Cardboard Halloween Costume FAIL

Happy October everyone!  I am still sort of wondering where the month of September went, but oh yeah – my 2 year old’s birthday, Oktoberfest beer, and a great picnic at a beer garden, not to mention all the fun stuff that we tried to cram in that we didn’t do all summer long.

During September, I became annoyed with the number of diaper boxes in my house that hadn’t yet made it to our recycling bin.  AND I was inspired from reading a Thomas the Tank Engine Halloween book that had a train costume in it.  AND I made a cardboard train for my daughter’s 3rd birthday, so shouldn’t my son have a train for his birthday too?  Wouldn’t it be awesome if that train could be made in September and still be around for trick-or-treating six weeks later?  AND aren’t trains so easy to make out of boxes?

As you can see, I had MANY reasons for thinking that a cardboard train costume would be a good idea.  Probably the MOST important one of all was the idea of making a large Halloween costume that could fit my kids, who would inevitably need to wear winter coats in order to trick-or-treat comfortably in Wisconsin. (Sigh…it never fails to be cold for Halloween).  Gone are all those dresses and thin costumes – we need layers people!

So I started making the “greatest” train costume ever with a diaper box and two other boxes cobbled together with a lot of tape.

cardboard train in the early design phase

phase 1 diaper box train

I covered it with cut up grocery bags to give it a cleaner look.

phase 2 covered diaper box with brown grocery bags

covered in brown grocery bags – phase 2 cardboard box train

Finally, I browsed through my scrapbook paper stash and found some green paper – my son’s favorite color to jazz up the engine.  I used spray adhesive to make this part easy.

When finished, it came time for the ultimate test: would my kids wear it?

My son’s response – no way!  I could barely get it over his head.

My daughter’s response – for about 5 minutes!  It was a little too back-heavy, to which my engineer husband said, “Yeah, you should really balance it a little better.”  I gave him a nasty look, encouraging him to give it a go then.  He has not taken me up on this challenge to date.

Ultimately, this is a costume built for two, as modeled by my daughter and her cousin at the birthday party.  Aren’t they adorable?!  My dad also suggested that you place a bowl of candy in the opening on top of the train, and have the child walk in the driver’s seat.  I also tried putting it over our wagon, but it didn’t fit. That could be cute, but as it is right now, it is a cardboard Halloween Costume FAIL.  Bummer.

Decorated with green and gray paper final cardboard train costume

Final – cardboard train costume for two!

Do you have any cold weather or cardboard Halloween costume suggestions?  What are your kids dressing up as?

Here are some really cute ideas in the related articles:

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Memories of Japan: Summer Reading Challenge

In the spirit of the Do Good, Read More Summer Reading Challenge (the brainchild of the Do Gooder Mama), I decided to search for some blogs that reminded me of my own 3-month stint in Japan over TEN years ago!

Do Good Read More Summer Reading ChallengeWhen I started searching for blogs, I would save them in a draft, and then I’d keep finding more! This is quite a popular topic!

My Time as an Intern in Tokyo

I was a college student in my 20’s interested in going to Japan, since I had studied it all four years in high school.  When I arrived at college, I THOUGHT I could major in business, German and fit in some Japanese, but when they suggested placing me in a 6-credit Japanese class, I balked, thinking about how long my college career would take if I tried to be such an overachiever.

When I learned about an internship program with a railway company, I jumped at the offer to submit a proposal, and I WAS CHOSEN!  Through my three month stay, I would create a marketing plan and assess the ease of riding the train for English speaking passengers.  One other intern also participated in the program (mostly motivated by his ability to live in Japan and see his Japanese girlfriend).  Still, it was an incredible experience – full of A LOT of self-discovery and culture shock!

Clean & Efficient

One thing that I really noticed was how clean & efficient Tokyo was. The train system was among the finest in the world, providing high-speed travel on well-maintained, state of the art, and clean trains. All staff really takes pride in their work and their appearance.

I had the opportunity to “work” at Tokyo station for one week during my internship – complete with a uniform that was a cross between McDonald’s and a flight attendant that included a pencil skirt, hat, AND tie.  One female station employee noticed that I was trying to re-use the tie from the previous day (since I didn’t know how to tie it myself), so she quickly came to my rescue, re-tying it to look immaculate. I enjoyed teaching the employees English, and actually had to help an English speaking passenger find his way!

I was thanking passengers as they exited the train at Tokyo Station

I was thanking passengers as they exited the train at Tokyo Station – Arigato gozaimashta!

Similar sentiments on cleanliness were described in this post: 20 Things I Love About Japan from rhythmofthoughts

I LOVE Engrish!

As mentioned in the blog post above, you frequently see English words that don’t make a lot of sense printed on shirts, signs, billboards – EVERYWHERE!  This phenomenon is known as ENGRISH!  Check out these hilarious examples from Everything Anna:

For the love of Engrish

Georgiana in Real Life – also has some Engrish examples and beautiful photography.  My time there was SO LONG AGO, that digital photography really wasn’t around.

Life in Tokyo

As described in Daily (w)rite – Writing about Tokyo, it IS a little intimidating to navigate Tokyo.  On my first day coming home from work, I ended up getting lost. Fortunately I knew enough Japanese to ask for directions back to my tiny apartment.  Many people will say they don’t speak English, and while this MAY sometimes be true, I found that many more work colleagues spoke English – they were just too shy and modest to say it outright.  During my time there, I was approached a few times by random business men (or salaryman), who asked to practice their English with me.  I politely declined!

The subway and train systems CAN be difficult to navigate.  When my dear mom visited me, she had to take the train by herself from the airport to Tokyo Station.  She didn’t really know how to use the system (being from small town Wisconsin), so for two agonizing hours we waited for each other on opposite sides of the train’s exit turnstile. In comparison, my older sister and her boyfriend visited, and were champs navigating the system without ANY knowledge of Japanese.  I remember being very visual – remembering the look of a street or building, and matching up the kanji (Chinese characters) and hiragana (Japanese alphabet) when I couldn’t read something outright.

in uniform at Tokyo station

Me, Japanese Station Staff Manager, Other intern at Tokyo Station

My commute to my internship was a 15 minute subway ride, but my fellow intern had a 45 minute commute on the train.  At his station, they have workers who PUSH people onto trains to help make room for more passengers. It is ironic for the Japanese culture: for people who keep a lot of personal space and bow vs. shaking hands, they tolerate being crammed onto trains. It is disgusting to be so close to someone else that his sweat drips on you.  YUCK!

Public Bathing

I came across this beautifully written post: Venus in Japan by Nina Nakamura.

I can relate to feelings of insecurity in public baths.  I went to some with a family that I befriended through my best friend’s cousin’s friend (got that connection?), and I felt a little awkward squatting by a faucet and washing myself before submerging into the heavenly waters of different types of pools.  On another occasion, I went with my colleague’s girlfriend in Kyoto, who picked up on my discomfort, and left me alone.

More to Come!

I have enjoyed reflecting on my summer in Japan, and finding other bloggers who have ventured there as well.  I’ll be sharing more on this topic – and hopefully sharing some priceless pictures (maybe scanning?) or my stay.  Sayonara for now!

Have you ever been to Japan?  What do you remember most from your time there?

Newsflash: Cardboard Toys Don’t Last

I knew that, right?!

When I set upon making the Cardboard Kitchen and Cardboard Choo Choo Train, I knew it wasn’t going to be a keep-forever type of toy.  I was simply making use of some old cardboard boxes in my basement, hoping that they’d have more value as my kid’s toys instead of in the recycle bin.

Since CARDBOARD happens be a a popular search term on my blog (geez, my writing on other topics must be so thrilling), I thought I’d share a look at these cardboard toys almost one year later.

What can I say, it’s been well loved, and a cheap toy for hours of enjoyment for my kids!  I have been thinking about pitching it in the recycling bin, but just saw my kids playing with it yesterday.  It will be a fixture in our basement for a bit longer it seems.

The Cardboard Train Engine has fared slightly better than the kitchen – a testament to my superior cardboard construction skills.  It still has that slight lean to the right in the cab – again a testament to my superior cardboard construction skills.

More Cardboard Craft Ideas

As part of the Do Good, Read More Summer Reading Challenge, I found some other bloggers with more cardboard craft ideas.

  1. I love this post from Zing Zing Tree. Egg Cartons, Houses, Cars, and Story Diorama. Check it out for some fun craft projects on a smaller scale (it won’t take up as much space as the cardboard kitchen or train engine)!
  2. The Little Crafter that Could shares an awesome cardboard letters project. This would be really cute in my kid’s rooms!
  3. Finally, the BEST CARDBOARD MASTERPIECE that I found comes from Japanese artist who goes by Upunushu: Matsumoto Castle.  Apparently she has been working with cardboard since 5th grade and is now in her twenties.  All I can say is WOW!  You have to check it out!

Cardboard Choo Choo Train’s Debut

As I mentioned in my cardboard kitchen post, I had A LOT of boxes at my disposal to get creative and make another toy for my kiddos.  It’s crazy how many diaper boxes we have gone through – so crazy that I don’t like to think about it!  When my daughter said she wanted an engine birthday party, I knew I had the perfect idea to use up some of our boxes: a cardboard choo choo train!

Cardboard choo choo

cardboard choo choo side view

I didn’t really use a pattern, though I had these tips in mind while getting started.  Basically, I had one long box that spanned the entire length of the train engine, and cut up boxes to build up the engine compartment, using A LOT of duct tape to secure everything in place.  I scored and cut another box to make the round portion and made the funnel out of a cereal box. I found some old ribbon spools to make the circle buffers in front.  Everything was painted in a light pink latex paint (left in our basement by the previous owner).  The stripes and any other colored area are simply construction paper affixed with a spray adhesive.  I also made “passenger cars” – one brown and one purple – by putting together two diaper boxes.  All in all the cardboard choo choo was a BIG HIT at the party!

Birthday girl driving her train

We also had an “engine” birthday cake, just as I ordered via phone from our local bakery. To our surprise, they put a red fire engine on it instead of a train engine.  Our birthday girl didn’t seem to mind, plus the cake was delicious!

Mama O and Family with "Engine" cake

For thank you notes, I came up with a train outline card:

choo choo thank you

The text inside said, “That’s train for Thank you!”  I certainly enjoy taking time to create something fun and special in honor of my children’s birthdays.  We really had a wonderful time celebrating with our family.

I came across this cool article yesterday about a preschool classroom that ditched its toys for boxes:

Classroom Toys Replaced with Cardboard Boxes