The Flagg Family's
We've been known to show up for Halloween.
And so, I can't lie when I say I've been feeling a bit nervous about what our first big holiday outside of the States would feel like.
I started prepping the girls about a month ago. We all knew Halloween was going to look a bit different this year. For one thing, it's not a widely recognized holiday in Portugal. There would be no trick-or-treating (although I'd sort of love to see the looks on people's faces if we showed up at their door at night in costume demanding candy...) We considered throwing our own party in the old, presumably-haunted building across the street from our house, but that didn't make it past a ghost of an idea (har har.)
And so, it all came down to the costumes. While I'm not a seamstress by any stretch of the imagination, I do love dusting off the ol' sewing machine when it comes to Halloween costumes. You see, Halloween costumes are a different monster (I'm on a roll.) Nobody bats (somebody stop me) an eye if the stitches are all wonky - in fact, the wonkier the better for this holiday. And the outfits only need to hold together for 24 hours, give or take. Which is perfect for me! I mean, if my resume were to include a list of my sewing skills, "wonky stitches," and "falls apart within a day" would definitely be at the top of that list.
But here's the thing: Making costumes also requires confidence. Confidence in your sewing tools. Confidence in your mediocre sewing abilities. Confidence in which craft stores you can find what materials. Confidence that if you're having a hard time locating said materials, you can ask a store associate for help.
Guess what doesn't exist in Portugal? That's right… all of the above. That's not to say sewing tools and craft stores don't exist here - I'm sure they do. I just don't know how to navigate it all. In Colorado, I could've driven to Michaels blindfolded, stayed blindfolded as I ran to aisle 3 for the exact right fabric, and driven back home all in record time (I know, I know...the dangers of being blindfolded while picking out fabric is a safety hazard I shouldn't joke about.) But here in Portugal, I still can't even walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night without stubbing my toe on the corner of the bed.
And while my 2.5-months in Portugal have gained me the knowledge to say to the store clerk "I do not need a sack, I brought my own thanks," that doesn't help when trying to ask where to find the fake blood in Portuguese.
So, I knew our costumes would be more limited this year. Luckily, Bill had the wherewithal to encourage the girls to pack a full duffel bag full of their dress-up clothes to bring from Colorado, so we had a few items to work with. And here's where we ended up:
Using one of my old prom dresses and a handful of trips to Claire's for some bling, Quincy channeled Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's era. Side note: I've learned that Claire's is quite possibly the most comforting place to me in all of Portugal. Not kidding. At first I figured it'd be the one and only Starbucks in the area, but the coffee tastes different and they don't give me lids for my drinks, so... but the Claire's! It's exactly like any Claire's in any mall in any state! Buy 3 pairs of earrings, get 3 for free! Just like home! And that's how I've become the creepy lady who loiters at the Claire's on homesick days.
Olive opted for a more traditional costume this year. In the States, anything goes costume-wise. Butterfly? Yes! Life-sized M&M? Sure, why not. Man-riding-blow-up-horse? Absolutely. But in Portugal, kids stick to the basics: skeletons, witches, devils... Olive took it one step more bougie (bougier?) and went as an Enchantress, using a dress we found at a little costume shop that took way too long Google searching its location. Topped off with her badass attitude, some face gems, fake nails, and a killer cloak all courtesy of *ahem* Claire's, she crushed the look.
(I swear I'm not getting paid to promote Claire's today, but if they'd like to send me a gift card, I wouldn't mind the excuse to come hang at their shop more.)
Per usual, Pearl was the most decisive about her costume. She decided right away to be Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas. A girl after my own heart. We had the perfect dress in our costume duffel bag (that I originally purchased for a hula hoop dance retreat I went on years ago... another story entirely...) I knew the key to her costume would be the hair, which made me giddy with excitement. Maybe I would get to homemake something after all! And really, how hard can finding the materials and making a yarn wig actually be?
To answer that question, please use my first attempt as your guide. Turns out hot glue is not the right way to attach yarn to...well, anything.
(and yes... I was using a pickle jar as my model. What's it to you?)
But, after a second trip to the local Chinese Bazaar (where it's even harder to ask for help finding anything since they speak strictly Portuguese and - you guessed it, Chinese there,) I landed on pure brilliance if I do say so myself. A baby-sized red beanie, red yard, and a crochet hook. That's right - I crocheted a yarn wig for my child. While sitting in the shopping mall food court nonetheless (after visiting Claire's.)
Because, you see - Portugal isn't like the States. You can't just go sit at a coffee shop for an entire day and putz around on your computer or whatever. As a writer, I actually feel a little lost without that option. But yesterday, I was pressed for time. I had to get this wig started asap, and figured they couldn't kick me out of a food court, right? Now that I'm revisiting it all, it's got me thinking that maybe I'll start setting up camp there to write... man, that'd make for some interesting stories I bet...
And I have to say, I'm quite proud of the result. Dressing up for school went off without a hitch this morning (although Bill and I were admittedly sad we didn't have the reason to dress up ourselves.) AND, 2/3 of the girls won their classroom costume contests! So score one for us!
We can't wait to see your costumes and live vicariously through pictures of your bags and bags of trick-or-treated candy. In the meantime, we miss you. We love you. Feliz Halloween, meus amigos!
In May 2021, Bill, Chelsea, Quincy, Olive, Pearl, and their cat Gladys decided to make the move of a lifetime.