Saturday, August 31, 2013

Teaching Reading & the Three Period Lesson

This year we have begun reading lessons with the Ginn basic reader, We Are Neighbors. As you will find with many reading series, new words are given for each page in the back of the book. I use a technique for teaching reading based on Montessori's "three period lesson". For details on how to implement the three period lesson, see the link above.

The first thing I do is go to the back of the book to see if any new vocabulary words are listed. If there are, I point to the word on the page and simply say it, ie., "This word says neighbor." If it is a phonetic word, I will also demonstrate sounding it out. I have Beezy look at the word carefully and repeat it. This is the first period.

In the second period, I take one paragraph at a time and ask Beezy to find certain words, ie., "Point to beautiful." She really enjoys picture and word searches, so this is especially effective in reinforcing previously introduced words, and it helps me to see what needs additional attention.

In the third period, I have Beezy read the page we have just covered to herself while I leave the room. When she is finished, I return, and she reads it to me. During this period any issues of comprehension can be addressed.

This whole process makes reading lessons fun and provides a solid method for building reading confidence. It is this one-on-one teaching that makes homeschooling so ideal. There is no need to go any faster, or slower, than the child is able to go. Sometimes I have focused too much on how many pages are read rather than on how well vocabulary is being learned and the story is being understood.

Always in the forefront of my mind, I endeavor to instill the joy to be found in reading, to help my child build confidence in her abilities, and above all, to nurture her spirit. These are the ultimate goals. Progress, not perfection. Heaven first, and peace on earth.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cultivating Your Signature Style

What made it possible for me to do my big wardrobe cleanse was first catching up on the laundry. Some things got packed away in the attic to wear for another season. Tons of items were given to charity.  A few were tucked away, but not too far, for being just a tad too small.

Only keep those pieces that you really like and feel great wearing, and that fit your lifestyle and body right now. This point bears repeating, because if you haven't whittled your wardrobe down to the clothes that you really need and actually do wear, you will have a difficult time discerning your personal style in order to shop wisely for additional items. If you have an item that you like but never wear, consider whether that is because you have nothing to wear with it, in which case you must remedy that situation, or because it really isn't "you".

What if, after you have purged your closet and dresser drawers, you find that you still literally have nothing to wear? You were probably keeping many things that didn't flatter your figure and that you didn't enjoy wearing, because you had nothing better. Now you fear that you will have to go naked. Non, ami. Keep a few presentable pieces, maybe 10 items and a few extras to get you by. Now here are some suggestions that will hopefully help:

1. Simple Abundance: This book, by Sarah Ban Breathnach, takes you through a whole year of unearthing your authentic self, in a series of daily meditations. I recommend this book to every woman. Go to the section where she talks about discovering your authentic, personal fashion style. You will find a goldmine of inspiration in this classic.

2. The Illustrated Discovery Journal: This is one of the tools Sarah Ban Breathnach suggests in Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy. First purchase an artist's sketchbook. Find a pair of scissors and some glue. Turn on soothing music and brew a cup of tea or your favorite drink. Make sure you won't be interrupted. Gather some magazines together that you have lying around, or ask a friend for those that she no longer wants. If you don't have any to use, buy a few current issues. I highly recommend People magazine's monthly Style Watch issue. This features real world, wearable trends in a broad range of prices. Slowly flip through the magazines in a meditative way, cutting out pictures that grab your attention as you go. Any image that stirs your imagination and makes you feel happy looking at it. When you have finished, arrange the images in your sketchbook. You might also clip out words or parts of articles, anything you see that speaks to you in a meaningful way. Set your finished work aside and look at it again later. Do you see a recurring theme? Do the hairstyles, makeup, and fashion you were drawn to resemble your current style?

3. Make a List: Being as specific as you can, make a list of your dream wardrobe. Note the color, fabric, shape, and details of the items you want, ie. boot cut blue jeans in a dark wash; low heeled leopard print dress pumps; a black leather motorcycle jacket; a long sleeved cashmere pullover sweater in pink, etc...

4. Window Shop: Make a trip to a department store and note which designers or labels strike your fancy. When I was shopping for my honeymoon, I discovered that I really liked INC (International Concepts). Once you have found those boutiques or department store lines that reflect your fashion sense and lifestyle, make those your go-to sources when you need something new. Another idea is to shop vintage boutiques, consignment shops, thrift stores, Etsy and Ebay to try to find those brands or similar styles. Take your time, check your budget, and when you are ready...

5. Plan Your Shopping Excursion: Perhaps take a friend along who understands the essential wardrobe concept to help you decide whether something looks good on you or not. Make sure you have eaten and are not tired. Bring snacks and a bottle of water with you, or plan a nice lunch into your day. Have your essential wardrobe list handy, and look for only those items. If you happen upon something not on your list that you just can't live without, and it will mix and match into your wardrobe, buy it. But keep your focus on those pieces that will build the foundation of your streamlined style.

6. Wear Only Your Best: Avoid keeping clothing that is past its prime. If it has holes in it, fits poorly, is ugly, is faded, or has lost its shape, don't wear it. Never tell yourself, I am only going to the grocery store, the playground, or whatever. Inevitably you will run into someone you know, and you will regret looking sloppy. Respect yourself and others with the quality of your appearance. I don't mean that you should wear a ball gown to buy deodorant, simply that one should look pulled together always.

Soon you will be on your way to a closet that makes you smile when you open it, and getting dressed each day will be a joy, something that motivates you to begin your day on the right foot. I promise, this will change your life!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


You cannot pass! I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor. The dark fire will not avail you, Flame of Udun! Go back to the shadow. YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!
--Gandalf to the Balrog Demon, The Lord of the Rings

A candle is lit.  Incense burns.  Sacred music plays.  I sit and breathe and tell myself, pause.  The Balrog Demon must go no further.

When I was a Montessori teacher, sometimes I was surprised at hearing a young child say to her classmate, "Go away."  This was not in the context of children leaving someone out of their game or trying to hurt another's feelings. It was a direct, assertive message given to the person who was intentionally bothering her and distracting her from the purpose of her work. Go away. Here there is no room for misinterpretation.

I have been as polite as I can be. Non, merci. I do not wish to play your game. Sometimes this is not enough.

Message to the haters and killjoys, the bullies, the hecklers, the frenemies and rabid critics:

Go. Away. Your comments have been deleted, unread. You are not on the guest list. I will not feed your dragon. I stand on the battlefield, untouched. I have prayed for you and send you in peace. Godspeed. The door is always open to those who choose to walk in the light. But, "I can't light no more of your darkness" (Sir Elton John).

I have not harmed you. You must slay your own Balrog Demon. I will not take your sword in my side. I will not ride the crazy train with you. I will not breathe your toxic air.  

I am busy making crème brulee.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Je Ne Sais Quoi & Defining Your Style

Je ne sais quoi -- literally, I know not what

The French phrase, je ne sais quoi, refers to a quality, a certain something about a person, that you can't quite put your finger on. It's indefinable, an air of mystery. It results from being comfortable in one's own skin, in being authentic and liking oneself. Je ne sais quoi is confident but not arrogant. I think of the woman of repose, who is quietly self-assured, who is irresistibly magnetic, because she is not focused on herself. Her light is beamed upon the person to whom she is giving her attention, drawing one into the sanctuary of her being. She is, in a word, alluring.

The alluring woman also radiates style. And style is not the same thing as fashion. Your personal style encompasses all that you are, and the woman with that je ne sais quoi knows who she is and dresses to best reflect her personality, values, interests, and lifestyle. In France, this usually means that women don't adhere to trends. They are not fashion's slave. There is an understated aesthetic at work. The French woman doesn't look like she is trying too hard, and that's because she isn't. She knows what looks good on her body and for her age, and she doesn't overdo it. She is not dressed like a department store mannequin. She is not coiffed to perfection. In fact, a certain quirkiness or undone essence is often present. This woman knows in her bones that style cannot be bought, only cultivated.

The trouble for many women is in defining their personal style. I know that once I had a child, it became difficult for me. Vintage clothing is generally not conducive to breast feeding. When that phase was finished, I thought, now what? I am not the same dress size as I was when much of my clothing was purchased from vintage boutiques. My lifestyle changed, and my personal style has had to evolve with it. Some of the things that once looked good on me no longer do. In her book, Lessons from Madame Chic, Jennifer L. Scott suggests finding a creative label for your signature style. Women with great style stick with their signature look. Julia Roberts, for instance. She has always worn her hair in long layers and loose curls, and her style might be called "casual bohemian." Julia is not likely to suddenly cut her hair in a short, pixie style and start dressing in conservative suits.

I would describe my personal style as a classic-bohemian mix. I like floral prints, pattern mixing, flowing skirts and dresses, soft fabrics, and ethnic touches, ruffles, and lace. I also favor classic shapes, clean lines, cardigan sweaters, capris, and 3/4 length sleeves. Though a free-spirited bohemian type in many ways, I do not dress as if I were on my way to a Renaissance festival, unless, of course, I really am! I value high quality, tradition, simplicity, beauty, and meaningful ritual. I enjoy a touch of whimsy and the unexpected. My style combines classic, retro, and bohemian chic pieces. Today I am wearing an abstract printed peasant blouse handed down to me by my mom, Lei knee-length cargo shorts, and gladiator sandals. My hair is in a top not, which is a trendy style but one I have worn at various times for years. My earrings are vintage drop pearls. "Casual elegance" might be another moniker for my style, a combination of Anthropologie and Ann Taylor Loft.

Be creative in coming up with your personal label. This is not to box you in, but to pull focus so that your authentic brand of je ne sais quoi can shine! The next article will suggest ways of cultivating your signature style. In the meantime, get started--pare down your wardrobe to the essentials if you haven't already done so, and choose your outfits with intention and verve. I can already see your Mona Lisa smile...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Replacing Toxicity with Privacy and Manners

In France it is necessary, at the very least, to greet people with a polite, "Bonjour."  Bonjour Madame or Bonjour Monsieur is preferable. When I went to Paris with my parents on the State Farm trip my dad had won with his awesomeness, the company coached us on some basic French words and phrases. We should not expect the French to respond well to our presumption that they should speak in English. It was crucial that we show respect by attempting to speak their language, even if poorly. A simple bonjour would go a long way. And you know what? I did not experience the supposed rudeness of the French on our trip. In fact, in one store I visited on the Champs Elysses, I was greeted with, "Oh, I like you!" Yes, it was a man.

I know many people in the U.S. who have lovely manners. They say, "Good morning," and enquire about my well being. They say please and thank you. They write real letters and wrap presents with care. When they come to stay at my home, they bring me a hostess gift. Then there is everyone else. There is a gross absence of manners and decorum in modern society, most especially in regard to internet and cell phone communication. Case in point. I recently posted a link to favorable homeschooling statistics on my Facebook wall. As anyone who homeschools knows, we need all the encouragement we can get, and it is imperative to celebrate our freedom, our successes, the joie de vivre of this lifestyle.

A cousin wrote a very lengthy response which was in no way rude or disrespectful, yet it opened the door to disagreement. This is not necessarily a bad thing. But there was no indication in her post that she personally knew me, that we were actually related. No warmth, not even a simple greeting to indicate that we were both persons. While I was cordial, my response was likewise impersonal, taking my cue from her. I missed an opportunity to role model good manners. Internet conversations can easily get messy because they intrinsically lack tone. One must be very careful to remember that the person on the other end is breathing. My cousin's father joined the conversation, making it clear that he did indeed know me, but with no trace of evidence that I am a person for whom he cares. Facebook has ruined our relationship. But does it have to be that way? Might a simple return to manners solve much of the problem?

Seeing that, as usual, a civil, respectful conversation was not to be had, I chose to set a boundary and clearly state that the conversation would not continue on my personal space. That boundary was not respected. I felt that my serenity was at stake, but also that I was at risk for sinking to a lower level than befits the person of class and grace that I aspire to be. If your heart is pounding in your chest and your stomach is churning when you are in the presence of a person or during whatever type of communication, and this is a recurring incidence, it is time to clean house. This is toxic. It is clutter. It is so not la joie de vivre.

Being polite and having manners does not mean being a doormat! It does not mean shying away from expressing yourself. Do you have a deep-seated need to be liked by everyone, to have everyone's constant approval? It will not happen, no matter what. Let go of trying to fix things over which you have no control. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. You can count on people to be exactly who they are.

You have a right to privacy. You have the right to decline an invitation to ride the crazy-making merry-go-round. Just say no as kindly as you can. Non, merci. There is no room in my life for frenemies. The time wasted on that long winded FB conversation can never be retrieved. It ruined my digestion of an excellent dinner. The next time you feel yourself drawn into drama, ask yourself what you could be doing instead. Perhaps savoring a piece of dark chocolate, dancing with your child, making love, baking bread, making art. Praying, singing, writing a letter to your best friend. Let us endeavor to always be exquisite in our manners and to never, ever be gauche. Only hang clean laundry on the line, and don't let anyone with messy hands into your yard. We can love people without allowing them to leave buffalo chips on our property. After all, you are a woman, or a man, of repose.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Easing into Homeschooling

It is a 90 degree day, and the children in our district went back to school today. I remember wanting to wear new clothes on my first day of high school (1983), so I dressed in a fall outfit comprised of a wool argyle sweater and corduroy pants, with penny loafers, of course! I was sweltering hot all day. Very uncomfortable. I think kids in the present era might be allowed to wear shorts to school. I hope they did today!

I was going to wait until after Labor Day to start our homeschooling, but since the streets were quiet and devoid of the neighborhood children Beezy usually plays with, it made sense to go ahead and ease back into our lessons. And this way we can be finished by early May. After my whole foray into researching unschooling and practicing natural learning over the summer, am I going to do anything different this year? Yes and no.

I kept a notebook all summer of our activities, and certainly there was much learning that happened naturally by simply living life and doing the things we enjoy doing. Beezy attended three vacation bible schools, went to the pool often, and played with many friends, including having lots of sleepovers. We had two family reunions and visited my husband's dad in upstate New York. We watched movies and played video games. Beezy participated in parks and recreation activities such as gardening, cooking, crafts, and a week of a special program at our library. She continued with the dog obedience classes begun in the spring and is still working on her 4-H program book for her dog project. Beezy and her dad played a lot of board games together, and math skills were reinforced this way.

While she did read some books over the summer, I didn't think that enough reading progress was happening through "unschooling". We go to Mass every week, but I feel that more is required to really learn about our Catholic faith. Weekly religious education classes at our church will begin next week. As Catholic homeschoolers, religion must be the center and foundation of our studies and our life. Also, math is one of Beezy's strengths, so that subject needs more formal attention to maximize her skills. I will continue to keep a record of all of our activities in my small, leather bound book.

What we did today was very simple. I have all of the books we will be using for the year already collected, except for whatever we may check out from the library. This way I can relax, knowing that we don't have to get every resource out and start using it now. We have the whole year ahead to explore...

Formal lessons will be worked into the day, not as a set schedule, but in the context of a natural and relaxed rhythm. With my recent exploration of the French way of life, la joie de vivre, it seems most logical to structure our days around meals! This probably seems obvious to some, but my family had habitually become grazers. I would often have only coffee for breakfast, and then a very small lunch, snack throughout the day, and then make a nice dinner, later snacking some more. But even sitting down together for at least one meal a day was not consistently happening. Now we are eating a real breakfast, a substantial lunch, and a lovely dinner. I am not snacking, but dessert is allowed, and usually I have one or two squares of Ghiradelli chocolate a day. I am paying more attention to eating slowly and really tasting and savoring what I put into my mouth.

We did a little homeschooling after breakfast. While I prepared lunch, Beezy played "girl games" on the laptop, which I am assisting her in learning to use. She also played outside. After lunch we did more lessons, then walked the dog together as a family. Beezy and I ran an errand, and then we played together with Monster High dolls. After that her dad read to her.

We began and ended our homeschooling with prayers from the Catholic Treasury of Prayers. I read the 20th chapter of John to her, and we prayed the first Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, the Resurrection, using a book of Our Lady's Rosary Novenas. Beezy worked on her dog project book, which uses writing skills, and read the first story in the Ginn classic reader, We Are Neighbors. I began reading the historical novel, St. Elizabeth's Three Crowns, to her, which I will sometimes have her narrate. That was it for today, just a gentle beginning to get back into the swing of things. Oh, and the soccer season began last evening, which covers physical education!

The difference in approach this year is mostly one of attitude rather than methodology. The focus is particularly Catholic, and I am not going to allow myself to feel pressured to achieve specific academic goals. There are no check lists or a scope and sequence curriculum to follow. We will live and learn at our own pace, with no separation between "school" and "home". Learning happens through the rituals of family life, and my goal is to make that life one of beauty, elegance, and refinement, celebrating tradition and experiencing joy in the smallest details. God alone, with a little help from the French and the Blessed Mother, is my guide.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Cost of Quality

The Essential Wardrobe, having one's clothing streamlined to a small number of key pieces, of good quality, which you can mix and match and comprised only of those items you love to wear, can be had even on a budget. But what if you can only afford clothing at stores like Wal-Mart and K-Mart? Wouldn't you have to sacrifice quality?

Let's begin with the old adage, you get what you pay for. In a sense, this is true. Often cheap products are cheaply made. Buttons fall off, the toy breaks the first time your child plays with it, the sweater quickly pills. Once when I was working as an esthetician at a day spa, I went to put gas in my car on my lunch break. Somehow I spilled gas on my pants and shoes! I could not work in that luxurious environment smelling that way. We had to wear black pants, and I had a limited amount of time, so I ran to K-Mart and bought a pair of pants for $3 on clearance. Everything about these slacks was awful--the look, the fit, the fabric; they were hideous! I never wore them again after that day. Yes, sometimes you get what you pay for.

Then again... Yesterday I paid $3 at Goodwill for a pair of Italian patent leather dress pumps. Real leather, not faux. I also paid $4 for a super cute pair of Jones corduroys in a gorgeous garnet red. They are ankle length and wide at the bottom and will look wonderful with either flats or boots. A Ralph Lauren, short-sleeved polo sweater was a similar price in a pretty coral. Quality designer clothing at K-Mart clearance prices.

In Columbus I would find amazing vintage, ethnic, and high quality clothing at garage sales in wealthier, hip areas of the city such as Victorian Village and German Village. My friend Dawn had a yard sale to get rid of clothes from her former life in New York City, which no longer fit her. I got a whole chic wardrobe for $5. I have an A-line coat that is very Audrey Hepburn, in the perfect mushroom color, that I got at Old Navy and have worn for years. It is made of cotton, is lined, and works well for spring or fall. The buttons have never fallen off, and it has held up very well. The style is classic and versatile.

Conversely, you may pay top dollar for low quality, name brand clothing. You never know. You must look closely. How does it fit? Is the cut flattering? Is the material flimsy? Are the buttons already coming loose when the item in brand new? And my #1 pet peeve--is it cut crookedly? This is such a common problem, poorly cut clothing with seams that are not straight, even with designer labels. Lay the piece flat and make sure the pant legs don't twist and the shirt hangs straight.

I went to the boutique I mentioned that carries Free People clothing yesterday. Even the sale prices were way too high. The styles were nothing special, and yet a white t-shirt was something like $80. As I looked at price tags, I wondered if the shop's owner, or the creator of this clothing, thought that the public is either extremely gullible or bordering on insanity. Black leggings with fake leather (polyurethane) trim for $100? I am better than that, and so are you.

Maybe you have never thought about it this way, but all clothing is designer clothing. It's true. Someone designs everything, even for Wal-Mart. Also, all clothing is brand name. Sonoma is a Kohl's brand. Jaclyn Smith is a K-Mart brand. Moth is an Anthropologie brand. Mossimo is at Target. You get the idea. Famous designer brands may or may not be higher quality than the lower end stores offer. Yes, you get what you pay for if you are not careful. But no, you don't have to pay outrageous prices to obtain a quality essential wardrobe. The key is to find your signature style, and to stick with it, being scrupulously discriminating. What is your personal style, and what are the brands that carry it? That is a topic for another joie de vivre day...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Joie de Vivre & Homeschooling

I discovered for myself that in France presentation is not incidental, but capital. The kings may be long gone, but customs that started in the court, and the respect for rules and protocol, are still present in France today. French flair, style, and panache imply some kind of freedom. But form is ever present, and style and panache are played out within its boundaries. Form is not some abstract concept; it governs daily life...      --Harriet Welty Rochefort, from Joie de Vivre

There you have it. I highlighted certain words in Harriet's passage, because they spoke to me of why particular aspects of unschooling philosophy and practice struck me like fingernails on a chalk board. Of course my voyage into the world of unschooling would have to intersect at some point with my new pursuit of joie de vivre. Now I know why, aside from religious considerations, the radical unschooling idea of "freedom without limits" sounded so wrong. My French sensibilities balked at the very idea! My maternal great-grandmother was a Valley (Vallee in French), half French, and my mother adored her. My grandmother and my mother surely inherited something of the French way from this woman whose father was French-American, both in their blood and in their life experience. No wonder the idea of formlessless, of the absence of boundaries, seems so, well, vulgar, to me!

Once again the value of discipline is brought to form, and the true freedom to be found within certain, defined parameters. To the French, this is what it means to be human. Tradition and custom are tres important. They are not trifles that impede self-expression and joy; rather, they are the very fabric from which the tapestry of joie de vivre is woven! They are natural to society. Therein lies my distinction between unschooling and natural learning. Neither should the fact that France is a Catholic nation be overlooked. I will take formal elegance and the value of beauty wrought from tradition over an inconsistent free-for-all any day. Give me fresh cut flowers on my dining room table. Let me eat my breakfast on fine china. And God give me the grace to teach my child how to live and learn well. Let joie de vivre be her inheritance.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Follow la Joie de Vivre--Sign Up Today!

I think I will be writing on this topic of the singular, French enjoyment of living for a long time to come. Joie de vivre encompasses everything--how and what we eat, and what dishes we use to eat upon; the size of our wardrobe and what's in it; the little details that make life simple but rich, as in, full of deep meaning; the way we live and communicate with others; even how we worship God. I want to savor this journey, slowly taking in each morsel. I am not just writing about it; I am living it. I want to share my discoveries and experiences with you.

But I don't want to be on the computer all day writing and editing, and I don't want you to be on here reading terribly long articles! I also don't want to spend a lot of time posting every article to all the various groups to which I belong. So please take the time now to sign up as a follower and submit your email address for notification of new posts from my blog. If you have not been following the series so far, it begins with the article "Joie de Vivre". If you enjoy what I write, please share my blog with friends. I'd love to form a community dedicated to this way of life. Also, please make your comments directly on the blog so everyone can read them, rather than only those in certain groups on Facebook. I have readers from all over the world! What do those of you who are French think about all of this?

I received my two pairs of Kohl's shoes from online today. Both pairs of ballet flats are tres adorable! But comfort is also very important to me, and good quality. The black, faux patent leather flats are from Hush Puppies, and they feel supportive. The purple, faux velvet ones from Elle don't offer any support. Will my feet hurt from wearing them? They are obviously of a lower quality than the Hush Puppies. Decisions like these are small but important, when you want to have and wear only the best! That leads to the topic of my next post, which will explore the cost of high quality. Until then, take a walk in the sunshine, and don't forget to sign up to follow Organic Mothering! Together we will discover la petite pleasures of life...

Friday, August 16, 2013

La Petite French Way

The French live on a grand scale, but they do it in small morsels. I am scaling my email inbox back, unsubscribing to most blogs and shopping invitations. I also need to turn off Facebook notifications! Rarely does it seem that an actual person I know is sending me a message. Who wants to waste time sorting and deleting, wading through a pile of virtual mail? In this area too we must be discriminating. By that token, I'm going to endeavor to keep my posts relatively short! I want to give myself and you a little bit of inspiration at a time.

If you are Catholic, you are most likely familiar with St. Therese of Lisieux, aka the Little Flower, famous for her "little way" of serving God. Let's follow this beloved saint in all things joie de vivre! So to catch you up, I decided to keep the Free People jersey tunic dress I got from Ebay after all. I was being a tad judgmental about my body at a certain bloated time of month, and I had not even taken a shower when I tried it on originally. Last night I wore it to Mass for the Feast of the Assumption, and I felt tres chic! It is grey, and I wore darker grey Anthropologie leggings under it. My jewelry was vintage dropped pearl earrings and my pearl Rosary bracelet. I wore red clogs and carried a red handbag. Neutrals with a touch of color--so French!

Today I went to Goodwill and found a very nice pair of Nicole dress heels. From the internet search I did on this brand, they would be at least $70 new. I paid $3. Uh huh. She shoots, she scores! So there you go--give it away and it will come back to you. I can't wait to see what's next!!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How Many Essential Wardrobe Items Do You Need?

Today I received my Ebay order--and was disappointed. It really does usually work out well ordering clothing online! One of the blouses didn't fit well, and the other had a small hole. The jersey dress was okay but did not make me look and feel fabulous. It was fine, but I asked myself, "Will I feel great wearing this?" I could see bulges in my middle that were not flattering. Yes, I want to lose some weight, but we must dress for the bodies we have right now! Not the bodies we hope to have. So the whole order is going back to the seller.

This is a good lesson, though. Maybe since I am focusing on buying only items that I love from now on, I really need to shop in person most of the time. Mailing stuff back is a pain in the butt. The thing is, where I live I am an hour away from a shopping mall. But there is a boutique which sells Free People clothing less than a half hour away, and outlet stores a few minutes from that. There is a small department store in the next town, and there are thrift stores and consignment shops in the area. I think shopping in person has just seemed overwhelming since moving from the city. Now that I am focused, however, now that I am being very discriminating and have clear goals--indeed, a mission--I can take my time and not feel stressed about the process.

The weather has actually been cooling where I live lately, in the low 70s with low humidity, and cooler in the evenings. I have worn my Clarks booties a couple of times and have thrown on a cardigan and my jean jacket on occasion. I think I should venture into the attic and see what I have stored away for winter. I keep picturing my black dress pants in my mind and an orange blazer I got as an investment piece last year. I should go through all of those clothes too and pare them down to the essentials. Then I can really make my wish list and begin to seriously shop for those very few pieces I really need.

So exactly how many items does one need for the essential wardrobe? Again, this means that you only keep those items that you feel great wearing and that you actually do wear. Only those pieces which fit you well right now. If you are 5 pounds away from being able to wear a fabulous pair of pants, keep them but tuck them away. If you have things in your closet that are two sizes too small, however, find them a new home, or pack them far away in the attic or basement. Not every item needs to go with everything else, but you should be able to mix and match your pants, skirts, tops, dresses, shoes, sweaters, etc... In this way you will keep from getting bored with a pared down wardrobe. Getting dressed has been so much easier and fun since I began the joie de vivre adventure! You need high quality clothing, the best you can afford, and at the best price you can get it.

I don't think there is any magical number, but perhaps the essential wardrobe for fall would break down something like this, depending upon your lifestyle, work situation, and preferences:

4 blouses
4 t-shirts
2 pairs of jeans
1 pair of khaki pants
2 pairs of dress pants
2 blazers
2 cardigans
2 pull over sweaters
2 skirts
2 dresses
2 camisoles or turtle necks
(lingerie, pajamas, and exercise clothes are separate)

Twenty-five essential pieces seems reasonable! If that hits you as really sparse, think about all of the times you have seen magazines showcase five or so key items for the season and all of the different ways they can be combined. And consider that you will also have essential extras and accessories such as tights, leggings, socks, scarves, shawls, ponchos, shells, vests, jewelry, hats, belts and hand bags that will facilitate making the same clothes look totally different! What one person considers an essential may be an extra to someone else. The exact number in your essential wardrobe is not so important as streamlining your choices to show your style to your best advantage and to work your clothing easily into your life. Be honest--would you rather have one perfect cashmere sweater in your favorite color that makes you feel divine, or five nondescript, cheap acrylic sweaters that make you feel sweaty? Don't forget the all-important shoes as well. Your essential shoe wardrobe might include:

1 pair of loafers
1 pair of ballet flats
2 pairs of boots
1 pair of dress shoes
1 pair of workout shoes
1 pair of sandals (for Indian summer days...)

Could you get by with only 7 pairs of shoes (this is just for fall/winter--you would have 7 more for spring/summer)? It's a lucky number, after all. I think that if every piece in your essential wardrobe was good quality and you adored wearing it, it is more than doable. It would be sooo freeing! There is also the "investment piece" category, such as an expensive formal dress or luxurious silk blouse that you plan to have for years to come. There must be a balance, so that you have enough that you are not constantly fighting to keep up with your laundry, but not so much that you can't even see what is in your closet and drawers. French women can keep their clothes in good condition longer, because they launder them less. Rather than throwing everything in the dirty clothes after wearing it once, they air out their clothes so they can wear them again.

Perhaps you will want to make your own list and evaluate what type of clothing you need for all of your activities. Do you like to wear dresses, or do prefer to usually live in blue jeans? What items could be worn for both work and weekends? Maybe you need two sets of essentials, one for your job and the other for your home life. I have way more of some of the items than I listed above. But soon I will be putting the summer-specific clothes away. Maybe nothing will replace them, or maybe I will decide that my fall wardrobe still has some holes that need to be filled.

I imagine that the longer I practice this way of dressing, the easier it will be to continue to pare down and to ultimately establish my ideal essential wardrobe. When the temperature really drops, I will pull in my warmer winter clothes and evaluate again what I might need to purchase, and then come spring it will be time to do it all again. It is an ongoing process, as our lives, tastes, interests, and bodies change, as we grow as women and get closer to being the person whom God intends us to be. I believe it is a journey worth pursuing.

Happy purging, and joyous shopping to you!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Essential Wardrobe Building

Let's continue the conversation of the essential wardrobe and how it relates to the French concept of joie de vivre. After all, the French are known for the art of conversation! Building one's essential wardrobe first means tearing down what currently exists, as we have discussed. Today I went back into my closet and removed some belts that were too small, a nightgown (I can't stand long nightgowns!) that I didn't even know I still had, some scarves, and other items. These too will go to the thrift store I previously mentioned, which is only open on Wednesdays and Fridays. This means that my three large bags have been sitting in my kitchen since Sunday, when I did the big cleanse. I think this is a good thing. If there was something I really wanted to keep after all, it would not be too late.

For example, yesterday I ordered three pairs of shoes from Kohl's. The dress shoes, pretty nude pumps, were cancelled. I am disappointed. Now what will I do if I need a dress shoe? I have the option of pulling my black high heels back out of the bag. Yet realistically, I wouldn't want to wear them. They make my once-broken knee hurt, and they kill my toes. With the back problems I've been having, wearing high heels would be stupid. The two pairs of ballet flats I ordered, one black, faux patent leather, and the other a purple faux velvet with tassels and silver metal embellishments, will arrive soon. Either of these could be worn with a dressier outfit. Yes, I want a pair of pumps now, because I want my essential wardrobe to be complete. But here is the next lesson: learn to wait.

If I buy something just to have it, but am not excited about it, I won't love to wear the shoes. Therefore, I won't wear them, and I will have wasted money. Instead, I must wait for the right shoes to come along. A local department store is clearing out their summer shoes right now, so they should have some new ones for fall soon. Or maybe if we go shopping for some new clothes and shoes for Beezy, I can look at the designer shoe outlet store about a half hour away. Perhaps when I drive to Ft. Wayne for my annual bra shopping at Macy's, I'll also look at shoes. Imagining how happy I will be when I find just the right pair will hopefully help me to be patient! Last year my parents gave me Amazon gift cards for Christmas, and I used them to finally purchase a pair of Clarks booties that I had really been wanting and needing. Once I had them, so many outfits were complete! It was worth the wait, and now I am excited to wear them again this fall.

That reminds me of a friend of mine named Cheryl from high school who I lived with for a year in college. Cheryl had a really unique pair of brown leather shoes that she wore all the time. And I do mean, all the time. Cheryl loved those shoes. When they wore out, she got them re-soled. Who knows how many years she got out of her perfect footwear. I bet she cried when she finally had to say good-bye. Ideally, that's how every item in your essential wardrobe should be. Don't buy good enough. Buy just right.

I think that the notion of buying the best quality clothing that you can afford doesn't go far enough. I would add to buy the best you can afford at the lowest price you can find it! It almost makes me feel richer to do this. It's like a frugal sort of snobbishness. I could pay $100 for a cashmere sweater, for example, but I don't wish to. Maybe I don't want to spend more than $45. Why should I have to spend more than I want to for anything? Think of yourself as so tres chic that they really should give you their clothing for free, it would be such an honor to them for you to deign wearing it. Try this trick. Write down the items that you desire on a list, being as specific as you can. I did this when I was a poor, single school teacher and had an unexpected opportunity to go to NYC for the first time. What would I wear?! I took my list into a Cancer Society thrift store and found everything on it, or nearly so. I was thrilled with my travel wardrobe for the Big Apple! I find that when I put the request out there to the cosmos, if you will, in a very intentional way, I get what I need at just the right price.

The most put together woman I know is my own mother. She always looks nice. No matter what. Even back in the days when she had small children--I'm the oldest of six--and stayed home with us, she always took the time to put on makeup and hot roller her hair. In fact, I had to go home from high school early one day, because my dad was out of town, and my mom's water had broken. She was about to have a baby, and I needed to be there when my other siblings got home from school. I ran upstairs in a panic to find her, and there she was in front of the bathroom mirror, calming apply eye shadow. I was shocked. "Well, I want to look nice when I go to the hospital," she said. My mom is sooo French! I went to the hospital to give birth in my pajamas! No makeup. Maybe I brushed my teeth.

My mom wears designer clothes, but I don't think she would ever pay full price for them. I think this is where I get my stubbornness from. The thrill of the hunt--consignment shops, thrift stores, vintage boutiques, clearance racks, and for me, Ebay--is part of the fun. You don't have to be rich to look rich. One key is to know what brands you really like. My favorite store is Anthropologie, and when I lived in Columbus, I could shop there in person. I couldn't afford the clothes at full price, but they had spectacular clearance sales, and I was picky. I only ever paid full price once. Now I get my Anthropologie on Ebay. I also like Ann Taylor Loft and Free People. Sometimes I find something great in a surprising place, like the floral rayon maxi dress I got at Target for about $7.00! Actually, I think my husband found it for me. He has really good taste and knows what looks good on me. That's another tip--find a free personal shopper!

I hate going to Kohl's stores. They depress me. Maybe it's the lighting; I don't know. But their online website is so easy to use, which I found out when I was really desperate for some new clothes, and I have been happy with my purchases. A Simply Vera pair of ballet flats I got from there hurt my feet, though, so I didn't wear them much and am now giving them away. I could have sent them back or taken them to the store to return, so that's my own fault. When ordering from Ebay, very often the sellers will list specific measurements for the items, so I have rarely received something that didn't fit. One pair of pants was too big, which I had my grandma alter. That's another good tip--find a tailor! A too-small shirt became a Christmas present for a friend. Know what styles and shapes look good on you, and usually you can tell what will work when shopping online. Of course, knowing what looks good on you comes with time. Trial and error is part of the game.

Well, I hope that gives you some more food for thought! Now, get back in your closet, be merciless, and make your wish list! Oh, I got my brown and black belts today on sale at Peebles. I think I will add a cashmere sweater, once I decide on what color I want, to my wish list. I also need comfortable tights that don't leave unsightly bulges around my middle. Once I have those things and my dress pumps, I think I will be done shopping for fall. Done! And isn't that joie de vivre?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Wardrobe Cleanse

I had to sit and take a break! I think I overly inspired myself with "The Essential Wardrobe" article, on the tenets of French style. I just filled three tall garbage bags full of my clothes and shoes to donate to charity! I threw in some hats, scarves, and a purse to top off the last bag. I will still have to sort through coats, jackets, hats, gloves, mittens and scarves on another day. Incidentally, I pulled all kinds of weirdness out of that purse (gum balls, a white medicine tablet of some sort, diaper ointment, bee pollen, and a broken candy cane, among others things).

My husband was not surprised at all by these items, but he said, "You're giving that away? That's a really nice purse." I said, "Yes, but I don't need it, and someone else will just love it! It's going to be like Christmas for somebody, especially the woman who wears a size 9 shoe." He thought maybe we should have a yard sale. No! Not only do I want this stuff out of my house ASAP, but I explained that you have to give your abundance away for it to come back to you. I went on to tell him about our priest's homily on Saturday, which began with a poem about how when you give of yourself, tenfold comes back to you. "I don't even need tenfold!" I proclaimed. "Threefold would be plenty." Well, the man was silent. He doesn't often go to Mass.

We have stairs, so it was a lot of running down with the heavy bags. I also hauled shoes upstairs to my closet. The whole family's shoes have been thrown into a rustic trunk in the kitchen to try to keep them off the floor. Not only do they still get sprawled all over the floor, but nice shoes get squished, and it's a pain to try to find a pair in the box. It seemed like a good idea. It isn't. Most of the shoes I gave away no longer fit, since I gained half a size after giving birth. Why was I holding onto these? The only too-small pair I kept were souvenir snakeskin heels my mom got me in Italy. I am also holding onto my riding boots for now. Equestrian styles regularly make an appearance. I'll have to try them on and see if they are wearable.

How much lighter I now feel! I was merciless. If it was stained, had lost its shape, was faded, uncomfortable, didn't fit well, didn't make me feel attractive when I wore it, or it just bothered me to look at it for some unfathomable reason, I said good-bye. What kept me from panicking was the fact that I ordered two nice blouses and a dress from Ebay yesterday, so I will have a new item for each of the bags I'm giving away. And most of the stuff was still very nice for whoever gets it for free at the thrift store (you can take up to 20 items at no cost!) Thinking about making other people happy who can't afford nice things takes the sting out of the process.

Do a wardrobe assessment. Are you not wearing something because of one of the reasons I mentioned above, or are you just not having fun getting dressed? Always looking put together and pretty gives me energy and enhances my mood. It makes life seem more interesting and meaningful. I feel more creative and inspired. Maybe you "save" some clothes for church or going out to dinner that you could be wearing for every day life. You may have some formal dresses that you only wear for weddings or really dressy occasions; but otherwise, I give you permission to look nice even if you never leave the house all day. Oh, and just because you bought something once, or someone gave it to you as a gift, doesn't mean you have to keep it. Really.

Now make a list. Once you have purged your closet and dresser drawers, what do you really need to buy this season? Sometimes I don't wear certain things because I just don't have the right shoes or boots, or because I don't have the right top to wear with those pants. I have a very small butt, so sometimes I don't wear things because they droop, and I don't have the right belt! For fall, I really need a brown belt and a black belt. I could really use a new pair of casual walking shoes and low-heeled dress pumps. Honestly, that should do it. As long as my new blouses fit when they arrive this week, I should be set! Only purchase those items that you believe to be beautiful and know to be useful.

Less really can be more--and that too is joie de vivre!

The Essential Wardrobe

Continuing with our exploration of joie de vivre, we must naturally pursue the topic of what to wear. It may seem counterintuitive, but I think that we often can't find anything we want to wear, simply because we have too many clothes. Much of what is in our closets and drawers are items that we never wear. Or if we do wear them, it is not because we love them, but simply because they are there. We are not choosing an outfit so much as dressing by default. Can you imagine having only those pieces in your wardrobe that you really like and feel great wearing?

I am arguing today for the concept of the essential wardrobe. First of all, if everything in your closet is jammed tightly together, you have too much stuff. Before anything else, put any off-season clothing away. I pack mine in plastic tubs and have my husband haul it to the attic. It is still summer, but we will be heading into a transitional time here in the Midwest. Some of your summer items will still be needed. You will need a few layering pieces, such as a jean jacket, a blazer, and cardigan sweaters. Ankle pants are still in style. I have two pairs from Kohl's that I have worn since spring, in a lightweight denim. One is a cherry red, the other a soft rosy beige. These can be worn right into fall.

When I feel hot I like my underarms to be free, so I wear sleeveless, floral dresses and camisoles/t-shirts, often with lace trim. If you get chilly, simply add a blazer, jean jacket, or cardigan! I prefer natural fabrics all year round, such as cotton and silk. Rayon also seems to breathe well. Wool is fine as long as it isn't itchy! A small percentage of synthetic fabric is usually okay as long as the majority of the blend is natural.

Now let's talk quality. This is key to emulating the French way of dressing. French women spend their money on high quality clothing but buy less pieces. They tend toward classic styles and neutral colors, using accessories to add a splash of pattern and color, or to reflect a current trend. They may wear one colorful item, such as a bright red skirt, while the rest of the outfit will be neutral. They do not purchase a ton of clothing every season in order to be up-to-the-minute in style. Being chic is more about a woman's individual personality and self-expression. The French woman knows what looks good on her and is never fashion's slave!

Lately I have been doing my makeup a la Jennifer L. Scott's "le no makeup" look. I'll talk more about the specific products I use and application methods in another post. The point is, I am customizing an easy makeup routine so that in a matter of minutes I can put my best face forward. I get dressed with the intention of this philosophy--always look pulled together. In order to always look presentable, getting dressed needs to be easy, which means paring down one's wardrobe to the bare essentials. You need items that you really enjoy wearing, that fit you well, and that can easily be mixed and matched. You need a few pairs of shoes and boots that can work into your wardrobe without fuss. Shoes make or break the outfit. Your essential wardrobe also includes paring down your shoes, scarves, jewelry, and purses.

Following the French way, you buy the best you can afford, and you can afford more expensive clothing because you prioritize quality over quantity! Today I am wearing a pink, white and black, cotton floral sun dress that I got from Good Will, which is a Kohl's brand. My hair is in a simple bun. I'm wearing silver, dangling flower earrings, my wedding ring, a pearl necklace, and a silver and pearl rosary bracelet. When I walked the dog today (in peep-toed, stacked black shoes from the Bass outlet store), I talked to everyone I encountered in the neighborhood, even people I didn't know. I felt friendly and confident. I was more open and genuine because I had taken the time to look pulled together--and that is joie de vivre.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Joie de Vivre

Joie de Vivre: a French phrase used to express a cheerful enjoyment of life; an exultation of spirit.

Joie de vivre "can be a joy of conversation, joy of eating, joy of anything one might do... And joie de vivre may be seen as a joy of everything, a comprehensive joy, a philosophy of life... Robert's Dictionnaire says joie is a sentiment exaltant ressenti par toute la conscience, that is, involves one's whole being" (Wikipedia).

Lately everything has been coming up French. It began with an article in More magazine about two women who swapped eating and exercise habits. One was French, the other American. The American lost two pounds in two weeks and substantially increased her energy level via adopting the French way. Plus, she didn't go to the gym in the mornings as was her standard routine before work, but walked to work and other places instead. The French eat high fat foods like cheese, real butter, pastries, and red meat. They also eats lots of local, fresh fruits and vegetables. And of course, wine is regularly drunk with meals.

I went to Paris in 1990 for eight days. I haven't lived in France, so I can't give you in depth knowledge about what it is like to actually live there. I did, however, witness people walking everywhere. The French are not in love with their cars. The cars I saw were very small by American standards and often dented. Evidently they don't worry over every bump and scratch. I also saw tons of bicycles. Something else that stood out was the seeming lack of makeup worn during the day. I was told that French women reserve makeup for going out in the evening.

After reading the magazine article, I started to incorporate the French eating habits. This involves a big breakfast and lunch cooked oneself, and a very small dinner. No snacking, and the kitchen is closed at 8:00 pm. Meals are leisurely, eaten together at a table with the family, and food is savored. Real food, not fast food, take out, or processed and packaged foods. One day this week I had a small but substantial breakfast of granola with organic yogurt and dried cranberries. Often I either only have coffee, or I eat a bowl of cereal (or some cookies!).

For lunch I began with a plate of hummus, carrots, organic blue corn chips, and dates. Usually that would constitute a normal lunch for me. But after that I cooked some scrambled eggs with organic cheese, onions, garlic, and mushrooms, and added curry powder and Trader Joe's everyday seasoning mix. It was so delicious! I forget what I had for dinner. I can tell you that after that large lunch, I had so much more energy than usual, and my mood was much improved!

I'm currently having camera trouble, so in lieu of featuring fall Gypsy Mama fashions, I'm going to explore the French concept of joie de vivre. I've ordered French lifestyle books from the library, and I've been inspired by Jennifer L. Scott's blog, The Daily Connoisseur, and her youtube videos.

Yesterday I felt very French. It was my husband's birthday, and also that of our cousin who just turned 8, so we all went to see Smurfs 2, which was, to my delight, set in Paris! Afterward we crossed the street from the movie theater and shopped at the farmers market on the town square. We got tons of produce as well as some homemade soap. In the evening we went out to a nice restaurant where a live jazz band was playing. I wore a simple but chic outfit and had followed Jennifer's "le no makeup" look (which, incidentally, is a significant about of makeup).

So I hope to keep up my French lifestyle aspirations, and I will share my journey with you. By the way, if you have read this far, be aware that this is the blog of a woman who has caught up on her laundry! At this moment I have merely one basket of dirty laundry in my basement. It is much easier to get dressed when one's clothes are clean, and life is certainly more joyful without that mountain of dirty laundry hanging perenially over my head. If I can do it, anyone can! Until next time, peace be with you...

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Yesterday I was driving in my car and listening to NPR. I learned that the U.S. is using drone aircraft to extinguish Al Quaida operatives in the country of Yemen. While this has been an effective measure, it is killing innocent people. The drones are not piloted. I listened to a man talk about the bombing of his children's school. Both of his children were injured. His son lived. His daughter bled to death. The people of Yemen live in fear of the terror from the sky. In trying to wipe out terrorists, America has become a terrorist nation. Al Quaida is able to gain more recruits as a result of the anger caused by the devastation we are perpetrating with these nameless, faceless drones.

If you are reading this, please pray that our country ends its culture of death. Pray for the people of Yemen, whose children we kill indiscriminately. This is a story we have repeated for far too long. Pray for our leaders to make better choices.

On the road to Golgotha Jesus said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; but weep for yourselves and for your children" (Luke 23:28). Haven't mothers and fathers shed enough tears? Hasn't there been enough blood?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

I'll Be Your Gypsy

Stevie Nicks (of course!)

Yesterday my husband and I went garage sailing along Route 127, a big, annual event spanning a long stretch of highway. I found a beautiful, 1950s porcelain Virgin Mary planter. Hopefully I'll get a picture of it up here sometime soon. But that isn't actually the theme of this post. As we were returning to our car, I fell. There was a big hole along the drive which was covered with tall, flattened grass, so it was not visible. I held onto Mary, and luckily crumpled to the ground without too much injury. Had my hands been free, I probably would have tried to catch myself with them and done more damage. As it was, an instinct, or divine intervention from the Blessed Mother, took over, kind of like dropping and rolling if you are on fire. Nevertheless, hours later my foot swelled up near the ankle, and it became increasingly painful. Some ice and Ibuprofen allowed me to get to sleep.

Some of you know that since February, on the first day of Lent, I have been injuring myself. I threw my back out that day, and it was a long road to recovery. Then I tore a big toenail partially off and had to have it surgically removed. My back has been an issue on and off, especially after a 9 hour drive to and from the state of New York. And now it is both my foot and my back that are sore. I feel like I am getting the message to stop dancing. I did decide not to teach classes this fall. For some time my students have been dwindling, and I have felt like I am supposed to be focusing more on other things. Yet I haven't stopped loving the dance! This morning I was up early before Mass, and I decided to check out fall fashion for 2013 online. I saw ostrich feathers and fur coats. Oh my. But then I saw the word "Gypsy". Now we are getting somewhere. Go to (Ethereal Gypsy-Inspired Photography) to see tons of pictures. If you have Tribal belly dance costuming, you are all set! Put it on mixed with some of your regular clothing, and head out on the street. Even the turban is in style.

I am inspired now by this convergence of fashion and belly dance, in the ethnic, Gypsy way, not in the sparkly Cabaret sense. That isn't to say you can't shimmer and shine. I think that perhaps I need to go inward to hear my dancer voice and ask her in what direction she wants to head next. I took a trip down memory lane and watched some of my old classes and performances on DVD. There has been enough time and distance to objectively evaluate my art, and you know what? I'm good. My choreographies are really quite lovely. My students and troupe have been just awesome. Never any drama--just the love. My niche really seems to be a blend of Egyptian, Tribal, and Gypsy inspiration.

Once my world was rocked by Hadia, and I had a conversion experience rooted in Egyptian, Golden Era music, I knew I had to set Tribal aside and really understand and better master classical belly dance. I had to get deep into the Baladi, and I'll tell you, the Baladi rhythm is my preferred rhythm, bar none. But, dear doves, I am not a purist. Looking back at those dances I have created, the unique genius is in the mix. I want to branch out musically, yet not leave the realm, if you know what I mean. I want to be a modern version of the Art Deco era Gypsy, with some Taheya Carioka and Ruth St. Denis mixed in, and a dash of the Mothers of the Bible, who were, after all, Middle Eastern. And yes, they did dance! So I'll be your Gypsy. I think I'll be back, better, stronger, maybe thinner, and all in one piece--when it's time. Still me, but different. I must simply find a way to put it all together, and allow my body to heal.

For fun and inspiration, I'll do a series of wearable, Gypsy Mama looks for fall, and I'll do it without buying anything new. I'll shop my closet, and you shop yours, and I'll meet you at the hafla!