Childhood Memories FridayRegular readers remember my longtime devotion to Princess Diana, which was at its peak during my high school years. It’s strange now to have a daughter who is a high school senior, because this causes me to re-think my own senior year.

Charles and Diana had been married about a year, I was busy writing my senior research paper on “The Royal Romance,” and yet I wanted to do … more. I decided to make a few dresses modeled on some of Diana’s.

After the wedding, I saw Diana in her honeymoon going-away dress. I thought it was the cutest thing I had ever seen. Alas, I couldn’t find a pattern like it, but I found one that was pretty close, and made some adjustments (as I recall, adding the sailor collar that Di favored in those days, along with ruffles to the sleeves). The result:

Princess Diana honeymoon going away dressHere’s the actual version, worn by Diana. Not too bad for a high school kid, huh? It’s still hanging in my closet, and these days I could fit approximately one leg into the skirt, but the memories remain.

Not content with that, I also wanted my own version of Di’s wedding dress. This was a bit ambitious, as you may recall her 25-foot train. I didn’t go quite that crazy, but at that time there was a pattern with a pretty good resemblance to the royal wedding dress. Yes, I still have the pattern. I’m not sure why, but …

Princess Diana wedding dress patternLooks like I made version “C” of the dress — the shorter version. Still, it was an undertaking. I see that it took 13 yards of fabric, and I remember spending many evenings hemming that ruffled hem (it was 24′ long!).

And here is the resulting pink confection. I made this specially for senior dinner, but I wore it several times (here, at a Career Key banquet). I specifically remember wearing the dress to senior Sunday at church. Afterwards, I went to the home of someone whose wedding I was going to play piano for. I walked into the house to confront a crowd of young adults with tattoos and decidedly more casual attire, and I remember them looking at me with … interest. I felt like Glinda the Good, minus her magic bubble! I wonder if Princess Diana ever felt like that?? :)

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Kate Gosselin, How She Fooled the World

Ah, Kate Gosselin. She’s come so far, from the overwhelmed wife and mom of twins who wanted “just one more” baby but got 6 — to now, when she’s divorced, made over to the point that she’s hardly recognizable as her former self, and fighting to find another platform to make money.

During the transformation, Kate went from being mostly liked to being a hugely polarizing figure. She still has some fans out there, but for the most part she’s looked upon negatively today.

Kate Gosselin speaking in Indianpolis

Kate Gosselin speaking in Indianpolis — yep, I went to see her.

As the Gosselin saga unfolded, Kate’s generally nasty personality and attention-grabbing antics were noted all over the internet. Rumors swirled that someone was writing a “tell all” book about her.

Well, the book is out, and it is Kate Gosselin: How She Fooled the World. I was anxious to read the book, having heard quite a bit about it, and I bought the Kindle version.

This is a difficult book to review. The author, Robert Hoffman, was a celeb magazine reporter assigned to the Gosselin family, so he has had quite a bit of access to them (especially Jon, who’s apparently a friend or at least acquaintance of his). The book is huge, at over 700 pages. It’s mostly not written in a narrative style, but more as a data dump: tons of Kate’s journal entries. Tons of tweets by Kate, grouped by topic. I found it interesting, since I’m fascinated by the whole Gosselin tale, but if you’re not, I can’t imagine wading through all this.

What did I learn? A few new assertions. One, that Kate had purposely set out to have sextuplets, and that she had possibly even adjusted the timing/amount of fertility drugs she was taking to increase her chances.  It was interesting, although disheartening, to watch her descent from Christian, churchgoing mom to someone who actively worked to book speaking appearances at churches and take in thousands of dollars from them, playing poor while in her real life she had stopped going to church almost entirely and was far from needy anymore.

She allegedly treats her kids and dogs very badly — once leaving one of the dogs outside whimpering in the cold all night while mocking it through a glass door. Another time, leaving one of her boys outside without a coat in sub-freezing temps as punishment for some infraction.

Since her kids’ arrival (and possibly even earlier), she is all about the freebies. Apparently she wrote to Gymboree when the sextuplets were born, writing “if there is a way my children could be a help in marketing your clothing lines, we’re all for it!” An incident is noted of her shopping at a Gymboree store, realizing that a gift card Gymboree had given her had run out, and calling from the store to see if they could load more money onto it.

Sometimes, the book veers into the petty: criticizing Kate for typos and misspellings (which comes across badly as this book is full of them from the author as well). Kate is also criticized for wrapping the kids’ Christmas gifts in plain paper. Sorry, but although I fault her for many things, I’ll give her a pass on wrapping paper choice.

So, a long, winding look at a rather nasty personality. Can you think of another way you’d rather spend 700+ pages of reading?

I didn’t think so :)

Disney Scary Rides

infographic courtesy of Sophie

I am not a scary ride junkie. I’m not a big fan of roller coasters. Having said that, while visiting Disney World, I wanted to enjoy the “Disney touch” that is given to rides, making them true experiences instead of just rides. So, I rode some rides that tested my limits. Here is my take on what the scariest Disney rides involve, so you can make a decision on whether or not each ride is for you.

In order, from least scary to most:

1. Kali River Rapids (Animal Kingdom) – This is a good “thrill ride” to start with if you’re scared of thrill rides. The thrills are mild at best, with one not-major drop and a high you-will-get-wet factor.

2. Splash Mountain (Magic Kingdom) – Another water ride, but this one has a bit more punch than Kali. There are two drops; a moderate one in the middle and a big, lose-your-stomach one at the end. Again, prepare to get wet.

3. Dinosaur (Animal Kingdom) – This ride is quite bumpy and jerky. It’s not a roller coaster so you don’t get drops and high speeds though. Throughout, animatronic dinosaurs constantly stick their heads out near you. I found it more rough than scary. My six-year-old rode it, but kept her eyes shut the whole time.

4. Test Track (Epcot) – In this ride, you get into cars and which are tested for temperature extremes, a hill climb test, a brake test, etc. These are all pretty straight forward. There are slight moments of fear (“Will we really stop before hitting the wall?” etc), but basically tame stuff. The last portion of the ride involves a “test drive” around curves at high speeds (up to 65 mph). It’s exhilarating, but I didn’t really find it scary.

5. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Magic Kingdom) – I think this is a great “starter roller coaster”. You are on a supposedly runaway train which careens through old west ghost towns. The scenery is great and it just flies by, so keep your eyes open. There are frequent turns, but no drops so I rate this a bit scary but not bad.

6. Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom) – I would call this the next step up from Big Thunder Mountain, as roller coasters go. Space Mountain is basically a roller coaster in the dark. You ride through “space” with light, stars and planets all visible at various times. It seems fast and has dips, turns, and the like, but no huge drops and no loops. I am afraid on “wild” roller coasters, and I did okay on this.

7. Mission: Space (Epcot) – This is an intense ride. It’s nothing like a roller coaster – you get into a space capsule with three others where you are “blasted off” for a mission on Mars. The ride was based on NASA astronaut training, and during it you may experience claustrophobia and motion sickness. I rode the more intense version (a milder one is available as well), and found the rocket launch (when the capsule is actually spinning) to be the most uncomfortable part. If you don’t like spinning rides, you may want to skip this one.

8. Expedition Everest (Animal Kingdom) – This is a roller coaster set in the Himalayas, where you are trying to avoid a “Yeti” on the loose. The coaster is fast and quickly into the ride you come up to a section of track torn up by the Yeti. You then plunge BACKWARDS through the dark mountain, before then going forward again and then BOOM! near the end the Yeti appears right above you. I found this to be a fairly scary roller coaster, yet the story behind the ride and Disney’s effects and scenery made it worth riding to me.

9. Tower of Terror (Holly wood Studios) – OK, I have to admit I was afraid to ride this one. My adventure-loving eight-year-old, however, loved it. You enter the Hollywood Hotel, get into an elevator, and quickly learn the elevator has developed problems. Then you begin a series of drops, some as large as 13 stories. All that I have heard and read confirms that this is a truly scary ride for those afraid of drops. The scenery (the window opens for a quick view at the top of the ride) and story behind the ride are fascinating, however.

10. Rockin Roller Coaster (Hollywood Studios) – I would rate this as the scariest ride at Disney World. Again, I was too chicken to ride, but my daughter loved it. The story is that you’re late to an Aerosmith concert, and the coaster is a car taking you there in a hurry. You go from 0 to 60 mph in 2 seconds, and have several loops, spins and drops before reaching your concert, all accompanied by lights and Aerosmith music.

There you have it! Enjoy your Disney trip and experience all the thrills you want, or just stick to the tamer rides. You’ll have a magical time either way. What are your opinions on any of the Disney rides? Leave a comment to help others out.

Menu Plan Monday

menuplanmondayIt’s Menu Plan Monday again. This is the first full week of school here, and my piano lessons season starts too. My schedule with lessons this year has 3 days of the week where I finish after 5. This makes it a real challenge for me to get dinner on the table around 6:00. But, at least this week, I am prepared (I think). I’ve been collecting crockpot recipes on Pinterest, and I’m trying several this week. I know that I may not be up for using the crockpot three days each week all school year, but for now … here goes. Actually, this just involves doing dinner prep earlier in the afternoon instead of later, I guess.

Monday: Asian Chicken Sandwiches — new crockpot recipe — VERDICT: didn’t think they were too great. Not keeping this one.

Tuesday: Easy Cheesy Spaghetti Casserole – leftover from last week.

Wednesday: Vegan Crockpot White Chili — I may add some chicken for the non-vegetarians in the group. Maybe bread in the bread machine too.

Thursday: Crockpot Santa Fe Chicken — yet another new crockpot recipe.

Friday: Beef and Bean Taco Casserole — no crockpot! I may actually be in the kitchen at a normal time.

What are you cooking this week? I’d love to hear. Are kids back in school where you live?

More menu ideas at OrgJunkie’s.

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my link. This costs you nothing extra, and is paid by Reebok as a way to thank me for getting the word out about their products. Thank you for supporting Girls in White Dresses in this way.

Have you seen the film “Maleficent”? I confess I have not. I will, but I’ll wait until it comes out on video. However, two of my teens saw it in the theater, and both were quite enthusiastic about it. So, it’s not surprising to me that Reebok is capitalizing on Maleficent Mania with shoes inspired by the evil Disney character, and — with a fun Reebok Maleficent Promotion Giveaway as well.

Enter to Win the Reebok Maleficent Giveaway Pack
Something wicked could be coming back to school! Five lucky winners will receive the Reebok Maleficent Giveaway Pack: the limited edition Maleficent Top Down Sneaker, a Disney Maleficent Backpack & Beanie, and a $100 Reebok.com gift card! Bring a little of the dark side to the first day of school! Contest ends 8/20, so get your entry in today!

While you’re back-to-school shopping, don’t forget to check out all of the Disney-themed Reebok shoes to find this year’s new favorite pair for your little ones!

Childhood Memories Friday


Family Affair: the name evokes memories for many baby boomers … the twinkly theme music, Mr. French, kindly Uncle Bill, charming big sister Cissy, and of course loveable twins Buffy and Jody. What happened to Buffy and Jody after “Family Affair” ended its TV run?

Family Affair TV


Family Affair

“Family Affair” ran on TV from 1966 until 1971. The show depicted the life of Bill Davis (aka “Uncle Bill”), an apparently quite well-compensated engineer who lived in a swanky New York apartment, complete with a genial butler named Mr. French.

However, Uncle Bill’s life changed drastically when an accident killed his brother, leaving his children orphans. Uncle Bill takes in Cissy and twins Buffy and Jody.


What About Buffy?

Buffy was played by Mary Anissa Jones (Anissa means “little friend” in Arabic and rhymes with “Lisa”). She was born in West Lafayette, Indiana, where her parents were students at Purdue University at the time of her birth.

The family moved to California when Anissa was two, and at six she landed her first acting role, in a cereal commercial.

At eight, Anissa was cast as Buffy in the CBS TV show “Family Affair.” The show kept Jones busy; she often was either filming or promoting the show seven days a week. She broke her leg when she was 11, and this was written into “Family Affair”’s story line.

Buffy’s famous cohort on the show was her doll, Mrs. Beasley. As she got older, Jones was anxious to be rid of Mrs. Beasley and her “Family Affair” persona. When she was 13, “Family Affair” ended and Anissa hoped to continue her acting career in films.



Where is Buffy Now?

Life for Anissa Jones did not have a happy ending. When Anissa was seven, her parents went through an acrimonious divorce, fighting over custody of Anissa and her younger brother, Paul. Custody was award to their father, but he died shortly thereafter and Anissa moved in with friends.

Jones’ behavior worsened and she began shoplifting, eventually dropping out of school. At age 18, she was found dead of a drug overdose in a friend’s house. Although the overdose was classed as “accidental,” the coroner classed it as one of the most severe he had ever seen.

“Buffy” had no funeral. She was cremated, with her ashes scattered over the Pacific Ocean. At her death, she had about $163,000 in cash and bonds from her acting career. I remember hearing about her death, and it made quite an impression as I think she was the first person I heard of who had died from using drugs.


What About Jody?

Johnny Whitaker, who played Jody, has fared somewhat better than Buffy. He was born December 13, 1959, the fifth of eight children. “Family Affair” producers loved the chemistry between Johnny and Anissa Jones (Buffy), and rewrote the script so that the twins would be six rather than ten, as originally planned.

Johnny went on to appear in episodes of “Bewitched,” “Marcus Welby MD,” “Gunsmoke,” “Bonanza,” and “Green Acres.”

Following Anissa Jones’ death, Whitaker said, “Although we played twins we were poles apart as human beings. It didn’t keep us from getting along well, but we were being raised in very different homes. I felt terrible about her death, but I wasn’t all that much surprised.”



Where is Jody Now?

After graduating from high school, Johnny spent two years in Portugal on a mission affiliated with his church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (mormon). He graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in communications.

He married theatrical agent Symbria White in 1984; they divorced in 1988. He went through a program to end a drug dependency at that time.

Johnny appeared in an Arby’s commercial in 2005, and later hosted a radio show with psychiatrist Dr. Rod Zodkevitch called “The Dr. Rod and Johnny Show.”

Did you watch Family Affair as a child?



Becoming Michelle Duggar

Michelle Duggar post may contain affiliate links.


Fans of TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” marvel at Michelle Duggar’s calm manner and positive outlook. What were Michelle’s childhood and teen years like? How did she become the Michelle Duggar we’ve come to know today? Here are some answers, based on the Duggars’ book, The Duggars: 20 and Counting!: Raising One of America’s Largest Families–How they Do It.


Michelle Duggar’s Childhood

Michelle Ruark was born September 13, 1966, in Springdale, Arkansas. She was the youngest of Garrett and Ethel Ruark’s 7 children; her 5 sisters and brother were named Pam, Evelyn, Carol, Freda, Kathie, and Garrett Jr.


Michelle was quite a bit younger than most of her siblings, and by the time she was in elementary school only she and her sister Carol were still living at home.


Didn’t Attend Church

It may seem hard to believe considering the Duggars’ current Christian lifestyle, but as a child Michelle Duggar didn’t go to church. At 15, a friend talked to Michelle about Christ and invited her to a crusade at church. Michelle attended, accepted Christ, and never looked back.



Michelle was a cheerleader throughout most of junior high and high school, until she resigned as a senior. She attributes this resignation to personal conviction and Bible study. Ironically, her cheerleader status was one of the things that originally attracted future husband Jim Bob Duggar. Jim Bob, whose family had always been church-going, was visiting potential church members with a friend. The friend mentioned, “Hey, there’s a girl who goes to my school who just became a Christian. She’s a cheerleader.” Jim Bob responded, “That’s all I needed to hear.” The pair visited Michelle’s family home, and sparks flew – at least for Jim Bob.


Jim Bob Enters the Picture

Michelle wasn’t too impressed with Jim Bob at first, but Jim Bob was totally taken by Michelle. Shy by nature, Jim Bob took a year to ask her out. That was May 1983, when the couple attended Jim Bob’s high school banquet. This time, Michelle was more interested. She remembers going home after the date and thinking, “Lord, if this isn’t the one You have for me, I can’t imagine anyone better.”


Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar Get Married

Jim Bob and Michelle married a year later, July 21, 1984. Michelle had graduated from high school 3 months prior to the wedding, and she would not turn 18 until September of that year. Jim Bob was 19.

The Duggars’ early years of marriage formed the basis of their frugal living. Jim Bob worked at a grocery store, and soon began selling used cars. Michelle added to the family income by substitute teaching. On the advice of their family physician, the Duggars had no TV and no pets during their first year of marriage.

You may be surprised to learn that the Duggars did not have their first child, Josh, until almost 4 years after their marriage. But once they began, there has been no stopping since. The Duggars have always said that their desire is to accept each child as a gift from God – and they have done this, now 19 times.



Congrats to winner, Jackie!

Thanks to Propeller Consulting for providing this prize and review copy. Affiliate links in post. All opinions mine. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner subject to eligibility verification.

Boxcar Children DVDDid you read The Boxcar Children  books as a child? I did. Then, about a year ago, one of my nieces was reading a Boxcar Children book, and since I love reading too, she and I emailed back and forth about our thoughts on the book. It was fun! Re-reading the book, I was reminded of just how wholesome the boxcar kids are. They’re thoughtful, kind, and almost too good to be true. They make the Duggars look edgy!

Well, if you’re a fan of good, old-fashioned, wholesome entertainment, this is your lucky day. Because now the Boxcar Children come to life in a new DVD.

I watched this with two of my kids, and it was really sweet. The kids did not like it, and as an adult I was entertained by it as well. It had sad moments (hey, these are four parent-less kids living in a train boxcar, for Pete’s sake), but as all good childhood movies do, it ended on a happy note. It was well-done, and just … sweet. I recommend it wholeheartedly for your family, your kids, your grandkids — whoever, really. Because why just talk about manners and good behavior with your kids when they can see them modeled in an entertaining way in movies like this?

For one of you, it’s your lucky day: I have a copy of the DVD to give away. To enter, use the rafflecopter form below. Enter by August 20, and I’ll choose a random winner August 21.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terra Cotta Warriors Children's Museum #TCMChina2014 #atTCMRecently, my youngest daughter, along with a friend and her mom, experienced an exhibit on China’s Terra Cotta Warriors at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum.

What? You say you don’t know about the Terra Cotta Warriors?

Friend, I am not here to judge you. I must confess that my entire knowledge of Chinese history consists in the reading of a paperback called “China” that Mr. Thompson assigned in seventh grade social studies. I remember dutifully reading the book each night, looking at the non-compelling black-and-white photos, and copying down the notes he wrote on the board each day. But, to quote Flannery O’Connor:

Total non-retention has kept my education from being a burden to me.

About five years ago, we visited Epcot. In the China exhibit, people were oohing and ahhing over the terra cotta warriors. I joined in, sneaking in a quick read of the helpful plaques stationed around the area.

So, at least I had a little bit of background knowledge when we arrived at the visually beautiful exhibit.

Indianapolis Children's Museum Terra Cotta Warriors exhibitI learned that the warriors were commissioned by China’s first emperor (that would be Qin Shi Huang — I know, I know — it was just on the tip of your tongue), and that he wanted these 8000 warriors buried with him to protect him in the afterlife. Thousands worked to make them,  for over 30 years.

Indianapolis Children's Museum Terra Cotta Warriors exhibitAnd you can actually see some of them here — the real things! Along with “100 ancient artifacts.” Eh, I dunno about you, but “ancient artifacts” often ends up being vases and pieces of pottery. And while I love museums and learning, whenever I enter the area with those items, my eyes just kind of glaze over.

But back to the warriors. They’re very cool, very detailed, very … large. And, did you know that originally they didn’t look this color at all? They were painted, to look something like this:

Indianapolis Children's Museum Terra Cotta Warriors exhibitBut, when the statues were uncovered, the paint faded away within seconds. Now they’re using scientific processes to try to conserve some of the original colors.

Indianapolis Children's Museum Terra Cotta Warriors exhibitJust amazing to imagine so many of these together, and (sadly, in my opinion), all created just to be buried for a few thousand years before they were found. The exhibit also featured some brief films that helped you picture them in all their massive glory. It’s no wonder that many consider the terra cotta warrior army to be the eighth wonder of the world.

Indianapolis Children's Museum Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit slideOf course, being a children’s museum, there were elements that were just plain fun. How fun was the Great Wall of China slide? Answer: a lot! Friend’s mom and I even went down it!

And the museum featured lots more than just the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit. There was a neat complementary exhibit on modern-day China, called “Take Me There: China.” You began by entering a “plane” and the pilot talked to us about the country as we could view various landmarks through the windows. It was really creative. Then we exited the plane into China and got to walk through a typical Chinese home (very spare; not a lot of clutter) and learn about various aspects of Chinese culture.

Indianapolis Children's Museum China

Making Chinese characters in the Take Me There: China exhibit

The museum also features a wonderful exhibit with life-size dinosaur models.

Indianapolis Children's Museum dinosaursThe view of the dinosaurs and the vast sky (from a higher overlook) is truly awe-inspiring.

We loved our day at the museum! I recommend it if you’ll be anywhere near Indianapolis. The terra cotta warrior exhibit will be there through November 2.



Menu Plan Monday

menuplanmondayMenu Plan Monday has arrived again. I am behind the ball this week, actually writing this post Monday morning (I usually try to prepare it on Sunday). But this Sunday was spent at the state fair, lots of fun. After state fair, I popped in to Trader Joe’s for some goodies that I can’t get here. Some will feature in the week’s meals.\

Indiana State Fair

Monday: leftovers — the fridge is so full I can’t even fit in a huge bunch of fresh green beans my mom brought over the weekend :)

Tuesday: Chicken Curry with naan bread from Trader Joe’s .

Wednesday: Black Bean corn Quesadillasthis is also our first day of school here. So, I will want to have a fun treat ready for when the kids get home. The treat: Brownie Bottom Cheesecake with Chocolate Icing. A hit!

Thursday: Chicken Pot Pieanother old favorite.

Friday: Easy Cheesy Spaghetti Casserole –probably some of the home-grown green beans as well.

Beginning next week, my piano lessons will begin — 17 students this year. That is the most ever, and it makes me a little nervous because piano lessons come right in the midst of mealtime prep. Any good links for crockpot meals or suggestions? I would love them — leave them in the comments.

More menu ideas at OrgJunkie’s.