Thursday, October 31

Happy Halloween! [Effie Trinket Costume]

Last week I shared some ideas I was tossing around for Halloween costumes.  My favorite idea was Effie and Haymitch from The Hunger Games - I loved the opportunity to transform myself into a character from one of my favorite books in a completely over-the-top way.  I was able to put an Effie costume together for very little money!  The first ingredient was my white wig from last Halloween, which got a blast from some neon pink spray dye.  I already had a fuschia tweed skirt from Goodwill that I thought would work, and I swung by that fine establishment (we call it the GW Boutique) to see if there were any shiny, poofy pink shirts that would fit the bill.

I struck gold!  Shiny, pink, 100% polyester with shoulder pads and a funky neck scarf attached gold.  The other purchases I made included three sets of rosette hair barettes, white cream makeup, and pink Hard Candy glitter eyeliner (I couldn't resist).  On the night of my coworker's Halloween party, I went to work making my face and mouth as pale as possible, then adding pops of fuschia to my eyelids and the center of my lips.  Sorry for the phone pictures - I'd left my point-and-shoot at work that day.

The barettes had the added effect of helping my wig stay put.  Win win!

The finishing touch was an Effie Trinket manicure - the base is Sinful Colors in "Fig" and the tips are Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure applied with a makeup sponge.  It was so easy!

The biggest surprise of the night was Mr. Q's costume - I'd asked for Haymitch, but he took it way farther!  A $15 pair of cargo pants, boots, a black jacket, and a "Contestant Wig" paired with his family's heirloom bow made for a very interesting Katniss Everdeen.

May the odds be ever in your favor!

Linking Up!
That DIY Party at DIY Show Off
Twirl and Take a Bow at House on the Way

Wednesday, October 30

thank you, j.k. rowling [harry potter lovers link-up]

When I found out that Kalyn from Geez, Louise was hosting a Harry Potter Lovers Link-Up today, I was like:

Harry Potter has been such a huge part of my life since I was in high school.  Recently, one of my college friends posted the Facebook status, "Am I the only 20-something who doesn't care to enter the world of Hogwarts?"  When someone pointed out how much Harry Potter books have done for children's literacy, she said, "I agree it got kids excited about reading, but I also think it potentially lowered the reading levels of a lot of adults."  To which one of her friends replied, "I know a lot of well-read people who read them but still read actual literature."

Um, what?

Aside from the fact that it is impossible for someone's reading level to get lower (seriously, I could read a Magic Tree House book right now and it wouldn't make me less intelligent, it would just be boring), I would argue against anyone who suggests that Rowling's books aren't "real" literature.  Hopefully in a more mature way than saying, "Who are you, the literature police?"  The Harry Potter books begin with a fairy tale and end with philosophy.  They include allusions to the Bible, Shakespeare, Greek and Western mythology, and classic texts like Dr. Faustus.  The Harry Potter books can be used to make connections to historical issues from slavery to caste systems to antisemitism to terrorism.  Into Joseph Campbell's monomyth theory?  Harry Potter goes on a seven-book hero's journey.  As an English teacher, I really appreciate J.K. Rowling's use of foreshadowing, flashback, and symbolism in the books!  She deserves to be recognized alongside C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Madeleine L'Engle as one of the greatest children's fantasy authors of all time.  As an aspiring writer myself, I'm blown away by her world-building, which includes four generations of characters, a government, an organized sport, and a school system!

If you're clicking on a link in Harry Potter Lovers link-up, though, you probably don't need any convincing about the books' merits.  Instead, I want to tell you about my favorite HP supporting characters.

"A wizard, o'course," said Hagrid, sitting back down on the sofa, which groaned and sank even lower, "an' a thumpin' good'un, I'd say, once yeh've been trained up a bit. With a mum an' dad like yours, what else would yeh be?"  - Hagrid in Sorcerer's Stone

Looking back now, it makes perfect sense to me that my favorite Hogwarts teacher is the one who is way too emotionally invested in his students' lives.  Rubeus Hagrid is Harry's first link to the wizarding world.  He's hardworking, encouraging, protective, and fiercely loyal - all traits Harry himself exhibits over time as well.  I'm pretty sure I would not enjoy being a student in Hagrid's Care of Magical Creatures class - I'm not big on potentially dying during a lesson - but I'd love being able to retreat to his cozy hut the way Harry, Ron, and Hermione do often in the books, knowing that inside I'd be respected and treated like family.  From Hagrid, young readers can learn to not judge people based on their appearances, or on the judgments of other people - to get to know a person for his or her own merits.

“I think I'll just go down and have some pudding and wait for it all to turn up - 
it always does in the end.”  - Luna in Order of the Phoenix

It's Evanna Lynch's portrayal of Luna Lovegood in the films that really makes me love this character.  To say that Luna Lovegood is socially awkward is an understatement, and she's a prime target for bullying.  Somehow, J.K. Rowling manages to make everything about her, from her bottlecap necklace to her crush on Ron Weasley, totally adorable.  Being included in Dumbledore's Army means the world to her, and as a result, she'll do anything for her friends.  

“Anything's possible if you've got enough nerve.” - Ginny in Order of the Phoenix

Let's talk about the real Ginny Weasley, shall we?  When we meet her in the books, she's a tiny red-haired girl who is desperate to go to Hogwarts after growing up in a houseful of older brothers who have come home with stories about their hijinks at school every year.  She gets a schoolgirl crush on Harry (remember those?  And how the objects of those crushes could seemingly do no wrong even though they probably ate paste and acted like goobers just like everyone else?).  In Prizoner of Azkaban, Ginny's compassionate personality starts to show when she goes to the Yule Ball with Neville Longbottom, and in Order of the Phoenix she befriends Luna Lovegood.  I really love how stubborn and feisty Ginny is, and that her magical talent is with defensive hexes, charms, and curses.  She's got a sense of humor and can be really blunt with Harry, which is usually exactly what he needs.  She's a badass, and I wish the movies had done a better job of showing that.

“We’re all going to keep fighting, Harry. You know that?” - Neville in Deathly Hallows

I think J.K. Rowling's genius really comes through in her characterization of Neville Longbottom - in the first books, we take pity on him because Harry does, and every time catastrophe befalls him we kind of just go, "Oh, Neville!"  Snape bullies Neville at every opportunity, and that makes readers take Neville's side even more.  We're proud of him every time his Gryffindor bravery peeks through his downtrodden exterior, like when he defeats the boggart in Professor Lupin's DADA class.  I'm pretty sure I cheered out loud in the theater during Deathly Hallows Part 2 when he got his crowning moment of awesomeness.  For me, Neville represents the idea that courage isn't about being tough or strong, it's about doing what needs to be done in a crisis even when you're scared to death - when the cause is worth fighting for.

Harry Potter link-up  

Tuesday, October 29

Fall Must-Have: Moto Sweater

The third piece I'm craving for this fall is a comfy, zippy moto sweater - I love this feminine take on an edgy trend, and I super love that they're available in a range of price points!

Fall Must-Have: Moto Sweater

View this set on Polyvore

Which of these sweaters is your favorite?  I'm partial to the Victoria's Secret version, but loving the faux-leather trim on the one from The Limited.

Fall 2013: Turbulence Gray

This autumn, gray has a split personalities: sweatshirts and t-shirts are going glam with jewel embellishments, the moto jacket is showing a softer side, and classic work pieces like ballet flats are getting cozy.  Here are a few of my favorite wear-anywhere pieces for this season.

Fall 2013: Turbulence Gray

View this set on Polyvore

1. LOFT embellished sweatshirt  2. Merona oxford blazer from Target
3. Xhilaration jewel embellished tee from Target 4. Fornash stud earrings from Tuckernuck
5. LOFT moto sweater jacket  6. Stella & Dot "Jessie" and "Urbane" hematite bracelets
7. Mossimo pleated skirt from Target  8. GAP flannel ballet flats
9. Modcloth jersey blouse  10. Hive & Honey varsity jacket from Piperlime
11. Banana Republic handbag  12. LOFT straight leg jeans  13. GAP sweater tights
14. Essie nail polishes in "Cashmere Bathrobe" and "For the Twill of It" from Target

Style Elixir

Monday, October 28

clicks of note: the magic we make...

get your week off to a colorful start...


  • I was more excited about Janelle Monae as the musical guest than Edward Norton hosting SNL this past Saturday, but Norton was perfect as Owen Wilson in this parody of Wes Anderson's quirky films - with a Halloween edge.  I'd probably go see it in the theater.




Tuesday, October 22

Fall Must-Have: Utility Jacket

The second item that seems to be literally everywhere this fall is a utility jacket in this season's popular military-inspired olive green.  These jackets are perfect for layering, and available at different price points.  Would you save or splurge on this classic jacket?

Fall Must-Have: Utility Jacket

Fall Color: Olive and Pumpkin

Autumn seemed very late in coming this year - up until this week, my students were still wearing shorts and flip-flops to class (either it was still warm outside or middle school is the new college).  Then, all of a sudden  - the trees started to slowly change to red, chrysanthemums started to bud, and the first frost hit yesterday night.  It's finally here, and fall color finally seems appropriate in all its cozy, warm familiarity.

Fall Color: Olive and Pumpkin

View this set on Polyvore

Look #1: Old Navy khaki scarf, LC Lauren Conrad lace sweater from Kohl's, H&M boyfriend jeans, Herschel toiletries case from Zappos

Look #2: Tinley Road stud earrings from Piperlime, Sonoma chambray shirt from Kohl's, Banana Republic hobo-style handbag, LOFT skinny cords, Banana Republic bow ballet flats

Look #3: Mango polka dot sweater from John Lewis, J. Crew chinos, Mossimo ballet flats from Target (similar from Body Central)

Style Elixir

Monday, October 21

clicks of note: let's stay together

get your week off to a colorful start...


  • I love Maroon5, and I especially love the covers they've included on their recent albums.  Their version of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" from their most recent album, Overexposed, is so chill and laid-back; perfect dinner-party or reception music.




Friday, October 18

Are You a Daisy or a Jordan? [Great Gatsby Halloween Costume Ideas]

If you go out on the town this Halloween, expect to see quite a few flappers, inspired by the success of Baz Luhrman's The Great Gatsby, by its stellar cast, and even by its unique soundtrack.  Personally, I like to have a backstory for my Halloween costumes and I'm big on attention to detail.  I would not be content with just being any old 1920's lady in fringe.  To keep your costume looking less Chicago and more Gatsby, you've first got to answer a very important question: are you a Daisy Buchanan or a Jordan Baker?

Daisy Fay Buchanan

Lilac Flapper costume from Spirit Halloween || Bohemian Belle dress from Modcloth

Disclaimer: Modcloth items contain affiliate links!

Daisy Buchanan is a Southern socialite, the object of Jay Gatsby's obsession, the narrator's cousin, and, when you think about it, the reason there is a Great Gatsby.  She's whimsical, loves frivolous, beautiful things, likes making her friends happy, and hopes her own daughter will never have any worries.  She's also incredibly flawed - selfish, childish, indecisive, and, as Nick himself points out, careless.

You might be a Daisy if you believe in love at first sight, would rather dance as a party than make conversation, and always send handwritten thank you notes.  If you're a Daisy, your costume should be feminine and detailed.

“I hope she'll be a fool -- that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”

Miss Selfridge crystal headband || Modcloth floral headband

That Miss Selfridge headpiece is a dead ringer for the Tiffany piece Carey Mulligan wears in the movie!

"He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed like a flower and the incarnation was complete.” 

Glitter and Nails gradient manicure || Pearl bobble purse from Oasis

Daisy's accessories and makeup should be light and feminine - in the novel, she's often described as wearing white, and appearing doll-like.

"The exhilarating ripple of her voice was a wild tonic in the rain. I had to follow the sound of it for a moment, up and down, with my ear alone, before any words came through."

Dreams and Sugar dress, Pure Edith cloche hat, and Dance Instead of Walking heels from Modcloth

"The afternoon had made them tranquil for a while, as if to give them a deep memory for the long parting the next day promised. They had never been closer in their month of love, nor communicated more profoundly one with another, than when she brushed silent lips against his coat's shoulder or when he touched the end of her fingers, gently, as though she were asleep."

Jordan Baker

Black flapper costume from Spirit Halloween || Miss Selfridge black flapper embellished dress

Jordan Baker, on the other hand, is independent, determined, and cynical.  She is a confident social butterfly who likes to be slightly to the left of the center of excitement - the better to observe and gossip about the situation.

If you're a Jordan, your costume should be clean-cut, modern (for 1922), and sexy.

“And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.” 

Laundry by Shelli Segal halter dress from Saks Fifth Avenue 
Half moon manicure from Ruffian fashion show via Nails Magazine

The half moon manicure was popularized in the 1920's after being spotted on MGM film stars.

"There was a jauntiness about her movements as if she had first learned to walk upon golf courses on clean, crisp mornings."

Lulu Townsend miniaudiere-style clutch from DSW || Modcloth Lindy Hop Heel

You're probably a Jordan if you always read Us Weekly, E! News is programmed on your DVD player, and you've seen every episode of Girls.

"But there was Jordan beside me, who, unlike Daisy, was too wise ever to carry well-forgotten dreams from age to age."

Thursday, October 17

A to Z Book Survey

After seeing this readers' survey on Micah's blog, I knew I wanted to do my own version!  Books are, after all, pretty much my favorite thing in the world.

Author you’ve read the most books from: 
I've read eight books each by Sarah Dessen and J.K. Rowling, and I've read seven books by Janet Evanovich.  I'm pretty sure that as a child I read like a hundred and six Baby Sitter's Club books - do those count?

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School: 
Dexter from This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen - I loved his quirky sense of humor.  I'm also a big fan of Zach from Impossible by Nancy Werlin - he loves Lucy, the main character, and is completely committed to her no matter how crazy her life gets.  I don't think I would have been ready for a guy like Zach in high school, though.  I wasn't making the greatest dating choices back then.

 Best Sequel Ever: 
I don't know about ever, but I recently really enjoyed Through the Ever Night, the sequel to Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi - it left me wanting more just as much as the first book did and I'm in love with the characters.

E-reader or Physical Book?
If I know I'm going to want to keep the book, if I plan on adding it to my classroom library, or if I'm reading it for free via the school library, physical book all the way.  For books I like to have but don't necessarily need to have on my shelf, like Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books or older YA that won't be appropriate for my middle schoolers, the Kindle version is fine.

Currently Reading:
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater - I'm so excited it's finally out in paperback!

Drink of Choice While Reading:
Coffee or hot tea

Longest Book You’ve Read:
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling - 870 pages.

** easy way to find this out: go to your Goodreads “read” list, don’t scroll down but where you are on the screen there will be a tab on the bottom that lets you choose how you want to scroll or how many books you want to display. There is also a sort option with a drop down and you can sort by number of pages.

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance:
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion - zombies aren't really my thing, but I'd seen the trailer for the movie and knew I wanted to read the book first.  I'm glad I did because Isaac Marion is an awesome author and R's voice will always be in my head.

Hidden Gem Book:
Savvy by Ingrid Law - it's middle grade fantasy set in middle America that isn't paranormal romance - instead, it's a funny, sweet family road-trip story.  

Just Finished:
What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang - I loved the crazy premise behind this sci-fi YA thriller and I'm looking forward to the next book in the Hybrid Chronicles.

Major book hangover because of:
Borrowed Light by Anna Fienberg and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson were two books that haunted me for a while in high school and still influence my writing today.  I have to be really careful reading books where characters are very depressed or in mourning because I tend to take on those feelings.

Number of Bookcases You Own:
Three - one at my townhouse and two in my classroom (okay, one of those is technically school property, but they're my books!)

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read:
Anything with graphic violence - I tried reading Tess Garritsen's The Surgeon because I liked the Rizzoli and Isles television show, but the descriptions of torture and death just disgusted me.  And while I was addicted to the Millenium series by Steig Larsson, I was glad when it was over because I'd started to have nightmares that I was Lisbeth Salander.

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times:
The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank - the voice in this bildungsroman is so relatable, funny, and real.  Jane Rosenal was pretty much my Carrie Bradshaw.

Preferred Place To Read:
If I could choose any place in the world to read, it would be the McGregor room at UVa's Alderman Library.  I always pretended I was a Vanderbilt or a character in a Harry Potter book when I went there to read or study.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read:
Dumbledore's “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Reading Regret:
Not starting my reading for my two-week study abroad trip to Ireland before the trip.  I wasn't alone, and we all ended up skipping a lot of the reading because we wanted to be out enjoying Ireland instead of reading, say,  A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Series You Started And Need To Finish(all books are out in series):
Speaking of Ireland, I'd like to finish the Nuala Anne McGrail series by Andrew M. Greeley - my mom introduced those books to me after my trip and I enjoyed Irish Gold and Irish Lace.  I'm not sure if the series is finished or not - apparently the last one was published in 2009.

Three of your All-Time Favorite Books:

  • The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • Christy by Catherine Marshall

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others:
Allegiant by Veronica Roth - the next book in the series that began with Divergent.  I'm as excited as my students are to find out what happens to Tris and Four.

Worst Bookish Habit:
Starting a new book before I've finished the one I was already reading and not going back to finish the other book.

Unapologetic Fangirl For:
The Harry Potter series, obviously!  Those books have brought me so much happiness over the years - Hogwarts is a world I can go to anytime.  I've made several really great friendships both in the real world and online thanks to Harry.  I'm also crazy about Maggie Stiefvater - I'd been following her via the Merry Sisters of Fate blog before the Wolves of Mercy Falls series was published, loved The Scorpio Races, and met her at the last Virginia State Reading Conference I attended.  Her work really seems to bring people together- last night a girl around my age started talking to me as I exited Barnes & Noble carrying The Raven Boys.

Important Moment in your Reading Life:
I  can vividly remember weeping in the backseat of my parents' car on the drive to camp one summer because I'd finished The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis and there were no more books about Narnia for me to read.  That's the first time I think I realized what an impact books could really have on readers.

X Marks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:
New Selected Poems of Stevie Smith

Your latest book purchase:
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card - I didn't really want to give my money to Orson Scott Card because he has some terrible homophobic views, so I found the most inexpensive copy I could for my classroom library.  It is a very good book and I am looking forward to the movie.

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late):
Probably the Millenium Series - they are so suspenseful that I couldn't put them down!

Wednesday, October 16

9 Halloween Costume Ideas for Couples and Groups

First things first:  have you all seen this adorable Verizon commercial featuring a whole family dressed as unlikely Star Wars characters who use their phones to find the best candy?  How could anyone resist a tiny baby Princess Leia or pug Darth Vader?

Now that I'm solidly out of the Mean Girls style high school Halloween (fishnets required) and the frat party college version (fishnets still required), I'm enjoying twenty-something Halloween house parties.  As more and more of my friends find serious boyfriends and girlfriends, get married, and start families, I'm noticing more and more cute couple and group costumes every year.  Here are nine of my current favorite costume ideas:

1. Effie Trinket and Haymitch Abernathy from The Hunger Games 

This idea is the frontrunner in our house right now!  I love literary Halloween costumes and when it's YA lit?  Even better.  There is a lot of possibility for group costumes with The Hunger Games - the more the merrier with Katniss, Peeta, Cinna, Cesar Flickerman, President Snow, and so on.  I think that Effie and Haymitch would be fun and instantly recognizable together - I'd go with Effie's costume from the Reaping from the first book/film for the most recognition.  If I do, I totally plan to carry around a fish bowl with the names of all of my friends inside and choose tributes throughout the night.

2. Ron Burgundy and Veronica Corningstone

We love Anchorman in our house and we are so excited about the sequel coming out this Christmas.  This couples costume idea appeals to me mainly because it is an excuse to visit the tackiest suit shop in town.  If you've got a bunch of guy friends, you could have the whole news team.  Microphones and a milk carton are the perfect accessories, as shown in this take on the couple from The Morning Call.

3. The Sanderson Sisters from Hocus Pocus

The villains of the best Halloween movie of all time would make great costume inspiration for three girl friends, and witch hats and black, red, and blonde wigs are easy to come by.  Add pink, purple, and teal trim to store-bought witch costumes (this one from Target is fabulous and this "lady Dracula" one would also work minus the collar), gel those wigs into shape, and you'll have Winnifred, Mary, and Sarah.

4. The Great Gatsby


I think 1920's costumes will be really popular this year since Baz Luhrman's movie was a hit.  Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Nick Carraway, and Jordan Baker each have their own styles that would be fun to replicate - either a tuxedo and a champagne coupe or a summer suit and boater hat for Gatsby, a feminine vintage-style dress and jewels for Daisy, a sweater with elbow patches and newsboy cap for Nick, and something sleek, black, and flapper-inspired for Jordan.  I'll share some picks for the girls' costumes later this week.

5. A Christmas Story leg lamp and Ralphie (or "Fragile" box)

I thought this was a really strange costume idea when I saw the leg lamp dress on the Target web site, but I got on board with it when I saw real couples - and amputee Josh Sundquist - showing different ways to pull it off.  One nice thing about the costume is that it would be really easy to DIY!

6. Where's Waldo and Carmen Sandiego

I thought of this when I saw this funny image online, and it appears I'm not the first one to think it's a great Halloween costume idea.  Jessica Quirk shares her ideas for creating a Carmen Sandiego costume at What I Wore, or this Theodora costume from Target could work with a few tweaks.

7. The girls from Clueless

I tend to think in groups of three when it comes to costumes for girlfriends.  In case you've been living under a rock, 90's fashion is making a comeback (as evidenced by Katy Perry).  Throw on your plaid and knee socks and go out as Cher, Dionne and Tai.

8. Grandpa and Grandma

Dressing up like cute little old people doesn't require much more than gray wigs and a trip to Goodwill.  This is a great costume idea for newlyweds in particular - dressing up as an "old married couple."  My friends Justin and Tiffany used this idea at a party I attended a few years ago and it was the most popular costume idea of the night.

9. Duck Dynasty/hunting themed

Where I live, everyone seems obsessed with the Robinsons -  in a rural area, a family who hunt, fish, and pray over their meals while also becoming millionaires does seem to be living the dream.  The best part about a Duck Dynasty inspired Halloween costume would be the ease of finding camo and blaze orange gear at Wal-Mart or Sportsman's Warehouse to pull off the look.

10.  Kate, William and the Royal Baby
New moms, this year there is a pop-culture-relevant Halloween costume just for you that does not require putting your little baby into any kind of strange getup.  It justifies you buying a new, cute dress from Topshop.  Plus, you could wear a fascinator or tiny hat if you want.  Win-win.