Oct 312012

Perhaps it is my organizing tendencies but I try to put all the kids in Halloween costumes along the same general theme.  Once my first daughter chose Cleopatra, I had to figure out what everyone else was going to be.  I was a bit stumped at first.  Then, one of those serendipitous moments occurred when my younger daughter stood in front of a painting of Queen Elizabeth at the Virginia Historical Society.

Inspiration strikes!

It was just like when my older daughter stood in front of the Renoir a few years ago.  The lightbulb went on!

This was also going to be a sew-it-yourself project as there are no Queen Elizabeth costumes for children as far as I could tell.  It’s a shame as she was such an elegant lady!

Good Queen Bess : The Story of Elizabeth I of England at amazon.com.

As with my older daughter, we checked out a book from the library on Queen Elizabeth aimed at children.  The book was still way over the preschooler’s head but it was interesting for me to learn/remember things about this dynamic and groundbreaking woman, such as her being a wonderful patron of the arts and encouraging talents like William Shakespeare.  I also like the fact that she has Virginia ties, being the namesake of the state of Virginia (for the “Virgin Queen”).  All I think my preschooler got out of this was that Queen Elizabeth was a person.

My goal was to create an elegant look for not much money.  So with a budget of just $20, I found some quilting cottons that simulated the richly patterned silks in the painting.  With a little interfacing and a  little lace ribbon that my husband had to pick up for me on a busy Saturday.  (He told me that he tried to pick something Elizabethan and I just about died from his thoughtfulness and good taste!)

There are no patterns for costumes like this so, as with all my costumes, I just kind of hold up the fabric to my children and cut and guess and stitch and hope it all comes out all right.  And amazingly, it did!

Little Queen Elizabeth was a huge hit in our neighborhood.

Also, in solidarity with all kids who need to wear glasses or eye patches with their Halloween costumes, we also present Queen Elizabeth in glasses.  Just as cute in my opinion!

Next costume: Young George Washington

 Posted by on October 31, 2012 General Tagged with: ,
Oct 312012

Last Halloween, my eldest daughter determined that she would decide what she wanted to be for Halloween. The trend continued this year. In July, my daughter announced to me that she was going to be an Egyptian for Halloween. We were very proud and impressed that she even knew what an Egyptian was! We asked her what she meant by that and she referred to a video she had seen about ancient Egypt. I suggested that she might be Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, and she agreed.

To get in character, in September, we started reading some great books about ancient Egypt as part of our homeschool curriculum. Our library had a wonderful collection of books that were aimed at children. We checked out several. Many books are focused on mummies and death rituals of the ancient Egyptians. It seems that death was a huge focus of the ancient Egyptians but also perhaps the aspect of their lives that we have the most information about. These books were our favorites.

You Wouldn’t Want to be Cleopatra at amazon.com.

How the Sphinx Got to the Museum at amazon.com.

Egyptology: Search for the Tomb of Osiris at amazon.com.

A few neat facts we learned about Cleopatra:

1) Cleopatra was Greek.
2) She was the last of the pharaohs of Egypt.
3) She was married for a time to her brother.
4) She was the girlfriend of Julius Caesar and had a son by him whom she named Caesarion (“Little Caesar”) My daughter recalls this fact each time we eat Little Caesar’s pizza.
5) She was also the girlfriend of Mark Antony and had boy/girl twins by him whom she named Helios (“Sun”) and Selene (“Moon”)
6) Cleopatra committed suicide by being bitten by a poisonous asp.

Overall, a very interesting lady who lived in very interesting times.

I wanted to sew costumes this year but since there are a lot of pre-made Cleopatra costumes out there for not much money, I tried to keep my materials affordable. I was inspired by the illustrations in “You Wouldn’t Want to be Cleopatra” that referenced Cleo’s Greek heritage so we went with a white, richly folded gown and the characteristic Egyptian jeweled collar.

Cleopatra costume building blocks.

I had some white cotton fabric in my stash so we used that for the gown. My daughter loved the “bling” materials we ordered, like the gold lame, turquoise and gold sequins. The pink crystal trim however was the hands-down favorite.
We added an inexpensive wig and some black eyeliner to complete the look.

We were unable to locate the wig for a previous Halloween party we attended so my daughter went as the blonde Cleopatra, complete with crown and colored eyelash face painting from a fall festival we attended. That worked too.

Blonde Cleopatra

Cleopatra was a popular costume choice this year. Little did we know that Heidi Klum and Gisele Bundchen were on the same wavelength!

It was a lot of fun to dive back into ancient Egyptian history in this process. I had forgotten how much I enjoy history from that time period. It is no wonder we continue to be amazed by that fascinating culture. They had great style too.

Have a favorite Cleopatra or ancient Egypt fact?  Please share in the comments.

Next costume: Queen Elizabeth

 Posted by on October 31, 2012 General Tagged with: ,
Mar 162012

Green donuts for St. Patrick's Day. Life is sweet!

This month’s investing theme is certainly about bringing more green into your life. As a reminder that green is sometimes about money but more often about the people we love, I wanted to share these pictures from our early St. Patrick’s Day celebration (following the preschool calendar).

A great day to be a strawberry blonde.

...or a blonde with hints of red.

Green eyes. The best green to wear on St. Patrick's Day.

Green boots and green legs.

An impish grin.

A lucky smile.

And a great time to be "green" at life too.



Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

**As a side note relating this to organizing, I have written before about my shopping weakness for holiday outfits for my children.  I am happy to report that I was able to restrain myself and spend only $4.50 on St. Patrick’s Day attire (two $1 hair bows and a clearance pair of striped socks at $2.50). All the rest was scavenged from our existing closets.


 Posted by on March 16, 2012 General Tagged with: , , ,
Nov 012011

Ruly at your service! My Halloween costume this year.

In October at Ruly, we focused on the essentials of a good wardrobe. It was a fun month full of tricks and treats.


We started off with 3 strategies to stay sane during this holiday season.

Then we turned to the women’s closet, identifying classic items for professional and casual dress as well as hearing Ruly Ruth’s take on Fall 2011 Women’s Fashion Trends:

We had some great comments! From the sound of things, we are all going to be wearing a lot of turtlenecks over the next few months.

Ruth commented that my professional wardrobe choices looked a bit bland from a fashion standpoint. Truthfully, they probably are but sometimes that is the way “classic” pieces work.

diadia gave a great tip for saving money on professional blouses . . . shop in the men’s department!

“White or other color true men’s shirts make excellent shirts for me. The cost for each is usually under $30, poly, no iron. Buttons can be changed on the cuff to give a feminine dash–I use pearl or rhinestone. Also I move the cuff button to hold the shirt sleeve firm at the wrist.”

diadia also gave a comment on the casual clothing post, raising a question about a product I had never heard of before — socks or pantyhose with a separate toe for the big toe. She wanted to use them to extend the life of her summer thong sandals into the winter months. I have never attempted this but do something similar for my girls by having them wear turtlenecks and tights with their summer sundresses in the winter to extend their wardrobes. Diadia later emailed me an update, indicating that she had found the socks in question at eBay and that they are called Tabi socks. She also included a photo of her discovered look. I quite like the look and the ingenuity of the idea.

Winter sandals. Vogue's next trend?


Then we turned to the men’s closet, identifying staple items for professional and casual dress.

My son received several positive comments behind the scene for his modeling debut in a thermal shirt.  Also, Ruth received a request on her Facebook page that she consider a menswear version of her commentary on the latest fashion trends.  Men, are you interested in this?

Refashioning Men’s Dress Shirts
I so appreciate all the kind and encouraging comments on this post where I turned my husband’s cast-off dress shirts into dresses for my daughters, particularly since they came when I just confessed my failures at the bake sale on the same day. My wonderful readers taught me a lesson on etiquette here. Whenever someone has a failure, the kindest thing you can do is let them know how great they are at something else!

Fashion and Finances
We contrasted the fashion spending habits of financial guru Suze Orman and fashion blogger Maegan Tintari. Readers provided some great money-saving options for clothes shopping:

Summer commented:

“I NEVER pay full price for clothes, especially clothing for children. I shop sales and clearance like crazy! If there’s something full price I want, I wait for coupon discounts like “friends and family” promotions or those “bounce back” type coupons that clothing stores are now doing (e.g. Gymbucks, Savings Cards, etc.) I also shop for my kid’s clothes at the end of a season and just buy things big for next year. I am totally that customer that walks in and goes directly to the back of the store.”

Ruth commented:

“I’ve been so blessed with amazing friends and my sister’s mother-in-law that love to shop and splurge on their kids’ clothes that my daughter has been lacking very little!! THANKS FOR THAT!! Now on occasion I’ve been very successful in finding out-of-season clothing for especially my son at Goodwill. Especially shorts–most people don’t sell or need them in November–we do!! Goodwill was a god-send then!”


No life is perfect and there were a few bumps in the road this month.

Lessons from the Fall Festival Bake Sale
I shared my poorly organized attempt to contribute to the school bake sale and readers commiserated and shared some helpful suggestions.

Mary commented:

“I completely agree with you in that if they want Moms to contribute, then they better lovingly accept flat cupcakes with little one’s fingerprints, squiggled icing and gobs of sprinkles all over the tops of them. Plus, let’s face it, we aren’t living the lives of our grandmothers who stayed home and made goods from scratch on a regular basis. This stuff is out of our element! In closing, I praise you for your bravery and efforts but definitely think next time keep it simple and use that ‘extra’ time to play with the kids!”

Best Wishes Giuliana
My thanks to Ruth and Mary who commented and shared Giuliana Rancic’s breast cancer story with friends. Per the last public update, Giuliana’s surgery went well and based on her Twitter account, she is still going full steam ahead with her busy career! Bill Rancic has done an excellent job in his role as the supportive husband too.

In Praise of the Black Turtleneck: Remembering Steve Jobs
Life has continued on without Steve Jobs but I do find myself thinking of him from time to time and the hole in humanity that he has left behind.  I just read the beautiful eulogy his sister, Mona Simpson, wrote in The New York Times and recommend you read it too.  I love his last words.

Finally, I had a small Halloween celebration on my site yesterday with two posts about Halloween costumes. Again, many thanks for all the positive comments on the Halloween costumes! I am glad to see there are some Charlie and Lola fans out there too.

Last, I wanted to share my Halloween costume for this year. I spent so much time making costumes for everybody else that I had literally no time to make my own. I told my children weeks in advance that I would go as Amelia Bedelia– another of our favorite storybook characters. I made attempts at cobbling together a costume from a used dress on eBay (which I then forgot to bid on before the auction ended) and had plans to make Amelia’s characteristic apron but ran out of time. My girls insisted that I needed a costume for our trick or treating. So, into my closet I went and came up with the costume you see above. There was literally no expense and no sewing in this costume. The “apron” was the best trick. This is really a white blouse with ruffled sleeves worn upside down with a little clear packing tape to “hem” it. My neighbors had a great laugh when I told them how the costume came together.

It was actually quite fun dressing as the formal maid. On a quick run to the grocery store for candy, I was surprised to discover pride in wearing this outfit. I was not just a mom but a well-dressed professional for my household. I may have to remember this trick the next time I am lacking motivation in my own organizing efforts.

I hope you enjoyed the posts this month and that they have helped give you a new perspective on your own closet.

P.S. In other organizing news.

It was great fun this month reading the advice from South African “Organising Queen” Marcia Francois in her 31 days of organizing questions. Her last post in the series is especially great. Reality happens even to Organising Queens too.

Still following the Apartment Therapy 20/20 Cure posts designed to improve your home in 20 days with just 20 minutes a day. I have not been able to follow all of them to the letter due to the bustle of Halloween but am finding a lot of inspiration just from watching them.

 Posted by on November 1, 2011 Monthly Recap Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Oct 312011

I have this little daughter “Lola.”

She is small and very funny.

One year, we decided to make a Halloween costume.

We needed:

and ended up with:


Then we took

and created . . .


Next we found

and made

to create



But no story would be complete without an imaginary friend.

For this, we need:

Our Lola has an invisible, beautiful fairy who is her best friend . . .

Lauren Sorenson!


*If you are a Lauren Child fan, you absolutely get this. If you don’t, you must read, “I Will Not Ever, Never, Eat a Tomato.” Immediately. (Or check out the Charlie and Lola website.)

Thank you, Lauren Child! We love Lola who embodies all the imaginative exuberance of our girls and Charlie’s kind rationality trying to guide her in the right direction. We admire your deceptively simple, and extremely stylized art. Charlie and Lola will be the remembered classic books of my children’s childhood. Forever.

Happy Halloween!

 Posted by on October 31, 2011 General, Ruly Kids Tagged with: ,