Tuesday, December 26, 2017

2017: a year in review.

At the end of every year, I look back on the last twelve months and wonder just what I’ve been up to. And every year, I initially think, “Well… nothing. I haven’t been doing anything.”

But guess what?


In order to reassure myself that I am not wasting my time on earth, I’m looking back at 2017 to try and remember what I’ve done and where I’ve been. And you know what? 2017 was BUSY.

(Lest you think my life is all fun and games, remember that I’m still going to work and the dentist and the grocery store and all that. I just didn’t think you’d want to read about that stuff.)

January started off incredibly strong with one of my favourite New Year's Eves of all time. What did we do? James and I spent the night with our good friends Nate and Taylor, my sister... and my parents and their friends Don and Carol and Steve and Deb. 
You may think that does not sound like an especially thrilling evening, but you would be wrong. Honest to God, I don't think I've ever laughed so hard in my entire life. We played Cards Against Humanity, and there were times I was laughing so much that I couldn't read what was on my card. I'm talking tears streaming down my face. If you had told me ten years ago that I would be hanging out with my parents on New Year's Eve, I probably wouldn't have believed you. As it turns out, my parents and their friends are some of the most fun and hilarious people I know. I can't wait to hang out with them this New Year's Eve.

January held the Women's March in Sioux Falls, which was so wonderful and heartening.

Another big development in January was the rebirth of my Etsy store. Back in 2013, I had attempted an Etsy shop and had successfully sold one necklace over a sixth-month time span. I shut that first store down and didn't think of it again until late 2016 when I began to prolifically make necklaces out of Lake Poinsett beach glass. In January 2017, I renamed my store (Midwest Charm by Calla) and added 16 necklaces to start. Approximately one year later, I have sold more than 50 through my Etsy store (!!!), more than 50 at craft shows/in person, a handful of custom orders, and have more than 130 in stock. I have BUSINESS CARDS, you guys. What started as basically a whim has become a super fun hobby and a fairly respectable supplemental income. But honestly, the best part of it is sharing my love of Lake Poinsett with the world... or at least, a little corner of the internet.

February is typically a slow month, and this year was no exception. James and I did get to the cities for a long weekend, and we spent some (freezing) time in Stillwater and at the Art Shanties on White Bear Lake.

James and I went to see Twenty One Pilots as his belated birthday gift. We were most certainly some of the oldest people there, but you know what? IT WAS AWESOME.

Otherwise, it was mostly cold and dark. I made a LOT of necklaces in February.

In March, I went in the ditch for the first time in my (then) nearly four years of commuting. It sucked and was terrifying, but I was fine, and so was our pickup. Had I not had the pickup, though, whatever vehicle I was in would've been toast. Thanks, pickup!

In March, my cousin Gina from Norway and her boyfriend Gaute came to visit us! They were taking a road trip from Chicago to Los Angeles, and they made a stop through Luverne. Gina and I had been penpals when we were fifteen, and it was amazing to meet her in person.

March also held one of my all-time favorite vacations: the San Francisco 30/60 trip with Mom and Dad. The three of us decided to go on a trip together to celebrate our milestone birthdays: Dad turned 60 in January, Mom turned 60 in March, and I turned 30 in April. Our days were packed full, and my parents were happy to let me take the reins and basically dictate our entire trip. Which I loved. We went on a bay cruise underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, toured Alcatraz, wandered Chinatown, rode the cable cars as far as they could go, hung out in the Castro, ate delicious Mexican food with my friend Jenessa in the Mission, saw the sea lions at Pier 39, had fresh crab at Fisherman's Wharf, saw the view from Twin Peaks, wandered Ocean Beach by the Pacific and gathered sand dollars and sea glass, saw Coit Tower, went to a wax museum and bizarre history tour when it was too rainy to do anything else, happened upon Food Truck Friday, wandered the shore and heard the wave organ, and ate lots of chocolate at Ghirardelli Square. I fell in love with San Francisco and had a blast, and my parents claim they did, too! It was a great way to end my 20s.

Early April began with my brother-in-law Jesse's wedding in Elk River!

James took me on a surprise weekend trip for my 30th birthday – I told him that I wanted to go somewhere, and I wanted him to pick where. We were limited to a three-day weekend because, when you’re married to a teacher, school-year trips can’t be any longer. I knew we were either going to the Black Hills or Chicago, and as soon as we headed west on the interstate, I knew we were going to the Black Hills. I LOVE the Black Hills more and more every time I go, and we went on a perfect weekend. The weather was wonderful, and we stayed in a little KOA camper cabin (the first weekend the KOA was even open!). We went through Badlands National Park, Jewel Cave, had drinks on the roof of the Hotel Alex Johnson, went to Dinosaur Hill (obviously), hiked up Little Devil’s Tower in Custer State Park, drove the Needles Highway, and hung out in Spearfish and Deadwood.

April 19th was my actual 30th birthday, which was less of a big deal than I had built it up to be. It was mostly like any other day... I went to work for a half-day, had lunch with my family, and supper with James and our friends Joe and Allison. 
James asked our friends and family to mail me birthday cards, so it was pretty lovely to have nice notes to read. But 30 wasn't the earth-shattering "I'm officially old" birthday that I thought it would be. It really was just another birthday. Everyone claims that your 30s are exponentially better than your 20s, and I can see why that is. The first half of my 20s involved me graduating college, working shitty part-time jobs and scrounging for rent money while I did my unpaid internships, and not knowing what I wanted to do or who I was. My 20s were also awesome: I made some of my best friends in college, I got married, and in general had a lot of really fantastic life experiences. But as I turn 30, I am starting off with much more stability than I did in my 20s. I have a feeling that I won't get as many crazy stories out of my 30s than I did from my 20s, but I could be wrong. My 30s are going to bring their fair share of adventures... just different kinds of adventures. And that's ok - I don't think I could handle a repeat of my 20s.

In May, James and I went to see The Book of Mormon at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls. It was AMAZING - if you haven't been and don't mind a heavy dose of sacrilege, GO. I have been listening to the soundtrack nearly every day since then.

May also held the annual Orange City Tulip Festival, which is now a mother/daughter tradition. Mom and I have been going every year since 2014, and it's the best. Tulips, poffertjes, marching bands... oh yeah, and sometimes torrential rains.

As far as I'm concerned, summer is the most wonderful time of the year. James finally has some time off, and we can make the most of our weekends. We went river tubing on the Cannon River near Welch, Minnesota - far superior to Apple River tubing, which had previously been our default. While in Welch, we discovered our new favorite tubing beer: Lift Bridge Mango Blonde.

James and I also kicked off the camping season with a stay in Frontenac State Park. We spent a little time exploring nearby Rochester... which we probably don't need to do again. But that's how you find out!

And, of course, June saw the beginning of Lake Poinsett season. We spent plenty of time at Lake Poinsett this summer, but it never feels like enough.

July was one of the busiest months of the year - we started off by taking a long weekend in northern Minnesota for the Fourth of July. We spent one night in Jay Cooke State Park and two nights in Gooseberry Falls State Park and did tons of exploring in between. Split Rock Lighthouse, Grand Marais, Two Harbors, Grand Portage State Park... it was so wonderful. Northern Minnesota has that kind of wild forested beauty that's hard to find in our part of the country. For the first time ever, we took the North Shore Scenic Byway from beginning (Duluth) to end (Grand Portage). We booked it home on the Fourth of July (experiencing a 40-degree temperature increase from Two Harbors to Minneapolis) and made it to Luverne just in time for fireworks.

The Brookings Summer Arts Festival is the second weekend in July, and (aside from my very early childhood), I don't believe I have ever missed a Summer Arts Festival. I hope to continue the trend.

James and I went camping in Lake Carlos State Park in mid-July, and I fulfilled my summer goal of finally trying paddle boarding. In Alexandria, we discovered Nice Juicery and are now soundly obsessed.

July 27 marked our fourth anniversary! We spent our anniversary night kayaking the Rock River.

On July 31, we left on a road trip for Yellowstone. We had initially planned to leave on July 28 and return on August 6, but unforeseen circumstances reduced our trip to July 31 through August 4. We considered switching our trip to somewhere closer/less lofty, but we ultimately decided that this was our big summer road trip, and nothing besides Yellowstone would do.

So most of our Yellowstone road trip fell in August. We camped for one night in Yellowstone, but we saw tons of the park (including THREE BEARS). It was beautiful, but so hot and so crowded, and it was hard to really enjoy a lot of it because we were on such a tight schedule. We made a quick trip through Grand Teton National Park, saw Devil’s Tower, and went through Sturgis during the motorcycle rally. Oh yeah, and the car started to fall apart near Cody, Wyoming.

I started graduate school for library science in August – school orientation was the reason we needed to get back. Grad school is SO MUCH WORK YOU GUYS. However, it will be great to have my master’s degree, and it is kind of fun to have classmates again.

We did lots of stuff September.

Over Labor Day weekend: the Bjorklund cousin trip volume II! This time, we met in St Louis. We saw the Gateway Arch (of course), the Anheuser-Busch brewery, the library (!!!), ate butter cake and barbecue, and visited this insane museum/giant playground that is basically made out of scrap metal. Best of all, of course: we got to see each other. Cousin trips are the best.

September was also the beginning of year four for me doing Ellsworth story time!

James and I saw Garth Brooks with my parents, which was easily the best concert I have ever seen in my life. I am not a huge country fan: in fact, the only country artists that I will voluntarily listen to are Garth Brooks and Johnny Cash. However, I don’t think you needed to know a single Garth Brooks song to enjoy that concert. Seriously amazing.
The next week, I went to Modest Mouse with my dear friend Sarah. I have loved Modest Mouse since I was an angry teenager, and they were spectacular.

October is my favourite month, and it did not disappoint. October started off with my first-ever art show. Four of my photographs were a part of the City of Sioux Falls juried employee art show. My wonderful friends and family came to hang out!

Mom and I took advantage of a beautiful three-day weekend and went to Alexandria, Minnesota. It was SO BEAUTIFUL, you guys. The leaves were at peak color, and there are lakes galore up there. We drove around in the Mustang and looked for loons and beach glass; it was so amazing. We also got to hang out with my super-fun cousins Ethan and Sheri in Fergus Falls and made a stop in Morris to eat at Don’s. Basically the perfect mini-vacation.

James and I took a daytrip to Minneopa State Park, which was gorgeous.


October, of course, holds Halloween: my now and forever favorite holiday. This year, I booked it straight from class to the Sioux Falls Zombie Walk – James picked me up, and I put my makeup on in the car. I don’t like to miss a Zombie Walk. Then, for actual Halloween, I dressed as a jellyfish and left a trail of glitter wherever I went.

November was rather uneventful, save for the annual Thanksgiving at our house. When I was a kid, I never especially looked forward to Thanksgiving. I wasn’t into turkey… or stuffing… or mashed potatoes… or gravy… or pie. I still am not into gravy or pie (or really turkey), but James makes KILLER stuffing. Thanksgiving became one of my favorite holidays when we started hosting it in 2013. We have my whole family over, and James’s family makes it when they can. We have a great dinner (which I don’t help with at ALL, which makes it even better!) and spend our time laughing. Thanksgiving as an adult is awesome.

December held our fourth annual Norwegian Christmas in which we get together with our friends Nate and Taylor and eat the best meal of the year. This year, we had juleribbe (pork rib roast with the skin on), potato dumplings (they were terrible), rice pudding, krumkake, lingonberry mousse, lefse, sauerkraut, and (of course) aquavit. It’s not Norwegian Christmas without aquavit.

Lastly, I think you all should know that I won “funniest Christmas sweater” at the library’s annual Ugly Christmas Sweater contest. For the third year running. No big deal.


That concludes the year 2017. There's so much more I didn't talk about - plays, concerts, work, adventures, great times with family and friends. That was all there, too. 2017 had its ups and downs: James and I both lost grandmothers this year. Thankfully, there were more ups than downs. I hope your 2017 was as good (if not better) than mine, and I hope 2018 holds great things for you.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

ten of the ten: a photographic retrospective.

One of my favorite things to write is the “ten under $35” series, in which I put together complete outfits that cost under $35. I have been doing this series for more than four years, and the series is now a ten-parter. That means ONE HUNDRED OUTFITS.

What better time for a retrospective?

I picked one favorite outfit from each post to showcase… especially in the early days, while I was totally sold on my outfits at the time, I cringed a bit looking back. My style has most certainly evolved in the last few years. Most of the clothes from 2013/2014? They’ve gone to the big Goodwill in the sky.

You’ll notice that my posting frequency has slowed over the years. I did this series THREE TIMES in 2014 and 2016… with one lonely post in 2017. It is super fun and easy to put these outfits together in my brain, but it is something else completely to put them on and rope James into taking my pictures… which is best done while it’s light/warmish out… and all that means it’s tough to get the pictures taken.

Never fear, though! I will gladly forge on with my outfit photos; they just may not be as timely as we would all like them to be. In the meantime, please enjoy my top ten outfits from ten chapters of cheap outfits!

under $40: May 2013
cardigan – Goodwill – $3.75
shoes – Nordstrom Rack – $13
jeans – Plato’s Closet – $3.80 (minus $5 coupon and $5 trade-in)
scarf – Forever 21 – $10.80
TOTAL = $31.35

This was my very first cheap outfit post. I was SO poor, you guys. I was still very much figuring out my style, which was “whatever happens to be cheap and fit me and I don’t hate it” chic.

under $30: January 2014
     jeans – Forever21 – $10.80
     poncho – Goodwill St Paul – $4.49 (half off all clothes)
     shoes – Target – $9.98
     pearl bracelets – Helzberg – FREE! 
TOTAL = $25.27

My brief foray into ponchos. I really did like that sweater poncho, but working at the library means never wearing anything too thick lest you die of heatstroke while unloading bins full of books. So long, sweater poncho.

under $35, part I: April 2014
dress – Maurices – $9.95
pearls – Etsy – $6
wedges – Target – $14.98

TOTAL = $30.93

Aha! A piece of clothing I still have! I totally love this dress – it’s just something cheap from Maurices, so it’s covered in fuzzies, but I just can’t get rid of it. I’m sure there’s a way to de-fuzz it, but I’m too lazy to figure out how.

part II: August 2014
skirt – Effie’s Heart – $16 ($10 off)
wedges – Target – $14.98
t-shirt – Old Navy – $3.97 (clearance)
magnifying glass necklace – gift!
TOTAL = $34.95

Speaking of lazy, I am not much of a skirt wearer. I don’t have a ton of skirts, and almost all of them are patterned and multicolored – which means I have to think extra hard about a plain shirt of an appropriate color to wear with them. So they mostly sit in my closet because I often do not have the mental capacity/patience to do that. But I do love my twirly pocketed skirts.

part III: January 2015
dress – Mikarose – $29.99 
     sandals – JCPenney – $3  
     necklace – gift (Botanical Garden)
TOTAL: $32.99

I still call this “the Mormon dress” because it came from a Utah-based website catering to the “modest woman.” Kind of hilarious, but exactly what I’m looking for as far as work apparel, so maybe I should shop at more Mormon stores.

part IV: April 2015
shirt – Goodwill St Paul – $2.99
skirt – Forever21 – $15.80
booties – Dollhouse – $15 ($10 off + $15 Paypal survey money)
TOTAL = $33.79

I don’t have this skirt any more (maxi skirt versus desk chair… DESK CHAIR WAS VICTORIOUS), but this was a great outfit. Sigh.

part V: February 2016
dress - Country Peddler - FREE! (was $18, used credit)
necklace - Francescas - $6.50 (buy one get one 50% off)
belt – Modcloth – FREE! (came with dress)
shoes - Modcloth - FREE! (scuffed heel)
TOTAL: $24.50

This series would be nothing – NOTHING, I TELL YOU – without Country Peddler. Most of my best stuff comes from Country Peddler.

part VI: June 2016
shirt – Maurices – $5.24 (75% off clearance price)
pants – Maurices – $25.50 (25% off)
shoes – DSW – FREE! ($29.99, $20.15 and $10 off)
necklace – gift from Mark and Maria
TOTAL: $30.74

This series would also be nothing without Maurices. Seriously.

part VII: September 2016
dress – Modcloth – $28.79 (additional 40% off clearance)
sandals – Modcloth – $5.99 (additional 40% off clearance)
TOTAL: $34.78

Modcloth has been a heavy hitter in the last few chapters because of their amazing clearance sales. 70% off is no joke. And I’ll be damned if I’m missing out on a dress full of sea creatures.

part VIII: August 2017
sweater – Country Peddler – FREE! (was $12, used credit)

jeans – AE – $29.97 (40% off)
shoes - DSW - FREE! ($29.99, $20.15 and $10 off)
TOTAL: $29.97

Finally, my favorite outfit from the latest post. This sweater is the COZIEST, and American Eagle jeans are my go-to. Life is good in this outfit.

If you would like to look at all one hundred outfits, here’s how you get there:

Stay tuned for more cheap outfits in 2018!

Monday, October 30, 2017

songs for Halloween.

Halloween is my absolute favorite day of the year - I look forward to it more than any other holiday, more than my birthday, more than anything. I have loved it since I was a kid, and I anticipate loving it for years to come. 

Unlike Christmas, Halloween is not really known for its music. However, I do have a few Halloweeny selections to get you in the Halloween spirit. Quality, not quantity, right??

"This Is Halloween"
The Nightmare Before Christmas
I have been listening to this song on repeat since the beginning of October. Technically, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Christmas movie, but it contains my absolute favourite Halloween song. Danny Elfman is a genius.

"Dead Man's Party"
Oingo Boingo
Two Danny Elfman masterpieces in a row! I honestly have no idea what musical path led me to Oingo Boingo, but I do know that I have been listening to this song for Halloween since I was 15.

"The Time Warp"
Rocky Horror Picture Show
I have no idea how Rocky Horror Picture Show found its home as a Halloween midnight showing, but I LOVE IT. The first time I ever went to a midnight showing was at UMM, and until then, I didn't even know that was a thing. My life was changed FOREVER. Audience participation is key, and everyone stands up and does "The Time Warp." It is a sight to see.

"The Monster Mash"
Bobby Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers
When you think of Halloween songs, this is probably the one that comes to mind first. It is a bonafide classic, and Halloween isn't Halloween without it.

"I Put a Spell on You"
Hocus Pocus
THIS IS THE BEST HALLOWEEN MOVIE EVER MADE. My family and I used to scour the TV Guide every October so we could be sure to be planted in front of network TV so not to miss the Hocus Pocus annual Halloween screening. For years, I thought that we were the only ones who knew the glory of this movie - but it turns out, Hocus Pocus has officially reached cult classic status. Nothing beats Bette Midler singing "I Put a Spell on You."

"Re: Your Brains"
Jonathan Coulton

Like I said, Halloween songs are scarce, so I'm considering songs about zombies and werewolves (see: Warren Zevon) Halloween songs. This song makes me laugh every time - all we wanna do is eat your brains.

"Werewolves of London"
Warren Zevon

Warren Zevon, you guys. This is the most recent addition to my list, as I didn't even know this song existed until about five years ago. I can't believe I made it so many years without "Werewolves of London."


There you are: my favourite Halloween songs. I hope you all have a happy Halloween!!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

a lifetime of Halloweens: revised for 2017!

(editor's note: I originally wrote this just before Halloween 2015. however, as you know, time marches on... and Halloweens keep coming. so I'm going to keep adding on! that means we, once again, get to revisit a lifetime of costumes. I can hardly wait.)

So it's October, and you know what that means.


I am excited: per usual. I have had my costume picked out since last Halloween.

My costume is not just any costume. It kicks ass, and I can't wait to show it to you. However, there is a definite downside to having such an awesome costume: after this Halloween, I can NEVER WEAR IT AGAIN.


Because I have a policy.

I cannot be the same thing for Halloween twice.

"But wait!" you say. "What about the zombies, huh? YOU ARE LYING!"

But no! I dress up as a zombie for specific zombie-themed events: not for Halloween itself. Doesn't count. It's the zombie clause in my self-imposed Halloween contract. 

(I could also argue that since I have worn different zombie-fied clothes each time, I am never the same zombie. But let's not go there.)

I must have decided on my no-repeats Halloween rule at a pretty young age: I have pictures going back to 1988, and you won't find any duplicates. You will, however, find some darn cute pictures of me as a very excited child. 

I wish I had pictures of every Halloween, but I don't. I don't know what I was for Halloween 1987 - but I was a mere six months old and I am pretty sure that my parents dressed me up in the little skeleton costume you'll see on my sister in 1991 and my brother in 1993. 1992 is also missing, as are 1999 - 2002. While I am unsure about 1992, 1999 - 2001 was a dark time in my life... as I was deemed too old for trick-or-treating. I decided to forgo costumes those years, but I eventually realized that just because you're too old to trick-or-treat does NOT mean you're too old to dress up for Halloween. You're NEVER too old to dress up for Halloween, dammit. The only other year missing is 2009, but that was the year that I was in New Orleans. I was so excited to spend Halloween in New Orleans, but alas, it wasn't all it was cracked up to be. I didn't know anyone well enough to go out Halloweening with them, and even if I did, I didn't have enough money for a costume or drinks at the bar. I spent that Halloween curled up on my air mattress, watching Halloween episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and sad-eating Halloween candy from my landlady.

On the bright side? Pretty much every Halloween going forward is guaranteed to be better than that one.

So here we go: a pictorial history of Calla's Halloweens!

I came across this picture in May when I was digging through a box of ancient photos in search of something embarrassing to post for Mother's Day. (You mean you DON'T share ridiculous photos of your mother from the 1980s on Mother's Day? Shame on you.) I was overjoyed, as 1988 had been one of my mysterious gap years. You have no idea how happy finding this twenty-eight-year old picture made me.

Mickey Mouse
Is this or is this not the cutest damn Mickey Mouse you've ever seen? I was about two-and-a-half, and Halloween was already my favorite holiday. Trick-or-treating in the country always meant that you'd come away with an enormous haul. We just had to hop in the minivan and drive from house to house. As not many trick-or-treaters make it out into the sticks where we lived, any house you went to would reward you with handfuls of candy. Or multiple full-sized candy bars. Or twelve-packs of pop. Country trick-or-treating is the best.

My pumpkin makeup is a little bit hilarious. I'm not sure which parent was responsible for this, but I would like to know why exactly I have a red mouth instead of a black one. The jack o' lantern face on my sweatshirt has a black mouth - why not me?

You may have noticed that all of my costumes involve long sleeves. Indeed, I live in the Midwest, so many of my Halloween costumes were planned around sweatshirts and winter coats. That's why I look so bulky: under my black sweatshirt was probably another sweatshirt. I believe 1991 was a particularly snowy Halloween, but there's no way that I wasn't going out trick-or-treating.

This princess dress came from a huge bin of my mom's old clothes that had been deemed "for dress-up." I played dress-up ALL the damn time, and it was a delight for me to be able to wear this out in public. To top it off, Mom made me glitter shoes: old dress shoes coated in glue and dipped in multi-colored glitter. They were the BEST.

I don't know where this costume came from, but I do remember that it was supposed to be a bunny suit. It more or less a white onesie and had big ears sticking straight up. One of Mom's coworkers sewed spots on it, and presto! I was a dalmatian. However, even though I was clearly wearing a dog collar, I was mistaken for a cow for all of Halloween day.

1995 must've been a particularly warm Halloween, hence the bare legs. Though I was only eight in 1995, I feel as though my sarcasm was really starting to develop: being a cheerleader for Halloween was the scariest thing I could think of.

Another cold Halloween, as our costumes were comprised mainly of different-colored sweatshirts. My cat ears are a little droopy, but I felt (at the time) like the stuffed mouse really brought the costume together. Please, though, direct your attention to my brother Mitch, who (at age three) is way too delighted to be Satan.

Cruella de Vil
Ah, the year I was Cruella de Vil. Mom (for reasons still unknown) had this old rabbit-fur coat in the back of her closet, and I commandeered it for Halloween that year. My cousin Ethan was a part of the theatre department at SDSU, so he was able to procure (and spray-paint) the wig for me. Another cold-weather costume, but this one was a win. 

gypsy/just-rolled-out-of-bed girl
The first year of the double Halloween costume. I dug through the old dress-up box and was a gypsy for the school Halloween parade. (This was around the time Disney released The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and I totally wished I could be Esmeralda.) I came home in my gypsy outfit, all ready to trick-or-treat, and I was informed that it was too cold to wear it. I would have to find something else. I half-heartedly threw together my "person in pajamas" costume, which is 100% lame. Had I realized that it would be my last year as a trick-or-treater, I'd like to think that I would've come up with something better. We'll never know.

Medieval vampire?
Ok, so I'm not 100% sure what I billed my costume as this year. I do know that it involved this dress that I bought at Goodwill, a vampire cape from KMart, and skeleton earrings. Medieval vampire, perhaps?

Count von Disco Bono
Another off-year in my Halloween history. This is the cape that I bought with Allison the year before - sadly, no photographic evidence exists of our 2002 vampire costumes. The cape itself is pretty awesome - it came from Kmart in Brookings before it closed, and I still have the cape to this day. I also have the skeleton earrings in this picture, which you can see if you look very closely. Anyway, I wanted to dress up for Halloween but was fresh out of ideas, so this is what I got. I called myself Count von Disco Bono: vampire cape + Bono sunglasses + pink plaid bellbottoms. A terrible costume, but a costume nonetheless.

reject Charlie's Angel/generic sock hopper/beat up band kid
Halloween of my senior year of high school was AWESOME. That was the year our high school football team made it to the state playoffs (and won). Halloween was right around said big game, so all of Halloween (which was on a Sunday, so we celebrated early at school) was one big pep rally day. There were games and snacks and absolutely no productivity whatsoever. My outfit was a red one-piece bell-bottomed monstrosity that I got at Goodwill, plus some go-go boots and a shiny scarf. I was a reject Charlie's Angel. I had to work at the Dairy Mart  that evening, and there was no way that I was doing so in a polyester jumpsuit. I changed into a dress and saddle shoes and was a generic sock-hopper. On Halloween itself, Bob and I dressed up as beat-up band kids and Meagan dressed up as our band director... and we went trick-or-treating at his house. I recall that he and his wife thought we were hilarious. Or hilariously lame. Either way.

band kid
(Editor's note: this qualifies as a different costume than the previous year because a.) I was a beat up band kid in 2004 and just a regular one in 2005, and b.) the beat up band kid costume was not my main costume: an honor I'd give to my reject Charlie's Angel jumpsuit.) 
Much to my great pleasure, I found all sorts of people at college who loved to dress up at Halloween. I stole adopted my old band uniform - after all, the school had just gotten new ones and was systematically burning/donating/destroying the old uniforms, so I figured that I might as well give mine the loving home it deserved. Anyway, it was the perfect Midwestern costume - made of wool = super warm. And how about that hat? If only I'd had the red plume that goes with it. 

zombie I/sailor-ish/opposite
Yes, friends: this was the year of the triple costume. My friend Sara and I attended UMM's first Zombie Prom: though we look like undead pandas, believe me when I say that we were zombies. Halloween was on a Tuesday that year, so we also needed costumes for the preceding weekend: hence my sailor outfit. It's difficult to see in this picture, but my top is an actual wool sailing uniform that I picked up at an antique store. Points for authenticity. Finally, Sara and I had costumes for Halloween itself: we went as opposites. It's the only time that I've ever dressed as a concept for Halloween, and it was a very liberal arts college thing to do. I totally loved it and still think we were a little bit brilliant.

My favorite costume to date: the year of the Croc. Ever since I first saw those rubbery horrors, I have cursed their existence. Sara had a pair of pink Crocs that she so graciously let me borrow for this costume. This was the year that Halloween was on a Wednesday, and Wednesday nights were the nights that both Sara (the news editor) and I (the arts and entertainment editor) worked late at the college paper. We put in extra hours on Monday and Tuesday of that week in order to be out the door by 10pm Wednesday - instead of our usual 2am Thursday. Halloween is THAT important.

Thanks to the leap year, Halloween landed on a Friday in 2008. Theoretically, that was great: but we poor band kids had a concert on HALLOWEEN NIGHT. And not even a fun Halloween concert... a regular concert that no one attended BECAUSE IT WAS HALLOWEEN. After the concert, we all booked it back to our houses to get into our Halloween costumes and catch up to the rest of our non-band friends. My costume is an authentic Norwegian folk costume, given to me by my authentic Norwegian grandma. And made of wool. The best Minnesotan Halloween costumes are wool-based.

Lobster Telephone
I was living in Minneapolis in 2010, which is an all-around excellent place to spend Halloween. I had finished my tenure as an intern at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, but during my time there, I learned about all sorts of cool events that they sponsor. Example: they do this thing called Third Thursdays where, the third Thursday of each month, they keep the museum open late and have some kind of big event. On this particular Third Thursday, the MIA asked attendees to come dressed as their favorite MIA work of art. I chose Dali's Lobster Telephone because why on earth WOULDN'T you choose Lobster Telephone?

Rocky Horror fail/old-timey teacher
By 2011, I had moved to Sioux Falls and had been there for approximately one month. I wore the costume on the left to a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, hoping that it would be as amazing as the midnight showing I had seen in Minneapolis the year before. (Note: it wasn't.) My Rocky Horror outfit was not as risque as a real Rocky Horror outfit should be, but what can I say? It was cold, and I was a chicken. The costume on the left is the one I wore to work at the Department of Labor and Regulation. I was dead-broke, so I had to pretty much phone this one in. I carried a ruler and was an old-timey teacher - the dress belonged to my grandma in the 60s, who was real-life old-timey teacher. Again, points for authenticity.

By Halloween 2012, I was gainfully employed at the library and was delighted to find out that nearly everyone at the library dressed up for Halloween. The library costumes were all part of a theme, and the theme that year was superheroes. That worked out perfectly for me, as my brother Mitch had given me this spectacular pair of pajamas for Christmas the year before. And may I say that James's Pee-Wee Herman costume is simply amazing? 

zombie II/Duck Dynasty/Mary Poppins

2013 was the first year that we participated in the Zombie Walk... and I didn't really even get to be in it. The parade started at 5 o'clock, but I worked until 5... I thought I could quick run over, find James and our friend Nate, and quick get my makeup done and hop in the parade. Alas, by the time I left the library and made it to the zombie area (approx. two minutes), the parade was over. So I found James and Nate at a restaurant, and they did my makeup while we were waiting for a table. For Halloween itself, the library's theme costume was Duck Dynasty, but my REAL costume was Mary Poppins - and this was the first (and so far, only) year James and I have had couples' costumes. 

zombie III/Buster Bluth
Finally, we arrive at 2014. Mitch made it for the Zombie Walk, and I feel as though our makeup was much better than the year before. For Halloween, I convinced the library to go with a "TV characters" theme just because I had been dying to go as Buster Bluth. I repurposed the Duck Dynasty jacket from the year before and bought camo pants, a hook, an army hat, wire glasses, and a loose seal - complete with a yellow bow tie. It was the most I'd ever spent on a Halloween costume, and the hardest I'd ever worked on one. And you know what? Almost NO ONE got it. At the bar that evening, one guy yelled out "Motherboy," which was a spot-on Buster Bluth reference and totally made my night.

zombie IV/Maleficent/Marla Hooch

2015 was a particularly strong year for me, and I'm really quite proud of my costumes. Of course, there was the zombie element: I went to both the Minneapolis Zombie Pub Crawl and the Sioux Falls Zombie Walk, so zombie squared. (I'm only including the one picture, though, since my zombie costume was the same.) For work, I dressed as Maleficent. Our work theme was heroes and villains, and I was only one of two villains. I got a lot of great compliments on my costume that day, and no less than three people asked to take a picture of/with me. But what really struck me as hilarious was that for every one person who commented on my costume, there were at least three more who pretended like absolutely nothing was out of the ordinary. On Halloween itself, I dressed as a Rockford Peach - specifically, Marla Hooch. "And then there's Marla Hooch... what a hitter!"

zombie V/zombie VI/Scarlett O'Hara
Here I am at the 2016 Minneapolis Zombie Pub Crawl, in my child-size skeleton onesie. We had initially planned to go as Zombie Clue (which would've been AWESOME), but two members of our group couldn't come. Instead of looking like idiots when we dressed as just part of Zombie Clue, we went with the classic random zombie horde. I found my costume the day of at Goodwill. Typical zombie behavior. In the middle is my costume for the Sioux Falls Zombie Walk: my FAVORITE event of the year. James went as Zombie Prince, and I was Zombie David Bowie. Too soon. Finally, on actual Halloween, I dressed as Scarlett O'Hara. Hoop skirt and all. 


And there's my lifetime of Halloweens! Rest assured I will continue adding to this list as the years go on, because you're never too old for Halloween. NEVER.