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Archive | November, 2018

Our 2018 Halloween Costume Reveal

26 Nov

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When I asked Emilia what she wanted to be for Halloween late this summer she replied immediately: “Belle, from Beauty and the Beast!” She quickly followed with: And Dada will be “the nice Beast,” Mama, you can be Mrs. Potts, and Caroline will be Chip! I was prepared to forgo a family costume if whatever she named didn’t lend itself to an easy DIY situation, but I guess our Moana family costume last year left a good impression. I know she won’t want this forever, (and I’m not so sure Caroline will be so willing to play along next year), so I set to work almost immediately brainstorming ideas.

dsc_0324If you’re new to the blog, hi — welcome! You should know that if it’s possible to DIY something, and especially if it’s difficult, my interest will be piqued. I love the challenge of figuring it out how to make something impossible actually come to life. I wasn’t too concerned about how to do Belle, but my “Mrs. Potts” and Brian’s “Nice Beast” costumes were the most challenging. Here’s how we made it all happen.

Belle “from the ballroom scene”- Emilia

For Emilia, if I had wanted to go the DIY route, I could have fashioned together a yellow leotard and a tulle tutu and called it a day, or attempted a ball gown on my sewing machine, but for how much wear she gets playing dress-up with her princess gowns, I have no problem spending a bit to get exactly the princess dress she wants and we involve her in those conversations, to help her understand value and how to prioritize her wants so she makes good choices when we let her buy something special.

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In fact, we were prepared to REALLY splurge on a really nice Belle dress when we were at Disney (for reasons I’ll explain in another post) but we couldn’t find her size anywhere. I’d come across a beautiful, really well made Belle gown at T.J. Maxx just before our trip, but it was a size 8 so I had to pass it up as much as it killed me to not snap it up.

I ended up picking the one she wore for Halloween at Target and it was one of the nicer ones I came across while I shopped, and the price was perfect — just $20. Once I mastered the Belle updo, which I completely winged and improvised with a little flip-through and pinned half up ponytail, all she needed was a faux rose I actually had lying around (from last year’s Moana DIY floral lei project) to carry for photos.

The real fire drill came when I found a gigantic piece of super plush felt that I’d picked up to make a blanket for one of my godsons. The end of September ended up being insane so that project never happened, so I half-seriously said to E, hey! This would make a great cape, like the one Belle wears when she’s outside throwing snowballs with the Beast. The next thing I know, she’s holding the swatch of fabric, fingers pinched at her nape so it’s flowing like a cape behind her. Cut to Halloween. It’s moments from nightfall and I’m at the machine furiously improvising a cape pattern so we can get outside to take a family photo before the light was gone.

That said, I have an utterly brilliant business idea now — capes for kids to wear with all these princess costumes. Think about it, all these princesses don a cape on at one point or another. Why cover up your child’s costume with their bulky winter coat (this is for the more northern-dwelling trick-or-treaters obviously). I’m telling you, this could be my thing guys. You heard it here first. Capes for Halloween costumes. Until next Halloween it’s going to be all Costume Design 101 over here. Only semi-kidding.

My Easy DIY “Nice Beast” Costume

This one came together nicely, if rather last minute. After the Halloween parade we usually do was cancelled due to rain, I almost didn’t bother with our family costumes. I went out to scout for supplies at a thrift shop and told myself if I didn’t see anything that inspired me, I’d scrap it. Luckily, after perusing some other DIY versions, I knew exactly how I wanted to re-create the look with just a few items:

– Dark blue/royal blue men’s long sleeve button up
– Yellow (women’s) cropped mock turtle neck
– Lg piece of yellow felt
– An old white sheet
– Some gold roping trim
– Three navy pea coat buttons

I made Brian wear the button up while I figured out how much of a lapel I wanted him to have and then pinned it to the shirt while he wore it. Then I went in with fabric adhesive and later, a needle and thread, to make it all look a bit more “done.” I worked off a few different “Beast” costume photos that I’ll throw onto my Halloween Pinterest Board. The trickiest part was probably making the lapel look beefy enough to make a men’s shirt look like a fancy dress coat. I think my splurge on the gold roping helped — and the navy pea coat buttons. My favorite part though, has to be the white “ruff” or whatever you’d call the fancy ruffled part on the front of the beast’s white dress shirt. I used a sheet! It was a “wing it” moment to the max and I’m really pleased with how it turned out. If I’d really wanted to go for the finished look, I could have maybe hunted down some small, nubby goat horns or something to give a hint of the former, “mean beast” but I only just thought of it now, so… lesson learned. Plan these costumes out earlier!

Easy, DIY “Chip” Costume for a toddler

Poor Caroline. Until she is old enough to protest, I’m afraid she’s going to be at her sister’s whim as far as costume assignment. I found a REALLY cute, but very sewing-heavy costume idea for a “baby Mrs. Potts” costume, but when I floated the idea to the boss (Emilia), the answer was a hard no. I also thought it might be sweet to dress her up in a little baby-sized hot pink tutu and rose-laden headband and have her go as “the rose” from the movie, but — a hard no from the boss.  Haha! My easy, DIY, Beauty and the Beast “Chip” costume came together with just a few items:

I repurposed Emilia’s first birthday “Elsa” skirt and just ordered a “Chip” onesie on Etsy that was on our doorstep within a week. Brian picked up the “Chip” cup to have just as an accessory in case people didn’t quite get it. We could have had her carry a plush Lumiere or Cogsworth, but we wanted to stick with the girls’ favorite characters and not accumulate (or spend) needlessly. And the cute headband I actually made myself just after C was born. I picked up the white rosette at JoAnns and the nude headband is a repurposed (ripped!) pair of pantyhose I hoarded solely to one day make those exact headbands. The shape of the rosette kind of reminds me of a tea pot top.

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My easy DIY Mrs. Potts Costume

It all started with the skirt, really. I saw it on clearance at Target and that was really the turning point when I committed to this year’s family costume. I love to interpret a costume via the inspiration that comes from my poking around in stores to find or repurpose whatever I find — it always kicks my creative brain into overdrive. The trouble is usually selecting just one idea and moving forward with it. I snapped the skirt up, then found an old white t-shirt and broke out all my acrylic paint. I didn’t bother with fabric paint because I don’t plan to wear a shirt with Mrs. Potts’ face on it on the regular (haha) and weirdly, I happened to have exactly all the colors I could possibly need to match the skirt and the character from the movie. I just free-handed it and could have definitely done a more centered job, but — ah well. The final touch was definitely the gray, colonial-era woman’s wig from Amazon. I don’t know where the hell that idea sprang from, but I’d been searching for a pink wig for a different costume I’d been planning, and somehow, the algorithm in Amazon diverted to Mrs. Potts and the next thing I know, I was paying the $3.99 for next day shipping so I could have the thing in time for Halloween. And I have to say, I think it really made the costume. I almost threw on a purple shower cap since Mrs. Potts had a kerchief-type headpiece, but after all the effort, I felt like it would have been a sloppy finishing touch so I skipped it. Ideally, I’d thought about doing a small fascinator type of headpiece using some different felts, but just ran out of time, so I chose to just go with what I had and feel happy about it.

And really, Emilia and Caroline’s faces when we were all dressed up more than spurred me on for next year. One of my favorite things about being a mom is being able to bring magic to my childrens’ childhood.

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Christmas Task Elf For Hire

13 Nov
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image // Pexels.com

I read a book a long time ago called The Five Love Languages, and wasn’t at all surprised to learn that one of my “love languages” is essentially giving gifts. What that means specifically is that the way I prefer to show my love for friends and family is through gifting. Considering how much I spend at T.J Maxx, Marshal’s and Homegoods on a regular basis, picking up “just a little something” for my godsons, or “something silly for my sister, because she’s having a tough week,” plus the fact that I had a gift wrapping station IN my office once upon a time should tell you everything.

I just love everything that goes into gifting — start to finish, from thinking up and shopping for the gift itself to beautifully wrapping it, to seeing it opened. Here are a few “Gift Guides” I’ve put together over the years: Gift Ideas for CommutersGift Guide for Female Co-workers, and my very popular Gift Guide for Minimalists. I usually start by think about the person and what they love. I’ll consider what they’re interested in and then think through things they need, but don’t have. It’s like a puzzle and when it involves roving around the aisles of some of my favorite shopping haunts, to me, it’s basically heaven. My brain is in overdrive thinking of who I know who could most use the goodies I discover. Often I’ll think of my own new purchases and consider if it, or something in a similar vein, might be suitable for them as well.


For example, I love to be outside in our garden, so as the temperatures have dropped and we prepare for winter, I’ve been trying to eek out as much time on our patio as I can, taking in the last of the fall foliage dotting out tree-lined yard. I want to sip my coffee without bundling up in a huge coat, so I had the thought: what if we had some dedicated blankets specifically intended for outdoor use. My mom is also a garden-fiend and often takes her morning coffee outdoors as well — I bet she’d love a heavy duty “garden” blanket. Maybe something by Pendleton, or a fleece-lined camping quilt from L.L Bean.

Usually the next place my mind goes is how to round out the gift, thematically. If I was gifting a cozy blanket for my mom to enjoy outside each morning, maybe I’d supplement the blanket gift with a bag of coffee beans from a coffee shop she’s never tried, a new insulated thermos (I LOVE and own this Aladdin Heritage one that looks kind of vintage) and an insulated coffee mug to keep her morning brew nice and hot.

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image // Pexels.com

For wrapping, I love wrapping paper almost as much as I love a good book. I absolutely abhor gift bags, because what is the fun in pulling tissue paper out of a gift bag?! I think everyone loves to excitedly tear into a beautifully wrapped gift, right? Plus, the patterns of my gift wrap selections are so stunning, sometimes I just walk into my office and gaze longingly at them, sad that they’re not being put to use. I could probably spend $1000, easy in the Paper Source Store, on gift wrap and adorable boxes alone. But I’ve also made gift tags and wrapping papers myself in the past. One year, I even cut up Crate and Barrel Christmas shopping bags to make gift tags because the designs were just too pretty. I remember sharing them on social media and Crate and Barrel AND the artist who created the design motifs actually tweeted me back! 

I’ve been wracking my brain to think how I could help busy people around the holidays with their “Christmas tasks” and here is what I’ve come up with:

– Christmas card organization
Digitize and update address lists, design and print addressee labels, order return address labels, pick up the stamps and, if desired, assemble and mail

– Christmas gift list
Organize and create gift list based on likes/interests/wants/needs.

Wrapping
This could be fun to do with the client, more like a tutorial session where we work together to creatively wrap all packages. If desired, I could deliver or post whatever needs to be sent off.

If you, or someone you know would like some assistance managing your Christmas task list, please leave a comment or reach out to me on Facebook. Referrals who mention this post will receive $15 off their first 2-hour help session. 

 

 

How I Use Instagram

5 Nov

How I Use Instagram

As the unofficial “memory-keeper” for my family, I’m constantly brainstorming creative ways to get photos off our phones and hard drives and into our hands for enjoyment everyday. One of the ways I’ve done this is to utilize my Instagram for both personal and professional purposes. Personal in that I share snippets of my real life with the goal of posting enough on a regular basis to make a Shutterfly calendar at the end of every year with photos from the previous year. Sneaky, right?? And professional in that I curate my feed to reflect my interests and eye for beauty — two things that come in handy in my freelance work as a writer and stylist.

Instagram Tips

Because my account is public, it helps motivate me to stay on top of my feed to share what is going on in my life in a creative and fun way, on a regular basis. I’ve always found that strict parameters often boost my creativity, and by limiting myself to just using my Instagram feed to make our annual calendar each year, I take a lot more care to capture something worth remembering almost every single day.

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Professionally, I work in digital, so utilizing social media platforms is kind of de rigueur. What distinguishes my feed from others, as I already mentioned, is that I try to be meticulous about what and how I share. You won’t often see birthday shoutouts, photos of me in my workout clothes, or photos of uninspired lunches, because that’s not how I want to utilize my feed. I love and appreciate beautiful everyday moments and curate my feed to reflect that. The difference, perhaps, is that I don’t typically do things “just for the ‘gram,” although I definitely did that when I was still new to the platform (back in 2012). img_8115

In my work, I often talk with clients about “managing their brand” but I don’t view my feed as “my brand” so much as it’s my life, with “my brand” influencing how I edit what I do share. If you look at the feeds for various brands, like J.Crew or Whole Foods, to name two examples, you’ll notice a very specific look and feel. The photos may differ, but often, there’s a stylistic choice in how they’re edited, what is shared, and how things are captioned and that is on purpose. For those of us without massive ad budgets and design teams, you can mimic that same curated look by following some simple rules. Be strategic! It starts with photo curation and is followed closely by how to edit

Part 1: Photo Curation

– CHOOSE ONE (You won’t often see three photos from one activity or event)

– VARIETY OF SUBJECTS

These include: books I’m reading, whatever we’re up to/activities, beautiful landscapes, garden, plants, food, seasonal activities (pumpkin picking, etc) and finally, my family and kids, (though as they grow older, I prefer these not be of their faces.)

Part 2: Actual photographic editing (the technical)

– NO FILTERS

– NATURAL LIGHTING

– INTERESTING COMPOSITION

– MUST BE SQUARE

img_8113.pngBefore Instagram, in late December we used to scramble to get all our photos organized to make our annual photo calendar, but now it’s a simple process.  Instagram is my favorite platform for so many reasons, but more than anything, carefully curating and managing my feed forces me to stay on top of editing and sharing what is going on in our lives which, in turn, makes it easier to create the treasured calendars Brian and I have put together over the years.