7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 148)

October 21, 2011 | 82 comments

— 1 —

Halloween is just around the corner! The girls are going to be princesses (again), our son is going to be a ghost (again), my husband will be a giant banana (again)…but what should I be? The past few Halloweens I’ve been too exhausted to deal with dressing up, so I usually just throw on some sloppy clothes, tell everyone I’m dressed up as a blogger, and call it a day. This year I’m ready to actually make some effort, so I’m trying to think of an outfit that’s creative but doesn’t require spending $100 at the costume store. Any suggestions?

— 2 —

I’ve wrestled with whether or not we should celebrate Halloween. I agree with those who point out that there’s a big problem with the way modern culture celebrates it (sexy zombie costumes, anyone?)…yet I had a gut feeling that it wasn’t all bad, that this holiday has redeeming qualities, even from a Christian perspective. Then, last year, I saw an article by Dan Lord called The Fun of Fear, which is probably the best article on Halloween I’ve ever read. In it he makes the case that the haunted houses and ghouls and goblins of this holiday offer us a stage for working out our deepest fears. He writes:

I believe Halloween is good — not the way some people celebrate it today, as a borderline satanic ritual or a dive bomb into the depths of depravity, but in the way it has traditionally been celebrated in this country: a game designed to give the players a shiver (with a few sweets thrown into the bargain).

Because all of us — and especially little children — carry around so many fears, large and small, about everything from death to how the rent will be paid this month to (in the case of my oldest daughter) a sudden crack in the earth opening and swallowing us up, Halloween gives us a raucous stage for the free expression of our anxieties.

You can read the whole thing here. I think this is a great point, and it’s ultimately why we’ve kept the holiday on our family calendar.

— 3 —

You know how forewords to Catholic books often end by noting the feast day on which they were written? Under the foreword author’s name it will say something like, “Feast of the Annunciation, 2009” or “Feast of St. John the Baptist, 2010.” I wrote a foreword the other day and I was going to note the feast day to add a touch of class to the thing, but it was the feast of Blessed Contardo Ferrini. No offense to Bl. Contardo,  but it didn’t have quite the same panache as one of the major feast days. (If I were smart I would have pushed back the deadline until tomorrow, so that I could have ended with “Feast of Bl. John Paul II, 2011” thus showing everyone that I’m cool enough to write on the first ever feast day celebration for Pope John Paul!) Anyway, all that is a rambling way of asking: Do you still note the feast day, even if it’s for someone you’ve never heard of?

— 4 —

An old friend recently reminded me that I used to be good at this Jedi mind trick thing where I could convince people to do crazy things simply by having a commanding tone of voice. She recalled, with a look on her face indicating that she still can’t figure out how this happened, an incident that occurred one time when we were traveling.

We’d been on the way to New York City for a girl’s weekend out, and our plane got stranded overnight in Kansas City. Needless to say, it was kind of a nightmare: The discount airline made no effort to find us a place to stay, and the line to claim bags and get booked on another flight seemed to wrap through half the airport. In a commanding tone of voice, as if a great solution had just come to me, I announced, “Okay, if you can go grab the bags, I’ll go right over here and network with some locals to find the best hotel. We’ll have this worked out in no time. Go!” A few minutes later, as she found herself in an endless line full of angry airline customers, she realized that the “right over here” place I’d motioned to was a bar, and that I’d basically just said that she would stand in line for an hour while I had a glass of wine.

I need to try this with my husband. Maybe tonight, I’ll say in a decisive voice:

Okay, if you can handle bath and bedtime stuff, I think I can take web surfing. You can do brushing teeth, washing hair, jammies and diapers, and I’ll tackle New Advent, Twitter and Google Reader. Sound good? Let’s go!

— 5 —

I recently read one of those amazing books that changes the way I see the world. It’s called Story Engineering, written by Larry Brooks. Brooks makes the case that story is an objective concept; all great stories have the same elements in common. He offers the analogy of a face: If you’re going to draw a face, there are certain elements it must include: two eyes, one nose, one mouth, etc. Within that framework are infinite possibilities, but in order to be a “face, ” there are a few basic things that must be there. And so it goes with the story. He then proceeds to detail what elements almost all powerful stories have in common. To give just one example, he talks about the Midpoint, a point about half way through the story when the protagonist receives some information that allows him to switch from being reactive to being proactive.

Anyway, it’s been fascinating to see these elements at play in the stories I love. In both reading books and watching movies, over and over again I see all of these points that Brooks talks about. Interestingly, I find it to be especially helpful when it comes to writing memoir. At first I thought that these principles wouldn’t apply to true stories, since you can’t mold the events the way you would in fiction. What I’ve found, though, is that knowing these principles helps you choose the best real-life story to write about. You scan through your life for events that have the elements that Brooks describes. And when you find that, you know that that’s the story you should tell. A must-read book for anyone who writes stories.

— 6 —

A few months ago I wrote a post over at the Register listing the best rap songs for Catholics. Awesomely, I am now tapped into all sorts of rap-related email networks (I recently got a PR email from Snoop Dogg’s people asking if I would plug his new video). In particular, people have been coming out of the woodwork to tell me about the latest and greatest from the Catholic rap world. There is a Catholic rap world? you say? That was my reaction too. Anyway, I’ve discovered some surprisingly good stuff. Here’s a new favorite from Fr. Pontifex:

The song is from his new album, Ordained. You can buy it or hear more samples on Amazon here. I have to say, I’m quite impressed.

— 7 —

I’m having a photographer friend (who is as talented as she is generousdo new headshots for me this weekend, since I could use updated pictures for some writing/speaking stuff that’s coming down the pike. Anyone have any thoughts on what makes a good portrait photo? Outdoor or studio background? Smiling or natural expression? Casual or formal dress? I don’t know what to shoot for, so I’d love to hear any thoughts.



  1. Elizabeth

    I really dislike Halloween for the fear factor, and I always have. I’ll give his article a shot.

    Great review of “Story Engineering!” It sounds like my next read!

    Remember the old iPod ads with the people as black silhouettes? You could wear all black, put on a small black mask that just covers your eye area and walk around with an ipod. BONUS: dance like a loon when someone asks what you are and embarrass the princesses, ghost, and banana.

  2. jen

    i generally do the “college student” costume: school sweatshirt and pajama bottoms.

  3. Leah @ Unequally Yoked

    You can get a striking costume on the cheap if you use make-up effects to dress up clothes you already own. Dramatic makeup + a dark dress + those customizeable-with-putty fangs (not the bendy plastic ones!) makes a good vampire. Or pair any dress with a masquerade mask painted on with the greasepaint on sale in all the Halloween aisles.

    Of course, you could always give up sleeping for a few days prior and go as a zombie!

  4. Laura O in AK

    I haven’t given Halloween much thought. The toddler is taken care of for a costume. We found a military one on sale on Labor Day at a resale shop. My military loving boys insisted I buy it for the almost 2 year old who has quickly added camo to his vocabulary.

    As for heat shots, I’ve heard that you want to minimize interference from the background. I need to have my hubby (or maybe a friend who’s good with a camera) take a few for me, but keep putting it off.

  5. Dorian Speed

    Pretty sure we are going to go with Angry Birds costumes made out of leftover moving boxes – at least, that is what I have planned for the children.

    One Halloween, I went as Trash Bag Witch and this other family followed me up the steps to a house. The mom thought I was one of the kids’ friends and started lecturing me about getting separated from the group. That was probably the scariest Halloween memory from my childhood. “You’re not my real mother!!!”

  6. Erin

    re 1: Now why don’t you wear one of your ‘new finds’;) the apron and maybe a hat and be a baker or something like that. I’m not the best for me, can organise kids but not me, hard enough with my ordinary wardrobe. btw loved your apron article, your opening conversation had me in stitches, just the sort of conversation my dh and I have, (he too is the logical CPA with more than one degree).

  7. Elisa | blissfulE

    Halloween was rather awful growing up as we had teenagers who sacrificed cats in their front yard living across the street. Sacrifices complere, they attached big plastic garbage bags to a “borrowed” shopping cart and walked around the neighbourhood raking in the candy. I know my sister and I always gave them huge handfuls, hoping they would go away peacefully.

    Anyway, they were dressed for Halloween year round with 2-5″ spiked cones of blue, green, and other vivid colours of hair adorning their heads. One of them vaguely resembled the Statue of Liberty. Cheap costume idea there, perhaps?

    Have fun!!

  8. Shannon

    Best costume that ever came to my door: a teenager inside a black plastic garbage bag that had the little individual cereal boxes taped all over it, with a plastic knife stuck in each box. Yes indeed, he was the Cereal Killer.

  9. Mandi

    I recently heard of Fr. Pontifex, but haven’t had the chance to take a listen yet. I’m up in the middle of the night (pregnancy heartburn!) so I can’t listen now because my husband’s sleeping, but I can’t wait to listen in the morning.

  10. Tracy

    We LOVE to hit the thrift stores for our costumes and I have a good old standby of a witch costume….fancy cape, pointy hat, etc, etc for when my kids MAKE me dress up…but the giant banana…that’s great….my son is looking for one of those this year! LOL! Enjoy. I think it’s all what we make of it: for us it’s a fun dress up night and you end up with a huge stash of candy, win-win.

  11. Tom L

    I’m not sure why that site has Bl. Contardo Ferrini listed first on that day. October 17 is the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch in the General Roman Calendar.

    • Mila

      Perhaps they are listed alphabetically. I’m sure there are at least a couple more saints sharing the feast day, but St. Ignatius of Antioch gets the liturgical celebration.
      I haven’t heard of Blessed Contardo Ferrini since I was a little girl back in the ’50s. It’s good to know when his feast day is.

    • Mila

      Perhaps they are listed alphabetically. I’m sure there are at least a couple more saints sharing the feast day, but St. Ignatius of Antioch gets the liturgical celebration.
      I haven’t heard of Blessed Contardo Ferrini since I was a little girl back in the ’50s. It’s good to know when his feast day is.

  12. Iris Celeste

    Go as an independent amateur movie maker creating the next Blair Witch type shaky-cam movie.

  13. George @ Convert Journal

    Catholic rap is intriguing. Fr. Pontifex’s piece has a jazz feel to it. Not my thing, but I like it for reaching people who are into that stuff.

    My entry this week… Lionizing Steve Jobs. The Mighty Macs is released today. Dying so that your baby may live. Texas congresspeople, a study in contrast. We expected strides toward a post-racial society under a black president. Is it time to panic as we approach 7,000,000 people? A convert’s quote of the week.

  14. Valerie @ Momma in Progress

    My children have never asked me to dress up for Halloween. And I’m not offering to. I shudder at what suggestions they might have if they did, though.
    And I would have totally held out for a cooler feast day.

  15. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    Hurray for photographer friends! Outside shots are the best, and I fall outside shots are the best of the best….but does that rule still apply in Austin? I have no idea.

  16. Julia at LotsaLaundry

    I once went as the Cliche Queen. Dressed all in black, then pinned about 200 cliches (printed on white paper) to myself. Gotta say it was a GREAT costume for a single woman; not so sure I’d do it as a married one, because everybody stops to read you! Though I suppose you could make the pieces of paper bigger and easier to read…

    An alternative would be to attach random toys and books to yourself and go as the kids’ room.

    Thanks for the Story Engineering. Have you read Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit? Fabulous.

  17. Kathleen Basi

    #4 is hilarious! If only I could make that work!

    The Story Engineering sounds very interesting. That sounds like exactly what I need right now in planning out my fiction work.

    I also need head shots done, so I’ll be interested to see what people suggest.

  18. Michael

    Catholic Rap! Love it! Somewhere I have a picture from a visit to Orange County Choppers. The Vatican commissioned a bike with the Pope’s crest.

  19. Julie Cragon

    I’m with Tom L. We celebrated Ignatius of Antioch and I believe Oct 17 is also St Margaret Mary. Thanks for the info on Story Engineering. Sounds like something I could definitely use.

  20. Jennifer

    Quick, cute and cheap costume idea that I’ve stolen from my friend, the second grade teacher. You can wear black pants and a long sleeved black shirt, draw on some black whiskers with a black dot on your nose, and put on some cat ears. If you’re really ambitious, add a tail, but it’s easier to go as a tailless cat! It takes about five minutes, five dollars, and is comfortable.

  21. Cathy

    If you finished the forward on the 20th, I think it is also the feast of Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko.

    He was a young Polish priest, working with Solidarity, who was murdered by the state police in 1984.

    Just a thought.

    Of course, you don’t have to have the feast day….

  22. Joy @ Joy In This Journey

    I think you should do something that goes with the banana. Maybe you’re a banana split ingredient. Or an orange. Or a monkey since they like to eat bananas. 😀

    That book looks fabulous — thanks for reviewing!

  23. Tina

    Definitely dress up as a scorpion. You can kill two birds with one stone; Halloween costume and desensitization therapy.

  24. Elisa | blissfulE

    I linked twice above because the first time I used my blog’s URL rather than my 7 quick takes post; didn’t see a way to edit it, so I just linked again.

    On head shots… the best advice I’ve heard is to flip through all the shots and choose not necessarily the prettiest or one you would most like to frame, but the one that makes you pause, or captures your attention. Something different and eye-catching. Have fun with the shoot!

  25. Anna

    Tape the smarties candies to your pants. You’re a smarty-pants.

  26. Jennifer

    My daughter is going as a Whoopie Cushion – less than $25 at the costume store and it just slips on over regular clothes. My favorite creative costumes – one year I sent my husband to school with a small, Matchbox military plane in his hand. Think about it. Think about it. He was an aircraft carrier. Another year one of the teachers at his high school showed up with several “travel” sized boxes of cereal attached to her sweathshirt – each had a fork protruding from it. She was a Cereal Killer.

    As for the headshot – you don’t have gorgeous fall leaves in Texas, do you? I love nature backgrounds and nice but casual clothes, personally – like a denim blouse or a white t-shirt with a scarf. . .

  27. Leigh

    First of all I am a new convert who loves to read you blog. If you are ever in NC let me know, I would love to meet you. About Halloween. I really think people blow this out of proportion. When I was little, and it’s been a while, we all went out in a group and had a blast. It was all about the great candy. When we got home we would sort it out, count it and trade with each other. That’s it. There was nothing remotely religious of non religious about it. Just innocent fun walking around with friends. I think it is what you make it be about.

  28. Judy

    Well,…whew. You have a lot going on!
    As per the costume-idea question, how about going as grapes? This is easily arranged with a large black garbage bag to which you’d staple purple balloons and add a “cap”/stem made from a twisted brown paper bag stapled to a green or purple or black knit tossle cap.

    As per the to-do-or-not-to-do Halloween thing…I do not want to spam your Quick Takes with unsolicited links…but I wrote a post on this very topic recently and if you visit Benmakesten you can use the “search this blog” in the right-hand sidebar to find it, if you’re interested.

    Finally, as per the headshot photo, the photographer who just did mine for my book said that “outdoor” is best. However, since it happened to have been pouring down rain at our shoot, we chose an indoor, pale-painted wall background; which the Cover Designer then matched the background of the entire cover to…came out very nicely….I chose a black collared cotton 3/4 sleeve blouse with a white stretch-knit tank underneath…the contrast worked well…and it was a nice balance between “professional-looking” and “approachable-as-the-stay-at-home-mom-that-I-am-looking”. Hope this gives you a few ideas… mostly, rather than trying to “create” a headshot image…try, instead to figure out how best to emanate who you already are so that your readers can relate…and when they see the photos, they say, “Yep! That’s JUST how I pictured Jennifer Fulwiler”.

    And now, MY question to YOU: What is Ya Ya being for Halloween????????

    • Dorian Speed

      Oh, good question! Or – hey, Jen could go trick-or-treating as Ya Ya!

  29. Judy

    Sorry to double-comment, but I am having a good time imagining YOU imagining what your kids would do to those grapes!!!! “Here comes Jen…she’s dressed as grapes…what is that popping sound…does anyone else hear it?!?….BOYS…give your mother those pins RIGHT NOW…c’mon…HAND ‘EM OVER!”

  30. Regina

    For the Catholic book foreword–you can always say “Vigil of the Feast of Tomorrow’s Saint” if it’s a better saint. You know, Catholics love Vigils and Eves.

  31. Angie

    I think outdoors and a bit more casual for the headshots – be different! A friend was telling me the other day about a book signing she went to and she actually ran into the author in the bathroom beforehand and didn’t recognize her because her head shot on the book cover was so “glammed up”!

  32. Courtney F.

    The most creative costume I ever wore was the year I went as a pile of leaves. Basically, the costume involved a single piece of brown fabric, with ties that could hold it on over my head. Glued all over it were faux autumn leaves from the sprays you can get at Jo-Ann’s or Michaels. It was fun, and it got a lot of compliments!

  33. singlecatholicgirl

    For the book, I don’t think you would include a ‘Blessed’ for a feast day. My understanding is that until they are canonized a Saint, the home land/Diocese are the only ones with permission to celebrate a ‘Blessed’ Feast day. I may be wrong!

    For example, the United States officially celebrates Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha on July 14, but for everyone else….well…it brings up an interesting point seeing that it’s Blessed John Paul II’s first ‘Feast’ tomorrow. However read the National Catholic Register on it and you can gain come more insight. 🙂


  34. Dwija {House Unseen}

    The other day I was wearing a black and white striped sailor style top and my son asked me why I was wearing a zebra costume.

    A zebra costume?!?!

    So that’s what I’m going to be for Halloween. Shazam.

    For headshots, I like the people to basically look the way they look when they’re speaking. So whatever fanciness level of clothes you plan to wear at your engagements and whatever your smile level is when you meet people for the first time- those should be your guidelines for the photos. You know in my *expert opinion* 😉

  35. Brandon Vogt

    I picked up “Story Engineering” when it was free on Kindle, breezed through it in a day, but in the end I just didn’t care for it. I thought half of it was fluff, especially the first few chapters which were a lengthy exercise in the “tell them what you’re going to tell them” principle.


    But your take makes me want to go back and give it a more thorough read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  36. Carolina

    Updated my 7 quick takes Friday. The first one is from an earlier post, the second one is the Real quick takes friday. I had posted it as draft and didn’t update the date….learning! Thanks for hosting and providing the template. I’m enjoying reading everyone elses quick takes!

  37. Steph @ Moving to MD

    I’ve found this website to be a treasure trove of awesome halloween costumes that you make at home. http://www.coolest-homemade-costumes.com/ This Mac and Cheese one is awesome.

    Thanks for the book recommendation. It sounds intriguing!

    As far as photos go, I like natural light personally, but sometimes outdoors can be too harsh (especially if during the middle of the day), but I’m sure your photographer knows all of this and more! 🙂 In terms of smiling I say do both and see what looks most natural.

  38. Joanna

    You could pull your hair up, put on a long gold necklace, and add a pair of heels and say you’re Joan Holloway from Mad Men.

  39. Laura

    I’ve been doing portrait photography and I’d say go for the casual, natural look. Outdoor is great because natural light looks more…natural (and flattering).
    God Bless.

  40. Lisa

    1. Maybe there’s a companion costume to your husband’s banana? An apple? A monkey? A jar of peanutbutter?

    2. Not that we think Halloween is evil in and of itself, but we don’t do it at our house. We don’t think it’s worth the mixed message. There are safer and more controlled environments to face our children’s fear issues. And we think it’s important to impress on their minds and hearts the importance of the Catholic feasts of this time. All Saints’Day and All Souls’ Day are full of good things we don’t want the kids to miss in the confusion of ghosts and ghouls. And if parents play it right, celebrating those feasts can be just as much or more fun. It’s important, too, we think, to teach our children not to fear being different from everyone around them in this crazy, mixed up world. We want them to be proud to behave like Catholics instead of like pagans. Anyway, that’s my opinion. Not like you asked for it, but there ya go.

    3. We always remember the saint of the day. It may be the most obscure saint who has just the ticket for my sorry self on his or her feast day! They all see the Face of God, so they’re all OK by me.

    7. On the photo: It seems that you need to figure out what you want your portrait to say about you. A formal shot, in high heels and pearls, taken in a studio says something different than one taken on a country fence in a flannel shirt. No matter what, though, it will be lovely. You’re so pretty.

  41. Brandon

    I am a former pro photographer. The best thing you can do with a photo session is to just have fun with it. Take a bunch of shots. Some with smiles and some with out. Don’t force it too much because forced smiles look terrible. Just have fun so when you smile it’s not too forced.

    Personally, I’m a fan of outdoor photography. There is nothing like natural light. The photographer you’re working with likely knows this, but if it’s bright-sunny out, make sure the sun is to your back. There are always things around to use as props (even if it’s just a tree), and trees in the background that are outside the depth of field (i.e., they’re out of focus) make for a splendid green backdrop. Again, your photographer likely knows how to achieve this.

  42. Jessica

    Jen, why don’t you sport a long-sleeved, knee-length dress, a string of pearls, heels and hosiery, some kind of formal hat, and go as the Duchess of Cambridge? The only thing you’d probably have to buy is the hat!

    This is my son’s first “eve of All Saints’ Day.” 😉 We’ll be taking him around to see family and friends in his cute polar bear costume. When he – and any other children, if God chooses to bless us with more! – are older, they’ll be allowed to dress up as saints, angels, animals or certain storybook characters. That is our “happy compromise.”

    On this note, a sweet little girl came to our door last year and announced that she was Saint Elizabeth. I practically overturned the entire candy bowl into her plastic pumpkin.

  43. The Mom Chef ~ Taking on Magazines One Recipe at a Time

    Howdy! Regarding Halloween, I’ve decided that since the evil one has invaded Christmas with Santa Claus and Easter with the bunny, our family will return the favor and take a holiday that is used by many of his groups and turn it into a fun kids’ night. Just no scary costumes. 🙂

  44. Leanne


    1) I just started following you from one of Jon Acuff’s blog posts. I mostly lurk there, mainly because I haven’t developed the habit of reading him before late afternoon and the discussion seems to be about over by then.

    2) Story Engineering sounds good. I’ll have to check it out, although I’ve read umpteen books about writing. But your thought about memoirs having the same elements as fiction is intriguing to me!

    3) I have no advice for Halloween. We don’t even seem to get trick or treaters any more… More candy for us!

    4) Currently, I’m exploring the Catholic feast days (I’m Episcopalian) through using a Benedictine Prayer Book. The coolest part is that one of the readings for the day is either about or written by the saint.

    5) As for your publicity photos: what’s your brand? (I’ve not been reading your blog long enough to articulate) This is not to say you should get all dressed in white and have lighting that makes you look like you have a halo, but it should illustrate who you are in a timeless fashion — ’cause I know I don’t want to go through another photo shoot again! And also, you’ll get to stay young forever — on the inside back jacket of your books, at least.

    6) I wanna do a 7 Quick Takes but can only make it up to 6 in comments. But plan to join in and read everyone else’s quick takes soon!

  45. Eva

    The storybook concept is an old one. Check out the Structuralists, especially Vladimir Propp. He made a card catalogue of elements: pull one from each group and you have a complete fairy tale (i.e. story). On a tangentially related note, I never knew where Picasso & co. were coming from until I saw a “How to Draw a/n […]” book. 🙂

  46. Christie @ Garden of Holiness

    After 8 years of struggling with this holiday, we are celebrating it in Catholic fashion this year. We will have the fun of some limited Trick or Treating dressed up in silly costumes (we play dress up on almost every other day of the year, so this will merely be a chance to take the show on the road) after attending a “Guess Which Saint I Am?” party on the 31st, then we are hitting Mass the next two days, and praying for our departed loved ones and visiting their graves all during the month of November. I was born on October 31, so having fun that day is part of being me. There, it’s decided! (until we dredge it all up again next year) 😉

  47. Martina

    Definitely outdoor. Especially around here this time of year, the weather is perfect for it and it doesn’t have a “manufactured” look that the traditional studio pics look…although, I have to say whether you do studio or outdoor, the key to great pictures is to amp up the natural light. It just makes the family look so much more natural…and closer to how you normally come across to everyday folk. 🙂

    They’ll come out perfect as long as you have few to no expectations on the results. 🙂

  48. Lindsay

    Regarding number 3, why don’t you just shift the date along to the future? You don’t necessarily have to have finished writing it on the day you sign it. B16 does it; his encyclicals are written when he has time, but they’re signed at the end with a major feast day as the official release date. They’re published and distributed well ahead of that day, but the official finish date is always a nice big feast.

    With that in mind, I think Single Catholic Girl is right up there when she says Bl. JPII’s feast day is only official in Rome and Poland.

    • MelanieB

      A local bishop can also grant permission for priests in his diocese to celebrate a feast as Cardinal Sean did in Boston.

  49. Allie

    I’m looking to do a new photo of myself for websites and whatnot in the near future. As I’ve thought about it, I think it really depends on what you’re going for (serious? fun?). But in general, I’m pro natural background (either inside or outside). Just make sure the background isn’t too cluttered!

    This is more for photographers, but I think it can help you understand what will look good: http://www.digital-photography-school.com/how-to-a-great-photos-for-your-social-media-avatar

  50. Sarah

    When I was growing up, my family used to celebrate Martin Luther day on October 31st instead of Halloween. I guess that’s probably not an option now that I’m Catholic…

  51. Trisha Niermeyer Potter @ Prints of Grace

    I’ll definitely have to check out your best rap songs for Catholics article as most of the rap that’s etched into my brain is not of the Christian nature, unfortunately.

    I will also read Dan Lord’s article on Halloween.

    Our family’s situation is a little different since my youngest sister was born on Halloween while my other sister and I were out trick-or-treating, the day gives us other reasons to have fun and celebrate.

    Good luck and coming up with a cool, original costume from things already available. I’m sure it’ll be a fun time for you and your perpetual princesses and good-for-the-long-haul ghost 🙂

  52. 'Becca

    For your photo: Having seen a number of photos of you now, I think an angle with your chin tucked under and hair forward a bit (like in your sidebar photo) is most flattering for you. An outdoor background seems off, since you often comment on your love for staying indoors! The bookcase is a very appropriate background. Since it’s just a head shot, I think the formality of your clothing is less important than choosing a neckline and color that look really good on you.

  53. Beadgirl

    Do you still need a costume idea? Do you have a long, full skirt and lots of scarves and costume jewelry? Then go as a gypsy! That’s always my fallback costume.

  54. JC

    I used to do a bit more for halloween with some friends, though my wife is a bit anti-halloween, so I rarely get much dressed-up anymore. On the other hand, I rather like Fr Z’s suggestion about a Dante-themed haunted house.

  55. Elizabeth @ Coppertop Kitchen

    That story-book sounds fascinating! I’ll have to pick it up. Have a great weekend!

  56. Bill Burns (AKA Theocoid)

    You can go as an intimate dinner for two. It requires 36-inch circular foam board, a table cloth, some kind of outlandishly flowerly and a children’s food playset (with utensils).

    Cut a hole in the foam board large enough for your head. Same for the table cloth. Use some crafting glue to adhere the table cloith to the foam board. Carefully adhere your two place settings with food on opposite sides of the table. Your head is the centerpiece. Attach the flowery hard accessories to your hair, put the “table” with table cloth over your head, and you’re set. If you want to get daring, you can go with candles instead of flowers. Okay, maybe not.

  57. Susan

    Dear Jen,
    I hope you’ll be flattered and not insulted by this but here goes: those of us who could best be described as short and round envy you your height and slimness. So, why not wear the greenest clothes you can find, pin on a few leaves and dress the new baby as a little story book boy. Result: Jack and the Beanstalk.

    Just a thought,

  58. Catherine

    Hey Jen,

    Here’s an easy, fun one: Buy a bunch of lime green regular round balloons. Then, when the big day comes, put on any clothes you want, being sure to have your legs in some kind of dark pants or tights. Then, blow the balloons up and attach them to your clothing – all the way around! You will look like a bunch of grapes!! 😀

  59. Jenna@CallHerHappy

    Ok, I need to learn this Jedi trick. How is this: “Honey, you do the dishes and change the baby while I research the effects of social media while on Facebook.”

    Also, heading over to read the Halloween article right now. I have a feeling I might need it this weekend!


  60. Lenetta

    I’m going as Red Fraggle. Red turtleneck sweater, orange shorts & tights. Maybe orange feet if I get ambitious. I’m putting a tail on the shorts, I think. I made pigtails out of orange yarn. Done! I talked my 4YO out of wearing one of her princess dresses and into St. Lucy, since she has a crown with candles! (they will be fake, thanks) I was going to make a white fleece robe, but she wants it to be twirly, so I’m thinking it’ll be some sort of pretty fabric and we’ll bundle her up underneath.

  61. Sarah

    If I go as anything I will copy an idea I saw some years ago. Put a wreath of flowers around your neck. Call yourself a bloomin’ idiot.

  62. Ruth

    I grew up not buying costumes, so I often ended up doing things like make felt ears and paste to one of my head bands, stuff one of my mom’s old hose and pin to my butt, wear socks on my arms, draw whiskers to my face with eyeliner, and use some of her lipstick to color my nose pink–voila: a dog/cat. Once I was a gypsy by wearing a red bandana in my hair, tying one of my mom’s shawls around my waist over my broomstick skirt, and wearing my sister’s collection of bangles. Now that I’m older, I still prefer the minimalist costume: last year, I wore a three on my chest and made a halo from a wire hanger and tinsel leftover from Christmas (I was the game, Halo 3). If I dress up at all, I plan on making yellow petals from felt that will be glued to a headband, I will wear a green t-shirt and brown pants–I will go as the sunflower from plants vs. zombies.

  63. robbie

    re pics: I think part of what makes a good photo is you being in a place in which you feel comfortable, wearing an expression that reflects your personality. For instance, in your current pic you have a cute, sort of sly smile that hints at your sense of humor. My only other thought is this: I just looked at some photos of a friend that were exceptional, and she had on this fantastic multi-textured/colored scarf. I’m not a scarf person, myself, and maybe you aren’t either, but this brought a lot of interest right up near her face. This scarf isn’t as beautiful as my friend’s but so you get the idea: http://www.etsy.com/listing/28008720/oz-body-decor-multi-textured-scarf

  64. shwell

    OK, you probably won’t do this but you might get a laugh…
    One year I dressed as a Giant Duck, my husband says half the kids in town now have phobias about ducks, but hey, I liked it.

    I wore striped thermal underwear on my legs, put a pillow across my butt sideways and one down the front vertically and wrapped a piece of red fleece around as a sort of skirt, I can’t remember what I wore for a top but something big enough to stuff the pillow in, then a red fleece balaclava, I made felt webbed feet shaped cutouts to cover my shoes and made a felt beak, with a pipe cleaner on each side to hook over my ears. I took the inside of a dog toy that made a duck noise and put it under my arm, All night when people talked to me I would ‘flap’ my arm and it would make the dog toy quack. No-one knew who it was, I joined in some great conversations, and lots of people got a good laugh.
    All the stuff was gathered from around the house. Food for Thought……

  65. JoAnna

    Cut two legholes in an old laundry basket, attach it to yourself with old suspenders, wear dirty clothes, and go as a basket of dirty laundry.

    Or, fashion a toga out of an old bedsheet, and tape or pin packages of ramen noodles in a “V” shape over the front. Voila, a Ramen Numeral costume.

  66. Juli Smith

    Halloween Costume Idea: Bathrobe and hair in rollers or if you have short hair, wrap your head in a towel. Maybe even put a facial mask on, well, okay not for that long. But face pain that looks like a facial mask. Although, the facial mask would give an awesome dried out, cracked appearance after enough time! lol

    Catholic Rap: A favorite of ours is The Apologist: 53 Beds on a String

    Personal Photo: I guess it depends what you’re looking for. I like natural, candid-looking shots, either out in nature or with a slightly bright background (like a glowing, halo type effect. Candid-looking, i.e. not looking directly at the camera, but still some portion of your eyes showing. Clear as mud? 🙂

    Thanks for posting! Thanks for asking for opinions/ideas! God Bless!

  67. Theresa in Alberta

    The year of the swine flu or H1N1 hupplahaha my coworker and her husband had white t-shirts printed up, she had H1 he had N1 and they won 1st prize at the community party.
    or you could have a shirt that says IRS, that is real scary! 😉

  68. Jen

    Isn’t the costume obvious?? Snoop Dog, of course:)

  69. Chantal

    Try the GARBAGE COSTUME. Put on a large garbage bag on and have the kids stick “garbage on ” paper, ect. Voila you are now the Garbage Lady. If you wish put a garbage lid on as a hat. ” Ps make sure it is clean.” This costume is lots of fun and brings lots of laughs!

  70. Martha

    I’m so glad that you found the storyfix.com website by Larry Brooks. I’ve found his instruction of immense help in writing my history of our local fire department.

  71. Julie

    For a quick and easy Halloween costume, I once wore running clothes and shoes and made a large clock face out of poster board. I strung some twine through holes in the clock and hung it around my neck. I was “running late” — a very appropriate costume for me, I’ll tell you.

    • Gina

      Oops, make that “NOT a fan of the miniskirt-and-tights look.” 😀

  72. Theresa

    Jennifer, I am with you on deciding to celebrate Halloween. I grew up in a wonderful Catholic family but there were some things I think my parents went overboard with. Two things that particularly stuck with me – not allowing me to watch the Smurfs and not celebrating Halloween. I would spend Halloween wistfully looking out the window wishing I had normal parents who would let me go door to door and get some Butterfingers. Finally, my parents realized that making something forbidden was just increasing the intrigue so they allowed us to celebrate the holiday. But by that time I was past the age where it really mattered.

    It may seem small and ridiculous but I think those little things contributed (just a bit) to me falling away from the Church for a while. Those little things can seem so nonsensical to kids and in the end are just not worth the point the parent is trying to make – no matter how good the intention may be.

    Just my 2 cents. 🙂



  73. Smoochagator

    Okay, Jen, because I love you SOOOOOOO MUCH, I will share with you my Halloween costume idea. BUT NO ONE ELSE IS ALLOWED TO COPY IT. (I’m kidding, of course.) I love the Progressive commercials, and a friend of mine suggested that I dress up as Flo (cheat sheet: http://www.progressive.com/dresslikeflo.aspx). But what should the baby be? He has to go along with my costume. (That sounds awful, right? Whatever, he’s 16 months old, he has zero interest in what he’s wearing.) So another friend suggested I dress him up in white (sweats or maybe just a T-shirt, depends on the weather) and add labels to his outfit that say, “HOME,” “AUTO,” “BOAT,” etc. Get it? HE’S AN INSURANCE BUNDLE! Love it. And you can do the same since you also have a little baby who doesn’t care about her costume. Plus I think you can totally pull off the Flo perkyness.

    (No, Progressive did not pay me to post this comment, nor are they paying me to impersonate Flo. Hopefully they won’t sue me for impersonating Flo, either.)

  74. Http://Www.Bedbathandbeyond.Com

    That is a good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere.
    Simple but very accurate info… Appreciate your sharing this one.
    A must read article!

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