{wiws} The Pencil Skirt is No. 2 In My Heart

It seems last week’s WIWS link up never materialized. I hope I didn’t break something.

But the capsule wardrobe frenzy is off and running around here. Even Kendra’s on board, and she’s started a link up so, I guess I might be over there partying on the bandwagon.

This week, I introduce y’all to my favorite wardrobe staple- the stretchy pencil skirt. (And at the bottom I’ve got a great deal for how to dress them up too!) I’ve got three in my fall capsule (cause that’s all I own) and I’m on the prowl for even more. I had a few others, but they weren’t made from a stretchy material and inevitably ripped during one of my trips in and out of my large van. (Watch your step!)


black and white stripe from target/navy blue stipe from old navy/ grey from an etsy store

I prefer my pencil skirts to come to the knee. Much shorter and I’m afraid of flashing someone when I transfer Fulton to the floor or chasing my kids around the house with a ruler. As you can imagine, these three get a lot of wear, though I try to save the black and white one for Sundays and days that I leave the house. This weekend was warm but I still wore some colorful tights because I’ve already stopped shaving my legs.

pencil skirt with sunflare


pencil skirt with sunset

black old navy shirt/ target skirt/ gifted tights/ target shoes

(And yes, I’m also using these fashion posts as a chance to work on my photo skills and awkward facial expressions. I have problems. For the record, Addie picked the top picture and Tony picked the bottom.)

I really want a new denim pencil skirt because I feel like my current A-line denim skirt is unflattering, but I’ve ripped every non-stretch pencil skirt I’ve owned. (Well, you try loading up a wheelchair without busting a seam!) Jones NY has this one for a reasonable price (? I mean, is it? I’m hyperventilating since I’m used to Old Navy and Goodwill prices) and it claims to be stretchy, but I’ve been burned before by so called stretchy denim and I don’t know if I can commit again so soon.

Accessories are SO IMPORTANT to a capsule wardrobe because, if you follow Caroline’s rules, you can have tons of them, which means you can switch up your look with less actual clothing. But even with that flexibility, I still usually keep it to a simple scarf, watch and maybe a bracelet or necklace. (See single watch in the above pictures.) That’s where Shannon from the Organic Mama’s Shop stepped in to help with her gorgeous rosary bracelet! CHECK IT!

I’ve been dressing up even my stained grey pencil skirt with this beauty and finally not losing my place during family prayer time. Plus, I have the tiniest, boniest wrists EVER, and this bracelet fits great. The charm easily clips on and off to help you track your decades.

rosary bracelet

the rosary bracelet in action / up close and personal

And a pic of the same rosary bracelet from Shannon’s shop because I haven’t aced the jewelry photo yet, and I want to make sure you can fully appreciate how great this looks.

Are you looking for some new accessories to add some panache to your capsule wardrobe? Shop Shannon’s shop and use code LYCEUM for 20 percent off any order placed before November 1st! That treat is no trick!

So what do you think? Pencil skirts yay or nay? What accessories are worth investing in when you scale down your wardrobe? And is any denim skirt worth almost $70?? Share your thoughts then check out all the other ladies emptying their drawers at Kendra’s and FLAP.

{SQT} From The Bottom to the Top, it’s the Week that won’t Stop!

It’s time for takes of the quickest variety. Low-fat, gluten-free and with only a slight aftertaste.

1. We carved pumpkins…last week. I’m telling you know because I feel obligated to give a follow-up after my pumpkin carving post from earlier this month . We had fun decorating and carving while Tony’s aunt from the midwest was visiting us. Honestly, it was still a bit earlier than usual for our family and, as I knew would happen, we had a couple warm days, followed by lots of rain so many of our jack o lanterns are looking extra scary right now. But here they are in their glory days:


clockwise: getting started/ Edie’s creation/ Addie hard at work/ Byron’s Lord Business (we later painted on his hair)

2. I also mentioned recently about our families tradition of doing things for birthdays rather than gifts. For Teddy’s fourth birthday, we offered him a choice between a monster truck show and an overnight camping trip (which the older kids were pulling for.) His response? “I’d like to go to Ocean City for my birthday.” THAT is a kid after my own heart!


Last Saturday was gorgeous and we had a great day at the shore except for one tiny incident at the restaurant we stopped at for dinner. They had, what sounded like, the Pitbull Pandora station on in the dining room. Tony and I didn’t mind, and I think the kids were more annoyed by my blurting out “Mister Three Oh Five to Mister Worldwide!”every time a new song came on. We were waiting on our pizza when a Enrique Iglesias song came on. However when the chorus started and Enrique is supposed to say “But tonight I’m LOVING you,” he said about the worst possible thing instead of LOVING. Tony and I just froze and our jaws hit the ground as the chorus repeated like, 50 times, before Tony managed to pull it together and go to the front and as them to change the song. Of course the kids knew something was up, but despite the older ones knowing all the major four letter words (I know, bad parent alert) none of them had caught the offending word. (Probably because they didn’t know that word could be used as an action verb, combined with AWESOME guardian angels.)  So the resulting conversation was quite hilarious.

“Did he say stalking? Is he stalking someone?” inquired Byron.

“Caulking? Is he going after some woman with a caulking gun?” Addie asked.

Yes, Addie, Mama and Papa are highly offended at the suggestion of attacking some woman with a caulking gun. End of discussion.

3. Addie offered up more interesting commentary later in the week as her and I were driving from her violin lesson. She’d been telling me how so many of the books she’d been reading featured divorced parents and children scared of their parents getting divorced. After some discussion she said, “It’s just that me, Byron and Edie have never had to worry about you and Papa getting divorced because we’re Catholic, and we don’t believe in divorce.” Even if Tony and I argued, she’s never worried about a divorce because she’s known such a thing is not an option in our family. She realized that when families aren’t Catholic or when it’s clear divorce is an option, kids are fearful whenever their parents don’t get along. I’d never thought about the security that the Church’s teachings on marriage bring to the child. I mean, I knew divorce was bad for kids, but to hear my own daughter say she didn’t worry when Tony and I argued was a real eye opener. I was especially surprised because I don’t remember ever specifically saying anything about divorce and remarriage to the kids before, though I’m sure it’s come up in passing. In general, the conversation proved Addie had a very mature view of marriage that I hope sticks with her into her teens and twenties as she discerns her vocation.

4. And now a word from our sponsors.

Friends! Do you enjoy gourmet chocolate, coffee and handmade items? Do you enjoy supporting small farmers and worthy organizations, like Catholic Relief Services? Then please, shop the First North Star Explorers Equal Exchange Fundraiser online store! Our family is deeply involved with the FNE which is a Catholic Scouting Organization based on the work of Lord Bayden Powell and started in Europe. The organization spread to Canada and is now springing up across the United States. It is solidly Catholic and offers all the opportunities of other similar programs without the questionable content or affiliation. Our local troop is teaming up with Equal Exchange to offer awesome fairly traded foods and gifts as a way to support our activities for kids ages six to 18, and help keep dues low for families, many who enroll multiple children in our programs. Our online fundraiser runs until the end of December. Please consider doing some of your holiday shopping through our site! Thank you!

Now back to our regularly scheduled Takes!

5. Do you follow The Common Room blog? One of my favorite features is when ‘The Headmistress, zookeeper’ does a free Kindle books post (which she does frequently). From fiction to cooking and everything in between, the zookeeper finds the best in free books and my Kindle is cluttered because of it. Follow along to snap up a new favorite.

6. Besides the occasional Quick Takes, I’ve been LOUSY about joining any link-ups. However, if you’re looking for new blogs they can be a great way to fill your Feedly or grow your online community. Jenna at Call Her Happy is now hosting the Five Favorites, and Cari at Clan Donaldson is bringing back another season of Theme Thursday. For a listing of many other great link ups in the Catholic blogosphere, I recommend swinging by Revolution of Love where Bobbi has them all in one post. 

7. I always get a bunch of spam comments on my blog, however my spam filter is really good at keeping any of it from actually appearing on my site. I occasionally sift through my spam folder to make sure no good comments are getting lost. In doing so, I’ve recently noticed that one photo in particular is getting hit with a TON of spam comments.

explaining why I shouldn't judge shoes

I don’t get how the internet works sometimes, and for the life of me I can’t explain why this one picture from Edel, titled ” explaining why I shouldn’t judge shoes” is popular with spammers who are telling me:

“uggs sale uk

then I was starting to get a little bit more performance and i made the decision that I will give it yet one more year,”


“cheap ugg boots

he inspects the effort, and therefore understands which usually she is at present by the wedding venuw in soundcheck.”


“uggs clearance uk

“it is really quite fairly likely that this bunny’s afflicted mother will have sent back consider it.”


“cheap uggs on sale

this is real feathers within the feet.”


In other news, if you need links to buy yourself some cheap uggs, let me know.

For all these reasons and more, be sure to swing back to Jen’s for more shoes, but in song format. Happy weekend readers!

Free Fall Printables! Because Your House Isn’t Seasonal Enough.

The temperatures are dipping, the leaves are changing and the wood stove is cooking (at least occasionally.) It finally feels like fall in Jersey. We even got pumpkins carved and placed out on the front steps before October 31st. Inside, as usual, things are rather sparse. Once again, I turned to my mainstay Pinterest for some cheap decor ideas and I noticed tons of free fall printables, and a bunch of suggestions on how to display said printables. Who needs cobwebs and plastic leaves and hand-felted wreaths when I can just click, print, and tape? Make it washi tape for some extra gusto (and because apparently fancy duct tape will remove the paint from your walls)!

Because I’m always looking out for my readers I thought I would help you spruce up your homes this fall with my own line of free seasonal printables. Get your frames / corkboards / fancy clipboards ready! (Click each image to view it as a download ready 8×10 pdf.)


1. I noticed lots of printables that were just a bunch of words all jammed together on one page. Whatever. If you like crowded, seasonal words, this is for you.



2. Those ‘Keep Calm And Carry On’ knock offs are still going strong too. This one is dedicated to the endless chore of raking leaves, most of which still wind up as large soggy piles of compost that leave dead spots around our yard come early spring.




3. Lots of folks also like to display uplifting scripture. I thought this passage from Job was perfect for Halloween.




4. Lastly, chalkboard printables: for people who have still managed to not hang or paint an actually chalkboard anywhere in their house. (Good for them. It’s a huge dust mess, which NOBODY tells you about until kids are tracking the stuff through the house.)




If the response is good, stay tuned for Christmas and eventually printables about my least favorite season, winter. I’m also available for custom work! Let me know if you need something special whipped up for a birthday party or special feast day!


{WIWS} Dusting Off An Old Favorite

For the first time in months (a year??) I’m linking up with What I Wore Sunday over at Fine Linen and Purple. Bonnie jumped back into it a couple of weeks ago and I thought, “Well, if Bonnie’s doing it, I gotta get back into it.” (And for the record, I’d totally follow Bonnie off the Brooklyn Bridge too.)


gifted jacket / target dress / gifted tights/ target scarf / shoes by penneys

I just got this dress and one exactly like it in navy from Target. They are the most comfortable things EVER; they stretch AND have pockets. Plus, I got a compliment on this dress from a young person today (under 21!) so it’s a definite keeper. I’d really like to get a belt to wear with them both, but haven’t found any I like thus far.

If you read Friday’s post, you know that I’m trying my hand at a capsule wardrobe. Dingy robe aside, I’m seriously trying to turn over a new fashion leaf. Don’t worry! This Ain’t the Lyceum will still maintain a majority of posts that have nothing to do with fashion, or mock of my lack of, but I’m hoping to use Sundays to post how I’m using my capsule wardrobe to look good at Mass and beyond!

Long winded back story + ramblings…

When some things in my life seem out of control, I tend to reorganize some other aspect of my life in order to feel more in control. I stumbled upon the capsule wardrobe idea at a time when, things felt a little hectic (like back when I started sleeping more.) Cleaning out my closet, and filling it with only 37 items was cathartic and revealed that I had lots of clothes that are embarrassingly stained, do not fit or I simply do not like but still wear occasionally for some reason.
I compiled a list of the ideal capsule and with some birthday gift cards, I’ve been able to shop with more direction, and discretion, and I’ve been feeling better about how I look day-to-day.

My baby also just turned four. I’m not currently in the losing / gaining weight phase that I was for so. many. years. I feel like I can finally buy good, high quality clothes for the long haul. I’m not looking to buy clothes for this season, but for many seasons to come. While my days are hectic, I’m no longer in survival mode and I don’t need to look like it.

Plus, my oldest daughter is twelve. I want to be an example of stylish, lady-like and modest fashion. I want her, and perhaps other young ladies I know, to see me and realize that being open to life, and choosing to stay at home doesn’t sign you up for 18 years of yoga pants, ratty t-shirts and unkempt hair. I want her to know dressing modestly doesn’t really mean denim jumpers and prairie dresses.

I don’t think it’s vanity to want to look put together. Could obsessing about my wardrobe lead down that path? Possibly, but for now, I have enough make up free days spent in my pajamas to keep me humble.

Have you linked up with FLAP lately? Why not share your mom style with the rest of us! I’m still looking for more inspiration besides “buffalo plaid” for this fall, if you’ve got any. Leave your thoughts then head back over to WIWS for more clickety clicks. 

After 13 Years, It’s Still Serious

Today, my husband and I celebrated thirteen years of marriage. Clearly, we’ve left the honeymoon years and thankfully, survived the seven-year itch. Since we’re entering what can only be called the teenage years of our marriage, it seemed only fitting that we mark the day as adolescents and act out in wild and rebellious ways.

Tony had Columbus Day off from work and we decided to ditch (home)school and go out for lunch with some money we pocketed from our parents (which was contained within an anniversary card.)

When the kids asked where we were headed I screamed, “What’s wrong with you? Why do you keep asking so many questions?? Don’t you trust me!? I’m not a little girl anymore!” Tony, rolled his eyes, and just shrugged, “Whatever.” and added that’s he’d meet me in the car after I’d touched up my Wet n’ Wild lip gloss.

In a fit of teen angst, I climbed out the bathroom window and ran out to the car which he had cranked to Mix 106, so we could hear all the best tunes (from the 90’s to now!). Can someone say Stone Temple Pilots?! WOOT!

Every time we pulled next to a car at a red light, I would wave or make faces, and Tony would rev the engine. One time we even started kissing, with tongue! just to freak out some old couple walking by on the crosswalk! Loosen up squares! There ain’t nothing wrong with expressing my love for my man! I’m gonna do it anywhere I please. It’s a free country!

We parked really close to the car next to us and then both got out the driver’s side door. We laughed too loudly about it then loitered for a while in the parking lot to see if we could catch the other drivers face when he returned to his car, but no such luck.

We decided to hit a Chinese /  Japanese / Thai restaurant cause it sounded real adult and we’re totally mature for our ages. Every time I met someone, I was all, how old do you think I look? I had tucked some baby socks into my bra and gone heavy on the liquid eyeliner so I knew I was looking hawt.

Walking to the restaurant with hands in each other’s back pockets? Check!! Except when I was recounting all the drama from the last homeschool mom’s social and needed my hands, because “You would not believe what curriculum she is using now! That girl should know better than to go and mess with a good thing when she’s got it!!!”

And then some guy “accidentally” bumped into me, and Tony had to set him straight about getting too close to me (aka Tony’s boo.) It was totally hot. We stopped to make out on a park bench for five minutes before I could continue to the restaurant.

It was a good meal, but the waitress was totally disrespectful towards us. I mean come on, if you don’t want people talking selfies with the koi, don’t put them in the lobby. I didn’t try to drop that slimy fish on the floor. Maybe you should be more considerate and keep your pets at home! I bet it’s not even sanitary to have koi inside. And then I almost slipped and fell on the way out because they still hadn’t cleaned up all the water. I’m going to complain to my dad, cause he knows people and they should totally shut that place down.

When we got home, the kids tried to get all up in my face and I was like, “I need my space!” and ran upstairs to my room, locked the door and put on  The Cure. Meanwhile, Tony tried sneaking some liquor from the cabinet but then his mom (who’d been babysitting) offered to get him a glass.

Tonight we’re going to stay up all night reading poetry we wrote to one another and/ or reciting song lyrics that really speak to our hearts, like totally. I wrote his name on my hand in pen with a big heart around it so everyone I see tomorrow will know it’s serious.

The Book I Love to Hate

People, this book has ruined my life.

I read several good reviews and was totally stoked when I picked it up in Barnes and Noble on a date with the hubs. I needed it so bad I spent full price on it. I cannot even tell you the last time that happened, cause me and Amazon used booksellers are tight yo.

I couldn’t put it down and finished it within a few days. IMMEDIATELY I became obsessed with studying my own bad habits and figuring out their root causes. The author Charles Duhigg asserts that we all have habit loops. When exposed to a certain cue, we fall into a set routine which rewards us with a predictable outcome.

My number one bad habit? Stopping throughout the day to check Facebook or Instagram on my iPod and getting caught up in something and ultimately wasting precious time that I should be using on teaching, eating, showering or hauling someone to the toilet. As I went through my day, I made a mental note every time I felt compelled to sit down and take an online breather. I quickly realized my cue, what set me into my routine of wasting time online, was fatigue, or more accurately downright exhaustion.

Every time I completed something that needed to get done (make breakfast, feed Fulton, lift Teddy from his chair to the sofa, etc.) I would feel tired and want to take a break and escape. Until I stopped being so tired, it seem inconceivable that I could break my habit.

Remember how I posted awhile back I was rising between 5-530 to start my day? Well, I was still trying to do that, though admittedly it’d been getting harder and harder. But I relished that time in the morning by myself and I cranked out some great blog posts in the morning silence, as well as trained for all seven of my runs. Unfortunately, I wasn’t going to bed until after 10 p.m. and Tony and I still wake up multiple times a night to tend to the boys. I really thought I could manage long-term on less than seven (or more likely six) hours of sleep a night. I thought my drifting off to sleep at 10 a.m. while Edie read to me on the couch, or my falling asleep in the waiting room at physical therapy at 2:30 might indicate a thyroid issue or something. Seriously, who thinks that? Obviously my brain was a mess.

I decided, in order to be less tired during the day I needed to commit to sleeping eight hours a night. Even with the wake ups, I needed to schedule eight hours for rest. I was going to give up my early morning writing, not resume any late night reading and, ideally, sleep from 10 until 6. Mornings consisted of getting up, praying, drinking coffee and getting dressed. (By 6:30 the kids are being schooled in Latin by Tony, and inevitably the little boys are up around 7.)

The results were almost immediate. Within a week or so, I knew that sleep deprivation had been at the root of many bad habits I’d slipped into. Suddenly, I didn’t need to constantly sit down to rest or escape upstairs to try to hide from the kids before noon. I was getting dressed more days than not, and sticking to our school schedule. I was singing our phonic songs without gritting my teeth.

But when, dear readers do you suppose I was finding time for myself? For writing, reading, catching up on my favorite bloggers??? Well, I’m still looking for it. My free time has been sacrificed to sleep.

I’d love to say, I don’t need ‘me’ time. I just feed off the love of my children and the satisfaction of staying home and educating my brood. I’d love to say my vocations of wife, mother, teacher and nurse completely fulfill me and I haven’t been a whiney witch at all. Who needs to blog or read a fascinating non-fiction title on world poverty when you can just read stories aloud and organize the pantry and help your kids with their chemistry experiments?!?!?!?

Me apparently.

I keep trying to squeeze some writing in here or there, or one night I’ll stay up too late. The next day I push-off breakfast a half hour so I can just finish something up.

But then, because I’m so rushed, and my train of thought is broken a million times by the needs of my children,  who do deserve my time and attention, I wind up getting angry. I don’t like what I write. I can’t write about the things I want because I can’t focus. I can’t take pictures or edit pictures because there is no time for me during the day without sacrificing something that is actually important.

Reading has become what I do while waiting for the kids at music practice.

I’m trying to not be bitter. I feel like I’m a better, happier person when I have a regular creative outlet or quiet time. I haven’t figured out how to have that right now and although I’m trying so hard to just be happy with my vocations in life it’s a frustrating situation for me personally. Especially because my husband is so supportive of my desire to carve out time for myself and I do get some help during the day. The increase in sleep is helping me deal with the overwhelming nature of what I need to get done on a daily basis, but it’s because my day is so crazy that I started waking up early in the first place.

This first world mom, with her fully stocked fridge, nice home, happy family, loving community, devoted husband doesn’t have a right to complain about her ‘me time'; I get that. (Especially when there’s people like Mary with real problems that need your prayer and support.) But damnit, what I do day in and day out is hard and I’m not asking for recognition, money or material goods. I just want some quiet time for myself; to think and to unload my thoughts so I can give my family the best of me the rest of the time.

So thank you ‘The Power of Habit’ for helping me discover the source of my bad habits. Thank you for helping me to become more alert and productive during the day. But curse you for forcing me to sideline my favorite time of the day for the sake of my health. My sanity is undecided on the matter.

Pumpkin Guts and Spice and Everything Nice


blog hop final for real

I’m linking up with lots o’ lovely ladies today to share some of my favorite fall decorations. Namely, pumpkins or jack o’ lanterns. Growing up, my parents were never keen to carve pumpkins, so my sister and I would each decorate a pumpkin with paint or markers. I vowed that when I was older and had children of my own, we would carve pumpkins. They would not be denied the joy of putting their hands through mountains of pumpkin goo! My love of pumpkins became a brief obsession when I filled in on a seasonal basis as Pumpkin Spice with the Spice Girls in the late ’90s.


By the time we all went our separate ways, I was a bit burnt out on pumpkins, but still broke out the occasional gourd and hay bale when fall rolled around. By the time Tony and I had kids, my love was rekindled. Although my kids couldn’t do much in the early days, we made pumpkin carving a big family event, and to this day everyone looks forward to it. (Although now I TOTALLY understand why my parents restricted us to paint or markers.) We still break out the tempras and even glitter occasionally, but we always carve out a few pumpkins and roast the seeds. Tony also buys several smaller pumpkins to make into pie; none of that canned stuff up in here! Eventually, we haul them out to the compost pile where the chickens take pecks and eventually the get worked back into the land. Circle of life!

Every year I try to get a bit more creative with my pumpkin carving, and as a result the older kids are getting more daring too. I maintain a collection of pumpkin inspiration on Pinterest. When it comes to fall decorating, I can never seem to get more than some jack o’ lanterns carved, but that’s probably because I’m using the rest of my free time to build insanely complicated Halloween costumes. Even though it’s not a lot, a half dozen illuminated pumpkins on our front steps are all the fall decorations I need to be happy.

Enjoy this gallery of some of our family’s greatest pumpkin carving moments from the past. It includes pumpkins (and costumes because sometimes I forgot to photograph just the carving process) from 2007 to 2013. 2010 is missing because that’s the year Teddy was born and in the NICU so I was a bit preoccupied. 2012 was the year of Hurricane Sandy and while I have several pictures of wind damage, there’s no pumpkins.

We haven’t bought our pumpkins for this year because, inevitably, we’ll get a heat wave yet some time this month that would reduce them to mushy, black blobs. You can follow me on Instagram if you want to be kept abreast on the latest developments on Pumpkin Carve-alot 2014.

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I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want. I really, really, really wanna visit the rest of the ladies on Bonnie’s Autumn in the Home blog hop! What do you think about that?  Now you know how I feel; say you can handle this link up; blog reader are you for real? I won’t be hasty, I’ll give you time to try, but if you really bug me then I’ll say goodbye.

Clan Donaldson  


Surviving Our Blessings  

Mama Needs Coffee 

Team Whitaker

House for Five 

Better Than Eden 

Two O’s + More 

Fountains of Home