Halloween on a Budget: Carmen Sandiego

Nobody understood my costume last year. I tried to go for abstract and learned my lesson. I was a “Hairdresser on Fire,” yes as in the Morrissey song.

Prior to Halloween, my friends asked, “how are you going to do that?”

It wasn’t tough, but it was time consuming. I had my mom make me a smock and I sewed flames all over the smock (which was more like a coat). I also named the hair salon something punny and stuffed my pockets with cheap hairbrushes and combs. The costume was a dud. Nobody got it, even hardcore Morrissey and Smiths fans. Plus, it was too warm to wear while dancing in a crowded club.

Right after Halloween ’07, I chose Carmen Sandiego. I grew up playing the computer game, watching the PBS game show, humming along to Rockapella, and watching the cartoon. I’ve always loved geography, maps and trivia so Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? was the perfect game. I knew the costume would be recognizable and easy to put together, save for finding a red hat.

Here’s how to dress up as Carmen Sandiego

  • Red trench coat (I bought mine right before Christmas on sale)
  • Red fedora, a nice hat would’ve cost too much so I just found a $10 hat on an online costume shop
  • Black gloves (purchased in a Santa Cruz hat shop)
  • Black shirt, pants and shoes (found in my own closet, but I might borrow boots from my mom)
  • Long hair (oh well, short will have to do this year) and red lipstick (I’ll borrow some from my sister)

DB is dressing up as a detective on the chase.

Now all I have to do is steal some monuments or priceless art and jet off to some unknown corner of the world.

Happy Halloween!

PS I would’ve posted this earlier, but I didn’t want anyone to steal my costume idea! Carmen is the one who does the stealing!

Cultura, Familia


A few years ago, Isa held a small pumpkin carving party. I didn’t mind her guests, as many were my friends too, but I wasn’t in to it. I arrived a few hours late sans pumpkin. I sat on the couch and watched as Gabby attempted to carve the Dodgers LA logo on her pumpkin. She gave up soon after. Isa had more success with her Jack Skellington pumpkin. The others spread out with newspaper and knives on the floor and tried to keep pumpkin guts and seeds off the wood floor.

That was the first — and only — time I’ve ever had the opportunity to partake in the Halloween tradition. Yes, that’s right. I’ve never carved a pumpkin or made a jack-o-lantern. I’m pretty sure the same goes for everyone in my immediate family.

I’ve come up with three reasons why we never carved pumpkins:

First, we liked pie more than we liked knives. I suppose at one point I was attracted to the idea of making a jack-o-lantern. But then mom started making delicious pies. There was no contest. Pumpkin pie >>> jack-o-lantern (that will begin rotting a day after Halloween).

Second, I doubt mom had the time to supervise four kids wielding pumpkin carving knives. She knew better. We were accident prone and sharp objects, no matter how kid-safe, meant about a 50% chance of making an ER trip. Plus, mom was busy sewing our Halloween costumes.

Third, we’re Mexicans. We weren’t poor, but my parents came from poor families. As a rule, we didn’t waste food. Rotten fruit? Cut off the rotten part, it’s still good enough to eat. If we’d eat questionable fruit, then why would we waste a perfectly good pumpkin? It didn’t make sense.


Question of the week: Adressing los abuelitos

Last night I joined Pachuco3000, Chimatli, El Chavo, El Random Hero, Wendy Carrillo (who goes to USC, boo!) and Leticia of Thats So Paisa for the monthly bloguer@ gathering. We met up at La Carioca in East LA for beers and $2 waters (really, they charged us for water).

After talking about Halloween and Día de los Muertos plans, I learned that Chimatli had also just finished reading Gustavo Arellano’s new book, Orange County: A Personal History.

“You’re from the same place, right?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I told her. “Well, my mom is from the same place, El Cargadero.”

“Did you grow up in Orange County too?”

“Oh no.”

We both liked the book and discussed some of the things Gustavo wrote. I don’t have time to get in to a full review (I should be packing). However, I can say that I really enjoyed the autobiographic aspects. As I learned more about Gustavo and his family, I learned more about my own family history and roots. While everything felt so familiar to me, Chimatli found some things curious, like how Gustavo addressed his grandparents.

“Do you call your grandparents something like that too?” she asked.

“Yeah. I call my mom’s parents — the ones from El Cargadero — Papa Chepe and Mama Toni. But on my dad’s side, the Guanajuato side, we call them Grandpa and Grandma.”

I never thought this was odd. It’s easy to generalize your personal experiences and make them seem normal. But Chimatli made me wonder. Could such labels be associated with gente del rancho? Wendy chimed in and suggested that the labels may correspond to the role your grandparents played in your upbringing. Perhaps the mama/papa was emphasized because the grandparent played a surrogate parent role or lived with you.

Or it could all just be a family thing. So I went to the expert on my family, my mom.

Mom admitted that all she and her cousins addressed their grandparents as Mama ____ y Papa ____.

“Mama Toni’s dad was Papayito. I don’t know where the -yito came from. [His name was Juan.] There was your Mama Chila, Papa Chepe’s mom, too.”

I’m still curious, thus the question of the week.

La Pregunta: How do you address your grandparents?


Halloween on a Budget: Ugly Betty (love triangle version)

I rarely ask for advice on costumes. I’m pretty good at figuring it out myself. Still, I heard “you should go as Ugly Betty!” from 5 or 6 different people. I don’t get why. My hair is not long and unruly. My eyebrows are pretty normal. I don’t wear braces or glasses. I usually match and avoid clashing patterns. All that really doesn’t matter. I didn’t want to dress up as Betty — even though she’s my favorite Chicana on network TV and is a pocha just like me — because she’s just too popular. If you can buy a kit for your costume, chances are you’ll show up at a party and find your twin. One costume site I found was sold out of the Betty kit. That’s too much for me. I don’t want competition.

I’m not going to write up Betty like I’ve done with other costumes. A simple Google search will yield some pretty good how-tos or you could just watch the show (here and here).

To avoid looking like every other Betty, I’d recommend making it a group costume featuring one of Betty’s two love triangles.

Betty, Walter and Henry:

  • Betty: see links above or watch the show
  • Walter: jeans, button-down shirt and a blue big-box store vest
  • Henry: geeky glasses, sweater vest and slacks

Betty, Walter and Henry – Halloween version:

  • Betty: purple butterfly costume plus standard Betty hair, eyebrows and accessories (see The Lying, the Watch, and the Wardrobe)
  • Walter: net for catching butterflies, safari hat, fishing vest, khaki shorts and matching shirt
  • Henry: Superman t-shirt under conservative grey suit

Betty, Henry and Gio:

  • Betty: see links above or watch the show
  • Henry: geeky glasses, sweater vest and slacks
  • Gio: red apron and bright colored flyers with “Gio’s Sandwiches” and a pickle with a smiley face (see: Something Wicked this Way Comes)

If you’re in a true love triangle, the group costume could be awkward. It might be better to just get some guy friends together. Or drink lots of alcohol (responsibly, of course).