action figure. The costume we found was, amazingly, even campier than the actual character:
The costume wasn’t cheap but I felt like if he really wanted it, we should just go ahead and get it. I still remembered how sad he was the year I couldn’t find him a good costume and he just had black bunny ears and wore a black sweat suit with eyeliner whiskers…
It turned out, however, that the site I tried to buy the costume from took their sweet time verifying my billing information and ultimately they chose to cancel my order when I told them they needed to pay for expedited shipping (costumes with egg-roll-shaped abs are just not as fun after Halloween…) after they sat on my order for nearly two weeks. That meant we needed a change of plans and we started looking at other costume options for S. We thought about Skeletor from Masters of the Universe, Cobra Commander from G.I. Joe, and Zod from Superman (for whatever reason, S was very into bad guy characters this year) but all of them didn’t seem that exciting or do-able.
A DIY idea that had been niggling at my mind from years past, however, kept coming back to me, however. Last year my just-married brother-in-law sent around an email with a video of the “best Halloween costume ever” while at about the same time another friend posted on her blog about how she had gotten a tiny bit obsessed with watching similar videos. The cool costumes were transformable Transformer costumes. After reading and hearing about these last year I had been thinking about making one but didn’t know if I could. Now that S had no costume and I had just hired a new helper at home I decided that perhaps this might be one of my last chances to really focus on making something cool for S! (For Halloween anyway - I figure in future years it will be all about the kids) Plus, I was still feeling mobile enough to make it happen. I spent almost exactly one week making the costume and in the end, S was a Decepticon Transformer Tank named Brawl: