Home: DIY Christmas Tree Skirt

Add this to the category of "things I DIYed but could have paid less if I bought off the shelf." Also add this to the category of "things I meant to post about before Christmas but didn't and yes today is December 30, so I am getting this one in right under the wire."

Back at the beginning of the holiday season, I made a Christmas tree skirt.  And by "make" I mean simply cut some felt and trim, and glue the trim onto the skirt.  Super easy, but not super affordable. But I love it, and it's totally my style, and I made it with my little girl, so I guess that is priceless.  At least that is what I am telling myself.  Here's the skirt!

I saw this gorgeous tree skirt on Design*Sponge last year, and it seemed easy enough.  My old tree skirt was very simple red scalloped felt -- something I grabbed at Target just because I needed something to cover the bottom of the tree (my mom had made one for me before but I think it got destroyed or lost in a move or it's possible it's still being used by my ex).  So when I saw this gorgeous, textured number from Design Sponge that was a DIY, I thought it was perfect.  

I printed out the Design*Sponge tutorial, which was my shopping list and got my supplies at JoAnn's.  I bought a big piece of ivory felt that was in their scrap bin (they had several of these) and then spent some time with the trim picking out exactly what I wanted.  Ummmm, it was super expensive.  I almost died when the cashier told me the total (which was close to $100 ...) but decided I was committed to this project and would see it through.  This was last year.

On the morning that we put up our tree (which was the weekend after Thanksgiving), my little girl and I made the skirt by following the directions on the tutorial.  It was very easy.  The hardest part was choosing which trim to put where on the skirt.  First, we cut a hole in the center.  Easy enough.

Then, we glued the tassel/brush trim around the edges and in the middle.  In order to make the skirt look nice and neat and not like a roving band of preschoolers did it, I used a ruler to make sure that the trim was at least somewhat uniformly placed around the skirt.

There was no science to it. We chose which trim we liked and where it should go.  I regret not buying more of the thick sequined trim.  We ran out of that and could only do one strip of it.  Sad face.  

The skirt is a little small, but my tree is also a little small, so the scale works.  If I do this again (and that's a big "if" given the cost of the supplies), I would make sure to get a very large scrap of fabric for the skirt.  Here it is complete and under the tree!

Whew! Just under the wire with the Christmas craft.  I hope you had terrific holidays. The new year is upon us.  Time for fresh starts, resolutions and renewed hope that this year will be the best one yet. 
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Lucky number 40

Well look who's 40!  Today!  

That's right, y'all.  I'm the big four-oh!  And I am grabbing 40 by the big brass ones.  Needless to say, 40 is a huge milestone.  I think it's way bigger than 30.  I know there have been movies and shows and books about the mid-life crisis that's supposed to accompany turning 40, but to be honest, I haven't been looking at 40 as something lurking in the corner, waiting for me to get there and pounce on me like this adorable, yet menacing, cat:

Rather, I have been looking at 40 like this - with me as the Kool Aid Man bursting through a big wall.

That's right.  I went full on Kool Aid Man on you!  And now I want Kool Aid.  Anyway, no mid-life crisis for this girl, no crying in my wine beer ... I won't be bemoaning the fact that I'm older or that my age starts with a "4" or that I'm as close to retirement as I am to starting college or that my body has changed or that I have laugh lines and crows feet -- though all of those things are all true.  The way I see it, is my thirties were my awakening.  I did the very difficult and often painful work of discovering who I was, what I wanted, what I didn't, and what my life was all about. I am certain that my parents and grandmothers would read that and laugh -- that I think at age 40 I've got it all figured out.  I am not so bold as to say that, but I know a lot more about life, love, loss and myself than I did just a decade ago.  I am ready to turn 40 and embrace the new decade and season of my life and wait for the good things and lessons that are yet to unfold.  The difference between now and ten years ago is I feel equipped  to handle what may come, and I know that what may come will be beautiful, horrible, painful, sublime and everything in between.

I've also been thinking.  I've been thinking a lot.  I tend to do that, as I think this blog shows.  But in life, when a milestone approaches, one ponders.  I've been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting and pondering as I near the close to mid-way point (Deo volente) of my journey through this life and I've realized that there has been one thing that I have been really wrong about:  luck. 

This realization was prompted by a gift from my parents.  They recently went on a trip to Scotland and Ireland.  They always ask what I'd like as a souvenir, and usually my answer is a Christmas tree ornament.  But this time, I asked for a Celtic knot necklace.  I love simple jewelry and I thought a pretty little Celtic knot would be something I could wear all of the time.  They brought one back for me, and a very similar, but smaller, version for my little girl.  When she gave it to me, my mom said that the knot meant something, but she could not remember what ... that each of the knots has a unique meaning but she could not for the life of her remember what mine was.  I figured I could google it and figure it out eventually.  One night as I took off my necklace, I looked closely on the back and realized that the answer was right in front of me the entire time and stamped onto the back of the necklace: my knot meant luck.  

And I realized, just like that, I've been living a life filled with luck.  Just like I have been walking around for weeks with luck literally hanging around my neck without knowing it, I realized I have been living the most luckiest life of all.  I've never thought of myself as a particularly "lucky" person, and I've never really believed in luck, at least for me.  I always ascribed to Lucille Ball's philosophy of making your own "luck":

Luck? I don't know anything about luck.
I've never banked on it and I'm afraid of people who do.
Luck to me is something else:  hard work and realizing what is opportunity and what isn't.

While I can say with conviction that many of my life's blessings are the result of my hard work, I have to admit that so many more -- the really important ones -- are the result of pure and total luck.  Of things beyond my control.   I'm talking about my relationships and the people who I treasure more dearly than any possession or any accomplishment.  Those are all the result of luck.  Ironman  or marathon finish? That was me.  My success in college and law school? My hard work.  Career? All me.  But friendship ... family ... love ... those are not things you can attain by working hard and putting your head down and seeing it through.  Those are, at least at the outset, by and large, all driven by luck.  By somehow magically being in the right place at the exact right time.  

I am lucky that I have two incredible, kind, sweet, smart children.  Sure, part of who they are is shaped by me and their dad, but I believe a bigger part of them was who they were when they were born.  Their capacity for and ability to love humbles me and shows me that regardless of how I might feel to the contrary, I have done something really right by them.  Sometimes I just watch them do their homework, or watch a show, or work on an art project and am overwhelmed that these two perfect little creatures are here because of me.

I am lucky that I was born to two wonderful, loving parents.  I had no control over this.  My mom and dad have always encouraged me and never once made me feel like I couldn't do anything I set my mind to.  My parents were and continue to be first in line when it comes to supporting me - whether it was by watching me with a bunch of friends put on The Muppet Show, or by applauding my sister and me dancing in our tutus to ABBA, or driving up to Lake Placid to see me become an Ironman.  I feel like I make them proud. But they make me proud as well.

I am lucky that both of my grandmothers, who are in their late 80s, are still with us.  I am so so blessed to have such strong, smart, vibrant role models in them for the past 40 years.  They are both incredible women.  

I am lucky that my sister was born some 3 years and 4 months after I was.  She was my first friend, and while we are very different, we are always sisters and have each others' backs like no one else.  As we have gotten older, we have gotten closer.  I am looking forward to becoming even better friends.  

I am lucky that by some stroke of luck, my friend Heather and I were both in Mrs. Nidorf's first grade class. And that despite some tween-angsty ups and downs we managed to stay friends essentially from age 6 to the present day.  And I am lucky that I played field hockey in high school with "the girl with the red shin guards from Hopewell."  My friend Angie and I met in high school and became fast, close friends.  Angie, Heather and I were, and are, so close through good times, bad times and everything in between.   We literally grew up together, laughed and cried together; and we continue to grow together and laugh and cry together.  We just have a lot better hair and clothes than we did in the early 1990s.  

I am lucky that the powers that be at Catholic University put me in close proximity in the same dorm as my friends Missy, Maggie, Melissa and Julia.  Looking back, we became friends solely because of where our dorm rooms were located.  I came into my own in college, and these girls were there.  We became adult women together and have not only remained friends but have gotten closer.  Our friendship was strengthened 8 years ago when Maggie died.  The five of us spent one last night together, with Missy, Melissa, Julia and I sitting vigil with Maggie in her hospital room.  Our friendship has continued to grow despite our loss, but I believe that our friendship keeps Maggie alive.  Things are not real until I tell my Catholic girls.    

I am lucky that my friend Colleen and I ended up going to the same law school, and despite living together for a year, remained friends.  Haha.  Colleen's perspective on life and love has come to my rescue many times.  Colleen, more than anyone else in my life until that point, encouraged me to be myself and thought that the person who I was (and am) was weird and funny and that I should never change.  

I am lucky that I stumbled upon the Martha Stewart wedding boards back in 2001 when I got engaged ... and that almost 30 other remarkable women -- my "Wedding Friends" -- did as well. We've gone from talking about dresses and flowers and favors to children and divorces and marriage.  Our perspectives and lives are as different as our geographic reach.  They are dear, precious friends.  Abby, Andrea, Angie, Ava, Camille, Debbie, Denise, Heidi, Jeanine, Jen, Jennie, Juliet, Kate, Lea, Liz, Lynn, Madelyn, Mandie,  Marci, Maya, Nicole, Patti, Rachel, Rose, Toya and Yovanka -- all of them have shaped who I am.  

I am lucky, though this may seem odd to be considered a "lucky" thing, that my dear friend Toya and I were newly single again around the same time.  When you are newly divorced, you feel as though everyone around you is a couple, and you are very, painfully alone.  Frankly, it is kind of true.  But Toya and I, who had struck up a very close friendship some 6 years prior, helped each other through what was at times a painfully lonely time.  That shared experience brought us even closer.  And now the two of us have found happy, fulfilling relationships ... oddly enough one month to the day apart.  She knows everything about me.  We are soul sisters.   

I am lucky that Toya decided to try to sell her half marathon bib that she could not run rather than take a loss. And that when I emailed my running club about the bib, Tina answered.  Tina and I started talking races, running and unicorns and have been close friends ever since.  There is no way we would have met had this not happened.  Lucky lucky.   She makes me laugh on the regular and only she knows the importance of owning a pair of yoga pants emblazoned with unicorns and rainbows.  

I am lucky that even though my marriage did not make it, my relationship with my former sister in law, Jamie, did.  Jamie is my sister forever and a dear, treasured friend.  We talk often and see each other as often as we can.  I am lucky that what started out with us being the spouses of brothers turned into a close friendship of our own.  I've seen Jamie become a wife, and now a mother. I am lucky that she will always be in my life.

I am lucky that I happened to have the exact same train schedule as my sweet friend Robyn and that she took pity on a very pregnant woman who needed a seat.  We had seen each other for months on the morning and afternoon trains that we took and one day struck up a conversation about how unkind people on the train were to pregnant women.  We became friends and realized we had so much in common.  Thank you SEPTA for being the catalyst for my friendship with this wonderful, sweet and always got your back friend. 

I am lucky that when I started my career at my firm, Amy did as well.  And that we were somehow staffed on the same case that enabled us to get to know each other better.  We became friends, and then close friends and then super duper close friends.  I am lucky that we run, and swim, and bike at the same pace.  There's nothing quite so therapeutic as a run with a close friend.  And I am lucky that when she could not train with me for the 2012 Philly marathon that Bill could and that Amy insisted that we train together.  Bill and I didn't really know each other well, but on our first long training run, he said, "So tell me the story of your life.  We've got a lot of running to do.  We might as well start there."  And a friendship of our own was born.  I am lucky that my two friends have been my training partners [IRONMEN!] and dear friends who supported me through some of the highest, and some of the lowest, times in my life.  They're about as close to family as you can get.  

I am lucky that my incredible boyfriend Matt and I happened to meet online in the early Summer and that the line "so how was your Monday?" was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.  I am so lucky that despite what happened in our respective pasts that we were (and are) both happy people and both truly ready for and open to love.  And that we found each other.  I am lucky that he loves me for who I am and does not want to change a single thing about me -- even my music.  I am lucky that we love one another and tell each other how we feel.  Not only am I lucky to be loved by him, but I am so lucky to love him.  The first picture is one that he took of me, and he is responsible for that smile.  He makes me happy.  So very happy.  And what else can you ask for in life than to be really, truly, purely happy?  

And finally, I am lucky that I am here.  That I was able to wake up this morning, take a deep breath, look around at all of my blessings and live another beautiful day on this Earth.  And take a run and listen to my horrible music.  And then have a delicious IPA because beer makes me happy.  And cake.  And maybe cry a little, because I am a sap but also truly thankful for my luck in life, so much so that it brings me to tears.  And I'm thankful for this blog - it's been my creative outlet for years and a place where I love to share a little bit of me with the big world [wide web].  Today's post was about as "me" as they come - cats, Kool Aid, running, beer, Latin [Deo volente means "God willing" - I've been waiting ages to use this phrase], dorkiness, love, and most of all, the people who I love and who love me.  

So tonight I will spend the evening with my darling children and the love of my life eating my birthday meal of fried chicken and thanking God for the incredible life of luck and consequent love with which I've been blessed.

Here's to 40.  
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Grief is the Price We Pay for Love

My friend Maggie was, herself, a contradiction - a tiny person with a huge personality; a beautiful woman who was most comfortable in fuzzy novelty socks from Target and jeans; a thoughtful, quiet presence with an enormous and unforgettable laugh.  So in a way, her death on December 6, 2007, seemed to fit that mold.  That profound sadness and grief at a time when the rest of the world was celebrating and filled with hope. 

It's been 8 years.  Eight years since I got the phone call and lived the following 5 days that would change me forever.  Eight years since one of my very best friends quietly, beautifully, and with incredible strength, left this world.  Eight years since I saw her face.  

Her death was unexpected.  She wasn't sick.  It wasn't a disease or an affliction.  It was just "one of those things," which is what people say when they don't know what else to say.  She was there and then she was not.  She hung on for days, and I truly believe that was so that we could all come see her and say our goodbyes.  Even though we weren't really prepared for the fact that we were saying goodbye.

I vividly remember looking out of the window at the hospital on the morning of her death before she died, knowing what was about to happen in a very short time, and watching the cars on the Beltway below race to wherever they were going.  I remember wanting to scream at their drivers "DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT IS HAPPENING IN HERE?" because, to me, it was unfathomable and unfair that the entire world was not grieving and feeling those same feelings as we were.  That this beautiful life was about to be gone forever and there they were, going about their daily routine, unfazed by the sadness and grief and horror that was happening so painfully and acutely right then and there to me.  But I didn't scream. I sat at the window, held my very pregnant belly in silence and cried.  And to this day, when I drive on the Beltway and see that hospital, my heart aches and my eyes well with tears.  

Even though it has been eight years, I am still unprepared for the way I feel in early December.  I always know, in my head, that the anniversary is coming, but I am never prepared.  I know it's coming.  In the back of my mind, I think "OK December 6 is coming ... it will be sad."  If only grief were logical.  If only grief understood that time is supposed to make things easier to bear.  I've stopped trying to figure out why I feel the way that I do.  I just accept it and deal.  After all, life goes on, which is a painful truth of grief.  There is work to be done, children to be mothered, errands to be run, bills to be paid, life to be lived in all of its grand and mundane details.  Grief is always there.  

As I write this post, I have a candle flickering nearby.  It's the holidays, and I love to have holiday candles in my house.  I've had to take a few moments from writing this to wipe away my tears and I find myself looking at my candle and the flame, and it occurs to me that grief is so much like a flickering flame.  It's always there burning ... when it starts the flame is the largest and the most intense, and then the fire settles a bit but it keeps burning and it stays burning, sometimes low and quiet, and sometimes, without warning or reason, bursting with an unexpected bolt of fire.  There's no real rhyme or reason, and there's no real antidote to it.  It's just there.  And in a way, it's comforting.  I hate to think of a time in my life when I am not grieving the loss of my very dear friend.  My 8 years of grief have been just like that: a long slow burn with occasional and unpredictable bursts of profound sadness.  Such is life.  And such is death.  

I miss her every single day.  I miss her the most at this time of year.   With 8 years, I can actually see differences in my appearance from the last time she was with us.  But Maggie will always be young and beautiful.  I am thankful and grateful to God that I knew her.  I miss my friend.

Rest in Peace, Maggie.  We will always love you.
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Race Recap: 2015 Philadelphia Half Marathon

Hello and happy post Thanksgiving it's Christmas time how did that happen? time! I know that I have really neglected the blog and it's a goal of mine to get back to it on a more regular basis.  I have so many thoughts and blog posts in my head, but making the time to write isn't happening right now.  It will.  

But I have a race recap!  On Sunday November 22, I ran the Philadelphia Half Marathon.  It's the first race I've done since the disastrous New Jersey State Marathon in April ... April!!!  Just about 7 months to the day even.  After that race -- actually during that race -- I realized I had lost my racing mojo and needed to take a break.  A break from racing, not running.  I allowed myself the Summer and Fall to just enjoy running (and a tiny bit of biking and an even tinier bit of swimming) and run for the love of it without a training plan.  I had signed up for the Philly half a long time ago because, at the time, I thought it would be a good first race to start my Boston Marathon training.  When Boston didn't happen, I knew I'd still run Philly because it's such a great race at such a perfect time of year.  And frankly, after training for full marathons for so long, training for a half felt a lot more fun and more manageable.  It is.  I won't and would never say training for a half is "easy", because it is not, but it is definitely less onerous than training for a full.  I truly enjoyed training and only did what I wanted to do: long runs and a mix of shorter runs.  No speedwork.  No hill repeats.  No intervals.  This was to be about fun and what I love, and while those things truly work to make me a stronger, faster runner, they do not make me very happy.  

My "training plan" for the half, such as it was, enabled me to focus on the pure joy of running and why I was doing it in the first place.  It was just what I needed.  And I found that the more I ran and focused on the race, the more I really wanted to race.   It was a feeling I hadn't felt in quite a long time.  Races had become part of the drill ... something that I did, versus something that I really wanted to do.  So this shift alone was exciting for me.  Oddly enough, I did not feel the competitive urge to hit a certain time or to get a PR.  Of course, I wanted to have a strong, fast race, and I wanted to get a new PR, but I also knew I wasn't in tip top fighting running shape, so a great race of which I could be proud was the number one goal.  

Something very sweet happened in the start corral that showed me that just that would happen.  Backing up first, ever since my friend Maggie died eight years ago this December, when I run in the Autumn, I try to catch a falling leaf in my hand as I run.  When I do, I like to think it's a little nod from Mags.  I don't know why, but it's what I do and it makes me feel her presence, and oddly enough, it happens quite a bit.  As I stood in the corral on the Ben Franklin Parkway in Philly, I was thinking about my race and how I would run, when a leaf fell right on my head.  It was so random and so weird because I was on a street in Philly, not in a wooded trail.  I liked to think it was Maggie bopping me on the head saying "just have fun."  And have fun I did!

I raced this one in 1:53:38 [8:40/mile pace].  Certainly not a personal best, but it was a really solid, strong effort and I truly did love every moment and every mile of this race.  Initially I thought I would try to follow the race plan I used for the Philly Love Run in March 2014, but after a few miles, I decided to just run by feel.  Even though my race was not my fastest, the miles ticked off faster in this race than in any I have ever done.  So much so, that unlike in past races, I cannot really remember vivid detail of each mile.  I was so happy to be running and surrounded by other runners that I focused on the experience versus details.

The last time I ran the Philly Half was in 2011 and my life was completely different then.  So was my running.  I raced that one in 2:06:15 [9:37/mile pace].  This year I was 114th of 824 women in my age group, 936th of 6,595 women and 2398th of 10,903 overall.

Here's a list of my splits (these may be a little fast because my watch had me at running 13.15 miles ... but I am too lazy to figure out the differences and they're not that far off):  

Miles 1-6 -- I just remember feeling so happy and so fast!  Initially I wanted to run these miles between 8:25 and 8:30.   There is no feeling like running down the Ben Franklin Parkway at the start of the race with tons of people cheering you on.  It was a very warm day for the race ... I was happy to be in just a tee shirt.  With each mile I looked at my watch and thought, ok, good mile, keep it up.  I was surprised at South Street - this was the first year where it was pretty empty.  It's usually filled more with spectators.

Mile 1: 8:33
Mile 2: 8:38
Mile 3: 8:16
Mile 4: 8:23
Mile 5: 8:22
Mile 6: 8:32

Mile 7 is my favorite.  It's the absolute best.  You run up Chestnut Street essentially the entire length to Drexel.  And it is packed - three people deep - with people cheering.  This mile is almost always my fastest mile on this race for that reason.  You can't help but feel like a running rockstar on this mile.

Mile 7: 8:10

Miles 8-10 are rough.  Mile 8 is a hill at Drexel, and while it's not particularly steep, it is super long and seems interminable.  What helps in this mile is it's very populated with college kids, most of whom are drinking (and offering) beer.  So fun.  Mile 9 is near the zoo and has a couple of little hills.  Mile 10 is the doozy - a huge, steep, long, punishing hill to the Please Touch Museum.  It's the hardest, and the last, hill on the course, and the reward is my running club (including Amy and Bill!) are at the top handing out water, Gatorade and gels.  Knowing that my good friends were at the top made me inspired to get up that hill ... and it was awesome to see them.  They told me where they would be, so I stayed to that side and got huge high fives from them when I saw them.

Mile 8: 8:59
Mile 9: 8:38
Mile 10: 9:07

Miles 11-13 are back on the flat ground and are straight to the finish. I was happy to rally and hit my usual 8:30ish pace.  The photo is about a half mile from the finish.  I was pushing hard here!

Mile 11: 8:26
Mile 12: 8:25
Mile 13: 8:38
Mile 13.1: 7:54

As I got closer to the finish, I looked at my watch and knew that a PR was out of reach.  I was totally OK with this.  My inclination at the finish is always to push it as hard as I can, but this time, I decided to just hold the pace.  An extra thirty seconds-minute wouldn't make a difference, and I wanted to just soak in the sights and sounds of the finish line.  I always try to turn off my music and listen to everything, and this race was no exception.  I love that feeling of seeing the finish and hearing all the cheers and cowbells.  And because I finished before the first full marathon finisher, Mayor Nutter was still on the half marathon side to give high fives to finishers!  I got a nice high five from the outgoing mayor.  Woo hoo.  

What a great race!  And look at this medal! A little Liberty Bell that actually rings! It rings!  It was hilarious walking back to my car because of the pure cacophony of hundreds and hundreds of ringing medals!  The full marathon finishers got the bigger red one and the half finishers got the yellow one.

This was my last big race of my 30s, and what a way to go out.  I'm allowing myself a full on sleighride of no pressure fun through the holidays, but come January, I'll resume swim-bike-run training.  Nothing Ironman crazy, but I am looking forward to the variety again.
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PS: playlist time! I created a new, fantastic playlist for this race.  This one is a little heavy on Chicago and Lionel Richie, and very light on ABBA.  Enjoy! I sure did!  My notes in italics!

1812 Overture (Finale) (London Philharmonic Orchestra) don't laugh - it will make you feel like a winner!
A Horse With No Name (America)
All Out of Love (Air Supply)
Annie's Song (John Denver)
Bad, Bad Leroy Brown ( Jim Croce)
Break My Stride (Matthew Wilder)
Can't Hold Us (feat. Ray Dalton) (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis)
Do You Hear the People Sing? (Les Misérables Original London Cast) 
Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? (Chicago)
Double Dutch Bus (Frankie Smith)
Down (feat. Lil Wayne) (Jay Sean)
Dynamite (Taio Cruz)
Emotion (Samantha Sang)
Feels So Good (Chuck Mangione)
The Gambler (Kenny Rogers)
Hard to Say I'm Sorry / Get Away (Chicago)
I Can't Hold Back (Survivor)
I Got a Name (Jim Croce)
If I Had $1,000,000 (Barenaked Ladies)
If You Could Read My Mind (Ela Wardi)
If You Leave Me Now (Chicago)
It Takes Two (Rob Base)
It's Not Unusual (Tom Jones)
It's the Same Old Song (Four Tops)
Knowing Me, Knowing You (ABBA) this was the last song that played at the race, which I loved, as it's my swim song and the first song I sang at the Ironman (and every other tri) swim start.
Let It Be (John Denver)
Let It Go (Demi Lovato)
Let's Hang On (The Four Seasons)
Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now (Starship)
Oh No (The Commodores)
One Moment In Time (Whitney Houston)
Party In the U.S.A. (Miley Cyrus)
Philadelphia Freedom (Elton John) gotta have this song at a Philly race
Push It (Salt-n-Pepa)
Reflections (Diana Ross & The Supremes)
Sailing (Christopher Cross)
Saturday In the Park (Chicago)
Shake It Off (Taylor Swift)
Sloop John B (The Beach Boys)
Take Me Home, Country Roads (John Denver)
The Tears of a Clown (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles)
Theme from "Greatest American Hero" (Believe It or Not) (Joey Scarbury)
This Is It (Kenny Loggins)
Truly (Lionel Richie)
Weekend In New England (Barry Manilow) I love to run so much to this song I played it twice.  sure did. may have even run with emphatic arm and hand motions.  
While You See a Chance (Steve Winwood)
Working My Way Back to You (Spinners)
You Are (Lionel Richie) sigh ... love this song.  love lionel.  
You Give Love a Bad Name ( Bon Jovi)
You May Be Right (Billy Joel)
You Shook Me All Night Long (AC/DC)
You're the Inspiration (Chicago)
(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher (Jackie Wilson)

What I Wore {post 80} June 2015 Style Challenge - finishing it up ... in October

Hello and happy Friday!  I realized that when I left the blog untended for so long that I also forgot to wind up my June (!) Style Challenge.  Here are the last few days of that.

As with prior weeks in the challenge, I had to move things around based on work schedule and what not.  Also, I played around with a new photo editing app ... and I'm not thrilled with the results, but I want to publish this sucker! 

June 22:  Whiteout 

I found this white dress at Loft last year.  I'd always wanted a white dress and this one is perfect for Summer.  It's not exactly perfect for work, but I just paired it with a lightweight white cardigan and a fun turquoise belt that I grabbed from Nordstrom.  I love this belt!  

June 23:  Nautical

I got this dress from Stitch Fix, which is a new guilty pleasure.  My stylist for this particular fix nailed my style, and I love love love this dress.  There's nothing more nautical than navy blue and white stripes.  Except maybe a sailor hat but that isn't happening.  

June 24:  Cold Shoulder

I had a meeting this day but it was pretty warm and thought a sleeveless top would work.  I got this at the Ann Taylor outlet with Jamie awhile ago.  I wore it with simple black pants.  

June 25: A dress to the floor

LOVE THIS DRESS.  Love it.  I needed to go full on ALL CAPS because at 5'1", it is impossible to find a long dress that works on me.  Impossible.  Truly impossible.  And this does.  I got it at Nordstrom.  My only regret is not buying it in every color and pattern.  

June 26:  Summer feet

And the final day - summer feet! I wore my orange sandals (from Target!) with a cute floral top and jeans to work on a casual Friday. 

And there you go.  It only took me four months to finish, but better late than never? Better late than never.

Have a terrific weekend! And Happy Halloween!
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on grace

Happy Monday.  [horizontal smile]

I still owe a major recap (both of life and of training) of the Summer and I promise to get to that soon(ish).  I have a handful of half-finished posts that I've been working on for awhile, and I am really hoping to get back to a more regular schedule.

When I dusted off the cobwebs and logged back on to the blog this past weekend, I found this post that I had written awhile ago but not finished and had not published.  I thought hmm ... this is a good one I want to share.  

Quite some time ago, I read the blog of a friend of a friend (got it?) who divorced and then discovered he had a brain tumor.  Talk about an epic kick in the teeth, right?  I don't know him, but a lot of what he posted resonated.  In particular, I found myself nodding along with his comments that he relied, and relies, on his friends in this new stage of life, and that he is constantly amazed by how truly giving his true friends have been and continue to be.  I had (and continue to have) the same experience, especially in those early days.  Days when I didn't ask for help -- days when friends just showed up and did.  

It got me thinking about grace, and how so many people extended so much grace in those early days.  When you are in the throes of a separation and then a divorce, you can't really express your feelings in a coherent manner.  I look back at those days and it was really like triage: I survived because I had to, I put one foot in front of the other, I breathed in and out, I survived.  And I am so lucky that I had people who stood by my side and were there, were kind, were loving and showed me grace.  

I am fortunate that I didn't have any real naysayers in my life ... no people who wanted to criticize me for not working hard enough, for not caring enough about my children to "make it work", for "giving up", for disregarding my marriage vows.  I did not have to explain myself to those who loved me, and that was grace.  

Relatively recently (and long after my separation and divorce), an acquaintance on Facebook (an acquaintance who is not, and never has been, married or divorced) posted a link to an article that basically criticized the notion of divorce and essentially passed judgement on those who found themselves in an unhappy marriage and then divorced.  This Facebook friend said the following:  

Thoughts on this? What constitutes a "dead" marriage? I've never been married but my "map" has always been that divorce would only be an option for me if there was cheating, abuse, or addiction involved (which, chances are, I would see that behavior prior to marriage if I am in a relationship long enough with the person). Once I'm married, I feel I should know that person's core values and beliefs enough to gauge the likelihood of those things occurring. I guess my thought process is that "irreconcilable differences" or just "not being happy" in a marriage is not enough of a reason to divorce, especially if children are involved. Work on it - you fell in love with that person for a reason and if you're unhappy then that has more to do with work you need to do on yourself than anything else. The only way you would be modeling bad behavior is by allowing children to be in a continual unhealthy environment of cheating, abuse, or addiction. You're modeling good behavior if they see you are in a relationship free of those things and choose to work on your own "unhappiness" to grow as a person.

I sat there at my computer and read the post over and over.  My face was red, my hands were shaking, my heart was pounding.  And as much as I wanted to just ignore and move on, I did not.  I stood up for myself.  And I stood up for people in my shoes who went through the same thing that I did.  And I said this:

I have a lot of thoughts. As you know, I’ve been married once and am now divorced. So I can bring that perspective to the table. While you are certainly entitled to your own opinion, having never been in a marriage, or through the absolutely heart wrenchingly difficult process of divorce, your opinion is, quite frankly, overly simplistic. Marriage, even the best marriages with the most amazing and truest loves, is difficult. Marriage is a living, breathing thing independent of the people who comprise it. People grow, people change, time marches on. A marriage has to be strong enough to adapt to those changes. That’s so easy to say and acknowledge in concept, but in reality, it’s really just hard. I venture that most people are not the same people they were 10, 15, 20 years ago. Change is wonderful, but often very difficult. And sometimes permanent and divergent. No one enters a marriage thinking that divorce will happen; likewise, no one leaves a marriage without a hell of a lot of heartbreak. 

This comment of yours: “I guess my thought process is that ‘irreconcilable differences’ or just ‘not being happy’ in a marriage is not enough of a reason to divorce, especially if children are involved. Work on it - you fell in love with that person for a reason and if you're unhappy then that has more to do with work you need to do on yourself than anything else” is rife with judgment, and having been through a divorce (a divorce that was, by and large, amicable and a divorce in which children were involved), it made me bristle. To limit divorce as “only an option” where there is cheating, abuse or addiction involved is myopic in my view. Those are horrible things for sure. But irreconcilable differences are insidious. They don’t just happen overnight. They take time and they are destructive. By brushing them off as “not enough reason to divorce, especially if children are involved” invalidates, minimizes and undercuts the difficult decisions that many people make to leave their marriages. Without going into details here about my own situation, I will tell you that I did “work on it.” For years. But at the end of the day, ending my marriage was the healthiest thing for me, for my ex, and for my children who now have parents who are happy, well-adjusted and living a better life, which, in turn, makes my children happier, better adjusted and living a better life. They did not ask for divorced parents, and my ex and I work very hard to surround them with love and show them every single day that we are still a family, if not in a traditional sense. I am thankful that, by all accounts, we are succeeding. 

All this to say – before you make declarations like the ones above, give some thought to those who have actually had to go through it and who live it every single day. I am beyond grateful that I have friends and family who were, and continue to be, kind, supportive, caring, sympathetic, empathetic and just plain amazing and who understood that making the decision to divorce was done with a lot of thought and prayer. I was shown a lot of grace by the people in my life, and I encourage you extend that same grace to those facing the prospect of divorce.

She deleted her post.

I reproduce our exchange here not as a means to chastise her, but as a plea to anyone who is watching a friend or an acquaintance or a loved one go through a separation or divorce or troubles in a marriage to muster the strength to show grace.  The beauty of showing grace is that it is as active as it is passive ... by simply loving your loved one, without judgment, and being there and saying or simply implying that no matter what happens, "I love you, I am here, and I will love you," you are extending an incredible amount of grace at a time when everything is upside down, inside out and unrecognizable.  No one knows what to say.  Even now, when a friend is contemplating divorce and confides in me, I admit that don't know what to say (which is hard because I've been there). But everyone's journey and everyone's story is different.  So I listen.  And I let him or her know that there's no magic answer, but I am there.  

It's been more than three years, but I still cannot thank enough those in my life who showed (and continue to show) me that grace.  I am who I am today because of it.  I was able to move on, find myself again, and now, find a loving relationship in which I am truly in love and truly happy.  "I once was lost, but now I'm found ... was blind but now I see."  

There's a reason that the song calls grace "amazing".  It truly is.  

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The Lyin' and the Unicorn

Well hello!  Yes, it's me.  It's been months.  Seasons. Ages.  Forevers.  I am sorry.  Kind of.  It's just that I've been busy and loving and living life.  I have so many posts that are in varying degrees of completion and many posts in my head.  I've resolved to give myself a break and post when the inspiration strikes.  

And ... ba boom.  Inspiration didn't just strike, but it hit me like a lightning bolt.  Or a wrecking ball.  Or an arsenal of unicorns with super strong horns.  What happened?

I missed the cut-off for racing the Boston Marathon by 16 seconds.  




Six-teen sec-onds.  Less than a second per mile.  I've done the math (and you know I hate math).  But ultimately, have consoled myself with the fact that missing by 16 seconds is worlds better than by 6 seconds. Or 2 seconds.  Or 1 second.  Or one-one hundredth of a second like at Philly in 2012.  

You are probably wondering how this happened when I qualified for Boston at the Steamtown Marathon last October -- in fact just one year ago this weekend.  I did.  I absolutely did.  The "BQ" time for my age group is 3:45.  BQ means Boston Qualifying.  And I ran Steamtown in 3:42:48 -- a full 2 minutes and 12 seconds faster than the BQ time!  But, sadly, that is not enough.  Running a BQ means only that you are eligible to apply to register for the Boston Marathon.  This is no surprise. All runners know this (even though we complain that a BQ should mean you can actually run Boston). It's the great lie about nabbing a BQ - yay you are fast enough to maybe run the Boston Marathon but maybe not!  There are so many amazing runners out there that if everyone who got a BQ were able to run the Boston Marathon, the race would have way too many people.  So the race lets in the fastest people first and gradually rolls down until they are sold out.  So, usually, if you run a bit faster than your "BQ" time, you are able to race.  Everyone also knows to check out the historical data on BQ and how much faster than BQ has been required in years past.  The most time ever was about 90 seconds faster than BQ.  So, with my 132 seconds in the bank, I thought even though there was no sure thing, I was preeeettttty sure that I could get in.  

Ahhhh ... not so fast.  Literally.  Not so fast.  The cut off was 2:28 under BQ this year.  Thousands of runners like me were in the sad position of nabbing a BQ but being denied the opportunity to run Boston.  It's certainly not the end of the world.  And it takes nothing away from my accomplishment of running the race, and marathon, of my life at Steamtown.  There is absolutely no way I could have made up that 16 seconds that day.  Each mile felt perfect, and I won't look back on that race and kick myself for not running faster.  It simply wasn't possible that day.  And Boston 2016 is just not in the cards.  Like the incomparable Kenny Rogers once sang, "you gotta know when to hold em and know when to fold em."  

Kenny also said "you gotta know when to walk away and know when to run."  I am both walking away and running.  Rather than focus on the lemons, and admittedly, these are some epic lemons, I am focusing on the lemonade.  For the first time in three years, I don't have to train for an Ironman or a marathon in the Winter.  Yippie!  I am excited to focus on the half marathon distance for the time being and get back into sprint triathlons.  I have missed tri training, and I am excited to hit the pool once or twice a week again.  I have not missed my bike trainer, but I'll hit that too.  

I'm signed up for the Philly Half Marathon in November.  I'm so excited to run it.  It's my first race since the epic disaster for me that was the NJ State Marathon, and it took me this long to get the itch to race again.  After that, I'll do the Love Run in the Spring (another half marathon) and then I am doing the Escape the Cape Triathlon in June.  Once June comes and goes, I'll decide whether I want to push again and try for a BQ.  Right now, I am taking the pressure off entirely and just running (and swimming and biking) for the ever loving joy out of it.   Taking the Summer off from "training" has been a delightful reminder that I actually love running and swimming and biking and that doing them for the sake of nothing more than the pure pleasure of doing them is enough to make me happy.

In closing, the title of this post probably didn't make sense to many of you.  I have to give a little shout out to my middle school music teacher, Mr. Futer, for the title of this post.  We used to sing the song, "The Lion and the Unicorn" in his class.  Since the Boston Athletic Association (and the Boston Marathon) use a unicorn as its logo, I think about this song every time I think of the race.  

The song goes like this:

The lion and the unicorn were fighting for the crown;
The lion and the unicorn were all around the town.
Some give them white bread and some give them brown;
Some will give them plum cake ... and drum them out of town.  

I have no clue what this means.  But when (not if) I run the Boston Marathon, I beg of someone to show up with some plum cake.  That sounds amazing.  I also think it's destined to happen given my love of unicorns.  

Anyway ... more to come!  I have so much to share.  And I still need to finish out my June style challenge.  In October.

Have a great weekend! 
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I'm here! I'm alive! I'm good!

Ok ... it's been more than a minute since I posted on the blog and I have received enough emails from concerned readers (thank you!) that I figured I should at least say hello.  So ... hello!  

I'm sorry I have been MIA, but it's Summer, work is busy, I've been traveling a ton (expect a blog post on my IMLP 2015 volunteering experience!), and things are otherwise really, really good in my life.  Like pinch myself and cupcakes with rainbow icing and teeny tiny kittens on top good.  I will try my best to get back to a regular blogging schedule, but that probably won't happen until mid-August. 

So in the meantime, I'll be swim, bike, running and having fun (and drinking my favorite IPAs) while the computer sits in the desk where it belongs.  I will be back as soon as I can.  

Happy Summer!
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What I Wore {post 79} June 2015 Style Challenge - week 3

Hey there!  It's Friday again!  Time for weekend! Time for fun! Time for a recap of my third week of the Style Challenge.  This week was tricky for a couple of reasons: (1) I had to move things around because I had court one day and a big meeting another; and (2) I was out of the office on Thursday and Friday with my kids (it's that weird time of year when they're done school but camps don't start, so we cobble together their care).  I fully intended to do the challenge, but at the end of the day, my outfits were not blog post worthy - I was home with them on a rainy day on Thursday (read: I wore yoga pants, an old cotton tee and hair in a bun) and took them to Hershey Park on Friday (read: shorts, tank top, and sweat).  All this to say, only three outfits this week.  

June 15:  Put a bow on it (moved from June 16)
June 16:  Daydream vacation (moved from June 17)
June 17:  Long Necklace (moved from June 20)

June 15:  Put a Bow on It

I had court this day, so I had to wear a suit. There's only so much creativity and leeway you get with a suit.  And, of course, in keeping with the weather that we've seen this Spring so far, it was insanely hot this day.  I wore my black skirt suit (from 2003 - seriously.  From Petite Sophisticate, which doesn't even exist anymore) and a blouse from Loft from 2006.  The blouse is a halter top with a bow that ties at the neck.  I rarely wear the blouse and I'm not sure why.  It's very flowy, but I tucked it in and it was fine.  I wore the outfit without the jacket all day except when I was in front of the judge.  

June 16: Daydream Vacation

Another crazy hot day.  I took my cues from a dress I bought with Jamie a few weeks ago at the j.crew factory - a lovely crisp, light little linen sundress with an A-line cut.  This is a dress I would love to wear on a beachy vacation because it's so light and breezy.  And it was so hot at work that I didn't care how casual it was.  I wore with my gold & brown leather wedges.   I think this photo has a filter on it.

June 17:  Long Necklace

This was the day of my big meeting at work.  Actually, meetings (plural).  It was a busy day and I had to step it up a bit in terms of formality.  A bunch of my colleagues wear suits to these meetings, but I cannot bring myself to do that especially since I wore one earlier that week. So I wore my go-to: a wrap dress.  I bought this dress (again) with Jamie at the outlets. This was the Ann Taylor outlet and was on crazy clearance. I think it was $25.  I wore my pink quilted sling-backs and my long necklace from j.crew.  

Just a couple more posts left!  Have a wonderful weekend!  I have my annual family reunion this weekend and then a business trip.  And then it's July.  
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Updates to Big Kid's Room

Ever since I moved into my place, I've felt bad about the kids' room situation.  My home is a three-bedroom with a master and two smaller bedrooms, but as between those two other bedrooms, the one is much larger than the other.  I gave the larger room to my daughter, who is two years younger than my son, only because as the baby, she seems to get "seconds" in many things, and I thought it might do them both good for her to get the better choice.  

My son has made it clear to me that he views this as an injustice and a travesty ... that it is profoundly unfair that his room is so much smaller than his sister's.  I understand, and I feel bad, but short of moving walls, there is nothing I can do.  So, this year, I told him that we would make some changes to his space and asked, again, short of moving walls, what I could do to make his space better for him.  

He asked for a desk and for a place to store his Lego creations.  Easy enough!  I knew that in addition to those things, I wanted to give him more storage and to organize his closet.  I bought a couple of things over the past few months and got them ready, and then on a rainy day off, spent a few hours finishing up the room.  Here are the before and afters:


This picture is pretty old.  But this is the view from the door.  I made the window treatment and headboard myself.  


Most of the changes were things I did a little while ago.  I added the print over his bed.  The nightstand used to be in my room but wasn't big enough to hold my workout clothes, so I upgraded the chest in my room and moved this to his.  I did a two-tone treatment on it.   


The dresser wall was pretty good.  I had the one large dresser for his clothes but no other storage.  The big red tub in the corner held his sports equipment.  There was a set of shelves on the opposite side of his room, but it did not hold enough of his stuff.  


Yah - this is a lot. A lot of shelves!  But it's all working storage and holds things that he loves and uses  The shelf on the right is the Kallax shelf from Ikea.  The top holds his Lego creations.  In the top cubes, I bought some lidded storage from Target, and those hold Legos and Lego kits.  The bottom cubes hold his cars and trucks, which he still plays with quite a bit.  On the left of the dresser, I broke up one of the three shelves that were once where the desk is now (see below).  This is his Pokemon area.  The top two shelves hold his Pokemon cards and the very bottom shelf holds some games and random toys.  


These are very old shelves from IKEA, and they worked for awhile to hold his toys and books.  But as you can see, he needed more storage and this was the only place in the room where the desk could go.  Luckily, those shelves are narrow and not attached.  So I moved the one to the wall with the dresser, the one into the closet (see below) and left the one here.  


And here is the desk!  I found it in January at Target.  It was on sale, I had a $10 off coupon and I used my Red Card for an additional 5% off and free shipping. I think it ended up costing about $45, which is perfect.  I needed a very compact desk and this one got really good reviews.  The chair is from IKEA.  I let him pick it out. I like the print a lot!  The shelf to the right of the desk [barely] holds his books.  I added a bulletin board over the desk so he can pin things to it.  And I had bought the bulletin board/shelf/hook combo at Target last summer and never got around to putting it up.  Oops.  I added his medals.  I also put his name in big wooden letters over the shelf (I cut them off purposefully so his name isn't readable).  Rather than drive myself nuts with nails and trying to get it perfect, I just used the strongest On Command strips to hang them.  Fingers crossed it holds.  

 I don't have a before picture for this section because it was pretty bad - the inside of his closet.  It wasn't *terrible*, but it needed some order, and that's what I added.  The black bins at the top of the closet were there, and they work well to hold clothes that are too big and other things.  I moved his sports bin to the floor and used the extra shelf to hold more sports stuff, his sleeping bag, extra "fancy" shoes, and his suitcase.  I added hooks to the walls to hold his bags and hats.  And his violin is front and center.  

So yay!  One more space checked off my list!  Now, of course, my little girl wants a desk for her room and wants to redo her space.  I told her we would work on that in the Fall.  As for the house list, I think the next project will be to tie up the loose ends in the playroom: I have a few piles left to address and some small storage to take care of.  I also need to get back to some cabinet organization in the kitchen.  But I'm definitely at the point in my home where all of the *big* projects are done.  
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Oh Pickles. Mother Pickling Pickles. Pickler!

* Hint:  "pickle" is code for a really really bad work that starts with"f" and rhymes with truck.  

When I had my kids, obviously my language had to change a bit.  I would share mothering tidbits and tips with girlfriends and one of my friends, Lynn, said that "pickles" got a lot of play in her house - that you can say "Oh pickles!" when you wanted to say the F-bomb.  It worked and still does, even though at ages 7 and 9 my kids are aware that "pickles" is code for a really bad word.  

On yesterday's "long" run, I said a lot of pickles, only not pickles but the real word.  It was one of those runs.  Actually, it was another one of those runs.  It seems more of my runs are bad runs than good ones these days.  And that's really frustrating and demoralizing.  I've always said that when you have a bad run, you can wallow a bit, but ultimately put it behind you, move on, and say "new day, new run".  That the bad runs really make you appreciate the good runs.  That the bad runs make you stronger mentally and prepare you for setbacks.  But when the bad runs become the norm, it's exhausting and upsetting.  Here I am right after the run.  Who's a sad face runner? 

I've had a lot of excuses for my crappy runs: it's really humid, it's really hot, it's late in the day, I didn't fuel right, I'm exhausted, I didn't sleep enough, I'm under a lot of stress, I'm sad, I'm overwhelmed, I'm feeling blue, it's rainy, it's muggy, my legs are tired, my arches hurt.  But they're all just that: excuses.  There are some glimmers of hope peppered in there, though ... some good, strong runs that remind me that I've still got "it" in me somewhere.  Whatever "it" is. 

In the meantime, I will keep running and trying to find or at least rediscover "it" and will keep in mind the following quote: 

Run when you can,
Walk when you have to,
Crawl if you must;
Just never give up.
-Dean Karnazes, ultra marathoner  

I won't give up.  But I'm sure as pickles ready to feel like myself again on a run.  
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What I Wore {post 78} June 2015 Style Challenge - week 2

Week 2 of the Style Challenge wasn't as good as the first.  I wasn't thrilled with the things I put together.  But I still got it done.  I moved things around a bit this week.

June 8:  Swish your Skirt

It was *hot* on this day.  I wore a new skirt that I found at the Gap on major clearance and realized, unfortunately well into the day, that it is just too big.  It was a size Small and I think I need an Extra Small.  That said, I like it, so I'm going to take it to the tailor to see if she can work some magic with it.  I wore an aqua top and my nude peep toe pumps with my favorite bubble necklace.

June 9:  Channeling Audrey

Channeling Audrey Hepburn!  Oh I love her.  I've even blogged about her style a few years ago.  This was my favorite look of the week, and it was easy. A simple black sheath dress, nude pump and lots and lots of pearls.  I wore my hair in a low bun and opted to leave the tiara at home.  I went with a Breakfast at Tiffany's look, which is apropos, as it's my favorite movie.

Toya went more casual with an Audrey inspiration and rocked a headscarf.  I love it! 

June 10:  Retro Moment

Having just gone full-on Audrey Hepburn the day before, I felt a little limited in my choices.  I decided to go with another sort of Audrey look but less memorable: ankle pants, a sleeveless collared top and flats.  I really wanted to wear a scarf in my hair tied like a headband but I couldn't get it to work.  I am not crazy about this outfit. 

June 11: Dots & Circles

I don't have many polka dots for warm weather!  It was really hot this day, so I wore a new polka dotted shell from Banana Republic outlet.  I wore it with my colorblock skirt and black cardigan to the office.  

June 12:  Mixing patterns

FRIDAY! I will tell you - this week was a freaking battle to get to Friday. I remember thinking on Wednesday that it felt like it should be Friday. Oof.  It was, again, super hot. So I wore my seersucker skirt with a fun cobalt top with crochet detailing.  I thought the pattern mix in the crochet and the skirt worked well together.  

Another week down! And just like that, June is marching toward July.  This happens every single year.  Come on Summer ... slow down a little.  Have a wonderful weekend!
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