crafts

Designer Daddy’s Top 10 Halloween Costumes of the Last 10 Years

October 3, 2020 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES, POP CULTURE

The start of the new decade also marks a couple of personal milestones: becoming a father and the birth of this blog. To commemorate ten years as both Daddy and Designer Daddy, I’m sharing a series of Top 10 lists throughout the year. Each post will feature the most amazing/fun/memorable things/experiences/whatevers from the last decade.

Halloween Costumes

As a dad with a creative/crafty streak, few things have brought me more joy than dressing up my kid in Halloween costumes. It doesn’t hurt that I also like to play dress up from time-to-time — but that’s another list for another time.

This is quite the spooky scrapbook, documenting my son’s favorite heroes and characters over the last 10 years. You may notice that some years are represented more than once. Typically, each year included a school party/costume parade as well as trick-or-treating, so some years I overzealously made two different costumes. This exhausting practice has since been retired.

Enjoy these magically monstrous moments, including tips on how to make/where to buy the costumes. And oh yeah, Happy Halloween!

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#DadsCare: How To Get Crafty With Your Kids

July 8, 2020 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, DESIGN STUFF

I’ve partnered with Dove Men+Care as part of their #DadsCare campaign to share some easy and creative ways to get crafty with your kids. Check out the short video I made with my son, as well as the descriptions of the steps in the text below.

How To Get Crafty With Your Kids

During quarantine — or anytime, really — it can be easy to plop the kids in front of a screen and call it a day. Coming up with non-screen activities can be stressful.

Crafts are a tried-and-true way for kids to flex their creativity and stimulate their brains. It can also be a great bonding time with your kids. And let’s be honest, it’s also a nice distraction while you try to get some work done!

While I’ve been a graphic designer and illustrator for over 20 years, I sometimes feel like I’m still getting the hang of being a dad. But I know from experience that coming up with ideas for crafts and pulling all the supplies together can be overwhelming. So I’ve put together five tips to hopefully make it easier for you to get your kids crafting.

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SuperLunchNotes: LGBTQ Superheroes Edition

June 25, 2019 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, LGBT STUFF, POP CULTURE

LGBTQ Superheroes

As a gay dad, teaching my son to celebrate the LGBTQ community has been a top priority from the beginning. Doing so not only ensures he feels proud of his own family, but it also reinforces the compassion I want him to show to others, including those that are bullied or excluded because of who they are or who they love.

Once again, pop culture has proven to be a fun and creative tool to introduce my son to all manner of colorful, queer characters. Not surprisingly, they made their way onto quite a few of the notes I put in my kid’s lunchbox, which I’ve pulled together in this list of LGBTQ superheroes.

Some of these may come as a surprise, as they are depicted as LGBTQ in certain media but not in others. Unfortunately, few are clearly and consistently portrayed as queer, so I’ve provided context and resources when warranted.

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SuperLunchNotes: Black Superheroes Edition

February 20, 2019 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED, POP CULTURE

There are lots of ways to teach children about diversity… and not just during Black History Month. Certainly it’s important to introduce your kids to African-American culture through leaders like Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and Dr. King. But I’ve found some of the most effective lessons are those integrated into everyday life.

As a family of gay fathers and an adopted son, it’s vital our child feels visible, included and loved. Beyond surrounding ourselves with other queer and adoptive families, we also make racial diversity a priority. This has informed all aspects of our lives — from where we chose to live, to the friends we make, to the school our son attends. It also factors into the books, TV shows and movies we expose our son to. And of course that includes superheroes.

black superheroes

For those new to the blog, I’ve been creating superhero lunch notes for my son since preschool. They’ve been a great way not only to send him a bit of encouragement (or remind him to flush), but also a fun tool to introduce him to a wide array of heroes. And since this is Black History Month, I thought I’d highlight some of the awesome black characters I’ve doodled for my kid over the years.

I’ve listed family-friendly sources under each note so you and your kids can learn/watch/read more about these heroes. Feel free to copy or print the notes for your family’s lunches — be sure to send me a photo if you make your own!

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BLACK PANTHER

Black Superheroes

This is the black superhero everyone now knows, thanks to the record-breaking, history-making Black Panther film. WAKANDA FOREVER! GOOD LUCK AT THE OSCARS!

FUN FACT: Black Panther was originally conceived by artist Jack Kirby as a character named “Coal Tiger.”
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SuperLunchNotes: Polar Vortex Edition

January 31, 2019 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, POP CULTURE

POLAR VORTEX! SNOW SQUALL!! THUNDER SNOW!!! As much of the country is plunged into the coldest winter in recent history, I thought it would help pass the stay-indoors-at-all-costs time to share some of my favorite chilly-themed lunch notes.

Living in the northeast, we get more than our fair share of snow days. We’ve even had a couple of school closings due to extreme cold and/or wind (like this week). But mostly we still cart our kids off to school a) so that they don’t end up attending classes until the fourth of July, and b) so the teachers can get on with enjoying their all-too-brief summers.

I’ve pulled together some of the lunch notes I’ve done for my son over the years — on days when he needs to bundle up a little tighter and hopefully not lose his thirteenth pair of gloves.

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MR. FREEZE
Yo, VIP! Let’s kick it off with a Vanilla Ice pun!

polar vortex lunch notes

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How a Mother’s Day Card Made This Gay Dad Proud

May 23, 2018 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED, LGBT STUFF

Mother's Day Card

Before I got deep into the mechanics of actual parenting, what gave me the most agita was this whole open adoption thing. The stress was there from the beginning — like the weirdest arranged marriage you could imagine, with a baby thrown in for good measure. It evolved into a whole different kind of anxiety when we were actually paired with birthparents, growing incrementally as the due date crept closer.

After our son was born, the distance increased and contact lessened. Yet the relationship with birthmom and dad was still there, looming off in the horizon like some celestial monkey wrench, a constant (perceived) threat to our familial peace and harmony.

Our son has been told his story from the get-go, as we continually remind ourselves this transparency is for the best. But there’s always the fear of the unknown, be it far off or soon. Fear that our son will be teased for being adopted; that he’ll learn something disappointing about his biological parents; that he’ll throw the “You’re not my real dad!” grenade in the midst of an argument.

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Have a Crafty Halloween with Amazon Prime!

October 19, 2017 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, DESIGN STUFF

Amazon Prime Halloween #Boxtumes

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Amazon, as part of my participation in the Mom It Forward Influencer Network; the content and opinions are my own.

Since my son’s very first Halloween, I’ve had a blast channeling my creativity into our family’s costumes. I love the challenge of trying to pull together something unique, fun, and not too difficult — all while placating the kid and not embarrassing the husband (too much).

This year I’m kicking the challenge up a notch in a partnership with Amazon… our costumes will include repurposed Amazon Smile boxes! The official term is “BOXTUME,” by the way.

GET STARTED!

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After you’ve read through my step-by-step directions, go grab all the Amazon Smile boxes you can find, get to brainstorming, and come up with your own boxtume masterpiece! If you don’t have any boxes, take the opportunity to get a head start on your holiday shopping, or empty out your own wish list! Amazon Prime has pretty much anything you need (including everything used to make these costumes!) and has the fastest — and free-est — delivery around!

Then snap a photo of your cardboard creations and share it on social media using the hashtag #Boxtumes.

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OUR COSTUMES

First of all, I didn’t want to make anything too literally boxy. Who wants to walk around a party or crowded sidewalk in a giant box? That’s a spilled bag of candy waiting to happen!

So to keep things relatively easy, these start with a toga base. Why togas? Togas are comfy, simple to make, and can be easily layered with long johns or sweats if it’s chilly on trick-or-treat night. Also because I came up with some awesome visual puns around everyone’s favorite toga-wearer, Caesar!

LIL’ CAESAR

Amazon Prime Halloween #Boxtumes

Click for extra-sized adorableness!

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DDQ&A: Andy Alexander, The Grim Wreather

October 17, 2017 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, DESIGN STUFF

The Grim Wreather

A couple of months ago, Andy Alexander reached out to me about helping promote his line of custom Halloween wreaths. I get a lot of requests like this, but they rarely meet my two requirements of A) being related to kids/family/pop culture, and B) looking cool as hell. Not only did Andy’s work fit the bill, but he’s also a fellow gay dad! So instead of just sharing a blurb on Facebook, I wanted to dust off the old DDQ&A questionnaire so you can all get to know Andy, his family, and his work.

BONUS: Scroll down after the interview and enter to win one of Andy’s Grim Wreather creations just in time for Halloween!

Q&A with designer dad Andy Alexander

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Walk me through the highlights of your design career.
I got my MFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena; I studied fine art at UCLA as well. I took my first design classes at Art Center knowing that I’d eventually need a “real” job. After college I worked for Belkin doing interface design for gaming hardware, then for Geoff McFetridge (who I consider a mentor), and then at Napster from 2004-2010. There I started as a designer, working my way up to Creative Director, managing the internal design group. I was laid off during the 2010 recession and decided to carve my own path in both the art and design world. And here I am!

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Thanksgiving Evolution

November 22, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

It’s been quite a year of evolution for our little family. Between trips overseas, moving into a new house, and starting a new school, it’s been an exciting and eventful 12 months. Yet it’s also been daunting — facing down so much that’s new, and less and less that’s known. I’ve heard similar stories of big life changes causing children (and adults) to regress. They search for something comfortable and familiar in a wide, open field of uncertainty.

We’ve definitely felt it, seen it in one another. My newly minted 7-year-old experiences this the most. In addition to officially graduating from “big boy” to “kid” — and on top of a new house, new school, and new classmates — he’s also lost multiple teeth, grown multiple inches, and reads everything in sight.

When overwhelmed or insecure, my son’s default settings range from Silly to Ignore to Meltdown — sometimes all three within the span of a few seconds. This in turn triggers my default settings of anger, frustration, helplessness. Many times it’s damn near impossible to be the bigger person. Many times I fail.

But as seems to be my parenting mantra, I keep on trying. In attempts to empathize with all the transitions my little boy big boy kid is going through, I try to speak less; try to listen better; try to breathe more. And I try to do what he’s always needed the most from me — be there.

In organizing the new house, I culled several years’ worth of artwork and school projects. Among the mountains of crafts were these three masterpieces:

Thanksgiving Evolution

Created over the last three Thanksgivings, they are a gloriously fun study in artistic interpretation.

But they also serve as a reminder that time continues to continue; that it speeds by, leaving me stunned that I have a child who’s already been in school this long. It also shows that as each year brings new challenges, he/we keep coming out the other side slightly different, hopefully better. And with extra glitter.

This first Thanksgiving in our new surroundings brings new traditions along with it. But in the midst of the new and of change, I plan to soak up the familiar, appreciate the growing pains, and anticipate the next evolution.

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Visit and like Designer Daddy’s Facebook page for (nearly) non-stop fun & conversation. And also goofy pictures.

Frightfully Easy DIY Halloween T-Shirts

October 25, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

Easy DIY Halloween t-shirt

Want to get your craft on this Halloween, but worried you’ll slice off an appendage trying to carve a Pinterest-perfect jack-o’-lantern? Then try these frighteningly fun, eerily easy DIY Halloween t-shirts!

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