**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.

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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.

Childhood Memories Friday
The other day, I was sorting through a box of old stuffed animals, and what should I come across but this:

vintage crochet purse with dollA vintage crochet purse — made, I’m sure, by a relative of mine, although I can’t remember who. A cute purse, no doubt. But you haven’t seen the best part yet. Open it up, and …

vintage crochet purse with dollvoila! It is a bed for a little doll (a Kiddle?). The bottom of the bed/purse is some type of white plastic bottle. The little doll’s dress is crocheted as well, and she even has a little matching blanket beneath her. I thought this purse was the neatest thing, and it’s a definite memory, although with the doll inside I doubt I used it much as a purse.

So, did you have a crochet doll purse like this in your childhood? Any other neat crocheted items your aunt or grandma made for you? Chime in!


ThisLife by Shutterfly

***This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

From Photo Mess to Photo Bliss. Introducing ThisLife, by Shutterfly.

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With ThisLife, we can help you intelligently organize all your photos and videos so you can spend less time managing memories and more time making them. That means gathering your photos from your different devices and different sites – your smartphone and tablet, your laptop, from Facebook and Instagram, Flicker and Picasa. And not only from your device or your account, but from your spouse and family’s, as well! Finally, a way to consolidate photos from all your family members across all devices without having to worry about duplicates.

Sign up for a free account today using your Shutterfly login. If you decide that this is the solution for you and your family, you can take advantage of our launch promotion – $59/ year (normally priced at $79) for our 25,000 photo and video plan plus a free 20-page 8×8 photo book ($29.99 value) or $139/ year (normally priced at $199) for our 100,000 photo and video plan plus a free 20-page 12×12 photo book ($59.99 value).

I love Shutterfly photo books and have made several (and blogged about it, too). To me, and to many others, digital scrapbooking is the modern version of scrapbooking that involved scissors, stickers, and punches in the 1990s. I love this idea of organizing photos online, and feel it meets a real need. I know that I am guilty of having photos all over on photo cards, in files that are hard to get to, etc.

ThisLife, by Shutterfly Get a free 20-page Photo book with a paid subscription to ThisLife.

Congrats to winner, Patti!

Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway, which may contain affiliate links. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I received a DVD in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.
Celery Night Fever Veggie TalesAh, VeggieTales! They weren’t part of my childhood, but they were part of my kids’, for sure. Just hearing that opening theme song takes me back 15 years or so:

If you like to talk to tomatoes
If a squash can make you smile
If you like to waltz with potatoes
Up and down the produce aisle…
Have we got a show for you!

And you know the rest. So, when I was asked about reviewing a new VeggieTales DVD, I was happy to. One thing I always liked about VeggieTales was that the lyrics to the songs and the dialogue in the shows was smart, with cultural references and clever plays on words to keep them entertaining for adults as well as for kids.

VeggieTales began in 1993 and has sold more than 70 million DVDs, 15 million books and 7 million CDs. The early episodes featured Bible stories, and I have to admit that these are still my favorites. These days, the veggie characters focus on admirable character traits, such as honesty, contentment, kindness, sharing, and forgiveness. At the end of each story, Bob and Larry share Bible passages that reflect and reinforce the lessons they and their veggie crew have learned.

I enjoyed Celery Night Fever a lot! There’s plenty of nostalgia for adults to enjoy, from polyester leisure suits and disco balls to ’70s musical memories. The story features Bruce Onion, a nefarious real-estate developer who plans to turn Celery Park into a parking lot. His unsavory scheme spurs Laura Carrot and Junior Asparagus to enact a bold plan: reuniting the long-lost ’70s band The Groovy Brothers to play at a fund-raising concert.

The problem is, The Groovy Brothers haven’t spoken to each other in decades, and the members have little interest in getting back together. Their feud spills over to affect Laura and Junior. It’s not just Celery Park that’s in jeopardy: if best friends can’t learn to forgive each other and accept each other’s faults, the veggies might lose their cherished community gathering spot.

The Bible verse Bob and Larry share at the end is Ephesians 4:12: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Would you — or your kids — enjoy this new VeggieTales DVD? You can enter to win a copy using the rafflecopter form below, or look for it in your favorite store (or online).  Enter by August 15 , and I’ll choose a random winner August 16.

Remember: God made you special, and He loves you very much.
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Thanks to Birtsmorton Court for sponsoring this post. All opinions my own.

Planning a wedding? It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event, and so of course you’re looking for a truly special venue.

As wedding reception venues go, you don’t get much better than a medieval moated estate. The foundation was laid in 1241, and for 300 years the court was home to the Nanfan family. The family’s connection to the Tudors is recorded in carvings seen in the Banqueting Hall.

Birtsmorton isn’t just an estate. You can have a church wedding here too! The Church of St. Thomas of Canterbury with St. Peter and St. Paul is nearby, accessed by a private gate. As a recent bride wrote, “We wanted to get married in a church with a reception venue close by. We also wanted a quintessentially English wedding in beautiful countryside – Birtsmorton ticked all the boxes. Fantastic venue with a fantastic team.”

Where is Birtsmorton? It’s in the Midlands region of England — not far from Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon. Wedding venues Midlands are lovely, featuring lush green fields with views of the rolling Malvern Hills. It’s just 120 miles from London, and is not far from Birmingham, Bristol, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Malvern, Gloucester, and Tewkesbury.

After your wedding in the church, guests can walk over to the estate for the reception. If the weather is good, you have both indoor and outdoor options — the Terrace overlooking the moat, the romantic White Garden (complete with flowers, a fountain, and a pergola), or inside the Great Hall, complete with fairy lights and drinks by the cozy fireplace.

I don’t know about you, but I can imagine a wedding straight out of a Jane Austen novel here. You only get married once — why not make it a fairy tale?