Tag Archives: halloween

Dressing up

The unschooling diaries: week forty-two

One of my very favourite things about Halloween this year was the week-long dress-up fest that preceded it.

Arthur had decided some time in advance that he wanted to be Luke Skywalker on the day. Not for any particularly special occasion you understand – we weren’t going to a party, or ‘trick or treat’ing – but just because it was Halloween, and so he could. Daddy was going to be Darth Vader, and I would be Princess Leia. Totally fine by me.

As Halloween approached, Arthur basically decided that he needed to be in fancy dress whenever we left the house (or even if we didn’t).

So he was a bat in the woods at Occombe farm…


And a spaceman for an organised foraging walk we went on.


(It was a particularly apt outfit for exploring the new adventure playground at Dartington when we were done).

This might not seem like too much of a big deal: three year old, any excuse for a costume, pretty standard. But it took AGES before he was even vaguely interested in fancy dress, and so it still has a certain novelty value.

More than that, too, his dress up games are now imbued with the wonderful imagination that is blossoming in him, and he embraces the characters he takes on with gusto.

The highlight of our Halloween adventures was a walk up to Berry Head – in costume of course. I had a meeting at the pool on Sunday morning, and Leigh and Arthur came to meet me there – in costume and clutching their lightsabers.


(These lightsabers are worth an aside themselves. I made one for Arthur a while ago using a bubble wand, and whilst it was pretty cool it way no way nearly as awesome as the discovery he made whilst I was raiding our fancy dress boxes for other props… He found the ten-year-old pop up lightsabers with lights and sound that Leigh had bought for himself and his brother and squirrelled away for his future son. And boy was his son excited.)


Arthur led us through the overgrown pathways up on the headland, taking his mission very seriously until we reached an open space. And then he took great delight in lightsaber duels with anyone who was interested (quite a few random kids as well as just his dad it turned out).


By the time we headed for home, and lunch with Arthur’s best mate, he was brimming with excitement and adventure.


Amazing how being in costume can transform your experience of well-trodden paths. And it’s Christmas soon, right? Cue all sorts of festive role-play…

Perfect pumpkins

The unschooling diaries: week forty-one

This is not a reflection on my amazing pumpkin-carving skills, but rather just a realisation of how the humble pumpkin makes a perfect vehicle for learning.

Our pumpkin journey began back in May, with three tiny plants from Rocket Gardens. Arthur helped me plant them, and over the weeks that followed we watered them and watched them grow.


And grow.


And grow!


To be honest I had probably been a little ambitious with the amount of plants we tried to squeeze in to our raised beds, but the pumpkins soon made a break for freedom and found the space they needed by crawling across the deck.


Arthur has been asking since August whether it is Halloween yet – he has been desperate to bring the pumpkins inside and carve them into lanterns. And this weekend we finally did.


He was bursting with excitement as we cut the pumpkins open and scooped out the seeds and flesh from inside


He had very clear ideas about what he wanted to create from his pumpkins: a ghost, a spooky dog, and an astronaut (we had to pilfer a squash from our veg box for the third one).

We looked online for images that fitted his vision, and then he guided me as I drew the outlines on the orange skin. We worked together to carve the shapes out, using Arthur’s ‘ghost knife’ that we’d picked up this time last year and a handy little saw.



As soon as the lanterns took shape Arthur sought out candles to illuminate them, insisting that we took them somewhere dark immediately for a better view and staring full of wonder when night began to fall and he could watch the flames flicker at the kitchen table before we finally dragged him off to bed.


This was only the start for the pumpkins, though.

Whilst Arthur and I had been carving their shells for Halloween lanterns, Leigh had been busy making pumpkin pie for Sunday lunch.


And once the carving was done, we dried and roasted the pumpkin seeds for snacking on – a real treat in my nut-allergic world where every packet of commercially available seeds warns of possible cross contamination!


There is even a portion of pumpkin puree left in the fridge, waiting to be cooked up into Halloween cupcakes this afternoon.

Honestly, who would have thought a simple vegetable could bring so much joy – and so much learning? I think we’ll all be sad to see the pumpkins go once this week is out. I’d best get thinking about what we can grow next…

Sunday photo: 1st November 2015


Arthur decided he wanted to be a bat this Halloween. We’d been mulling over our options for family outfits for a while, and this one was perfect – a bat costume for Arthur, and easily-cobbled-together vampire parents for us.

Naturally I was still working out how to create a comfortable and convincing toddler bat on the evening of the 30th, but I’m quite pleased with how it came together. Arthur especially loved his wings: he spent most of yesterday whooshing around shouting “I’m a bat! I’m a bat!” at anyone who would listen. He was certainly the cutest bat that I’ve ever seen.

Linking up today’s pic with Darren at One Dad 3 Girls for My Sunday Photo and Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project. Check out their blogs for some fantastic photography from across the blogosphere!

Halloween creations


One of my favourite things about halloween is the excuse it brings to begin getting all creative again. It’s the time of year when the darkness is beginning to draw in faster than you can blink, the only benefit of which as far as I can make out is more hours to spend inside making things – and (whisper it) to begin limbering up those creative muscles in time for Christmas.

I had more ideas than I had time this year – predictably perhaps, but also because I’d set the end of October as the deadline for finishing the second draft of my novel. Despite that I still managed to fit in some little projects which I will share with you here.


Now Arthur’s costume this year was a piece of cake. He is still just a little bit obsessed with The Gruffalo, and having found him the perfect onesie and wellington boots his outfit for the best part of last week was sorted.


When it came to halloween itself though I was keen for Leigh and I to join in. Having toyed around with various ideas, all of which I quickly dismissed as way too ambitious, I set out to solve this creative challenge with two socks and a pair of tights.


The snake came first: a few bits of felt and a red pipe cleaner turning a green football sock into the easiest puppet ever.




Then came the fox. I’d already decided to pinch a pair of Arthur’s baby-led weaning ears, but I was not going to pull it off without a nice bushy tail. This is where the lovely orange tights came in: stuff one leg with a generous helping of toy filling (I had some kapok left over from another project but anything would do), then cover it with the other leg for a nice deep colour and extra stability.


I used some extra pipe cleaners to give the tail a bit of bend too, just twisting them down into the stuffing, then embellished the end with a couple more scraps of felt.


A length of elastic folded into the open end of the tights and sewn firmly and hey presto! A tail.


The second sock was going to be transformed into the owl, but I have to admit that I ran out of time, resorting to something I’d made earlier…


(It was actually the result of a make a monster kit from Donna Wilson that Arthur had been given last Christmas, but it does look an awful lot like an owl).

It all came together pretty well in the end, and alongside Arthur’s Gruffalo we had me as the fox…


And Leigh as the snake (and the owl)…


And together we were the cast of The Gruffalo!


Arthur actually won a fancy dress competition for his costume on halloween night. I felt a bit bad at first seeing as all the other costumes kids were wearing had clearly taken considerably more time and effort than slipping on his onesie, but then I figured that with us as his ‘props’ he could hardly not win really!


Now initially we had grand plans for Gruffalo pumpkins to go with our general theme. Arthur and Leigh had sat down to do some research a couple of days before, discussing possible images as Leigh hollowed out the pumpkins ready to begin.



But then we got distracted, and didn’t actually get round to beginning the carving till half an hour before we sat down for dinner on Friday. So we decided to go with something simpler, aiming for sort-of self-portraits. Leigh and I did our own, and then I carved Arthurs as a cat-mouse-gruffalo sort of creature. The resemblance is uncanny, don’t you think?




Now after all that lantern-carving we were left with an awful lot of pumpkin guts to deal with, and it seemed like a terrible waste just to throw them away. So I decided to do some baking – Arthur and I had a playdate during the day on Friday and it would have been a shame to turn up empty handed!


I used some of the pumpkin to make spiced pumpkin muffins using this recipe, and iced them with a cream cheese frosting – yum! I also rustled up some gingerbread cats for good measure – here’s the recipe for those, but they didn’t contain any pumpkin.


We had planned to put the rest of the puree into a pumpkin pie to enjoy after Sunday lunch with friends, but actually after a bit of research we discovered that your everyday pumpkin doesn’t actually make an especially good pie. So Leigh made a squash and sweet potato pie instead, adapting this recipe. It was so delicious I just had to share…


So there you have it: this year’s halloween creations. I’m feeling well and truly limbered up for christmas now. But that’s still ages away, right?

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A halloween trail and a pumpkin parade

With the weather being so unseasonably warm recently, we’ve had a brilliantly outdoorsy halloween.


It began on Thursday with a visit to Occombe Farm’s Bewitched Trail. It was aimed at 4-12 year olds, so Arthur and his friend were a little young to really make the most of it – but they still had a great time running around in the woods whilst us mums chatted and ‘helped’ them fill in the quiz sheet!


Arthur had his Gruffalo outfit on (I suspect he’d wear it permanently given half the chance) so the woodland setting was just perfect. He loved exploring around all the trees – I only noticed when I looked at the pictures that this one had a particularly spooky face on it…


There were some conveniently placed tree stumps too so he could take a rest from all the running around.


The trail was perfectly integrated into the natural environment, and whilst the toddlers couldn’t manage all of the challenges they were delighted to come across a little mouse hiding in a fallen trunk!

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Arthur managed to hold onto his own mouse for almost all of his adventure, though there were points where the excitement got the better of him and poor mouse was left lying in the leaves…


Even the Gruffalo ran out of steam eventually, snuggling up in the sling for the rest of the trail.


On halloween itself we went exploring a little bit closer to home, heading up to the Guardhouse Cafe on Berry Head. They had all sorts of family friendly activities on offer, including a ghost hunt in the Napoleonic fort which I wish we’d managed to take part in. We ended up though focusing on the pumpkin parade – Arthur wasn’t really aware of halloween pumpkins last year, but this year he was fascinated by them – and just a little bit scared.

By the time we wandered up it was already beginning to get dark. Our local woods were feeling very creepy, but it was still incredibly warm and clear giving us some stunning views when we reached the headland.


We headed straight for the cafe, where parents and children were hard at work carving a spectacular array of pumpkins. Leigh and I settled down with a very welcome glass of wine and with only half an hour before the parade – and despite Arthur’s interventions – Leigh managed a very respectable effort of his own.



As soon as he was done it was torches at the ready to head out into the night. There was something very magical about walking out towards Berry Head itself in the dark, a weaving line of glowing lights with the hushed chatter blending with the wind and the lapping of the waves far below. These sounds were punctuated with Arthur’s little voice calling out ‘what is this? What is this?’ as he took in the latest bizarre experience we were exposing him to!



We formed a circle when we got to the end – not too close to the cliffs – and our guide regaled us with a ghost story before we turned and made our way back in the dark towards the cafe.

There it was time for the judging of the fancy dress and pumpkin competition. Arthur was again dressed as a little Gruffalo, backed up by our own efforts as the fox, snake and owl to complete the story (more on that in another post). The other children were wearing some really amazing costumes – there was a general spirit of gothic spookiness going on – but I think Arthur’s cuteness factor gave him the cutting edge because he was judged the winner.



It was a lovely end to a brilliant couple of hours of halloween fun. The party was continuing with a suitably spooky dinner but we thought we’d better get our little Gruffalo home. It was a good thing we left when we did because the woods really were pitch dark by the time we made our way back though them… But you’ll be glad to hear we all made it back in one piece!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall