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The Day I Gave Up Caring What My Kids Looked Like

Since day one with my eldest boy, I’ve cared about appearance. If he spit up on his onesie, it didn’t matter if there was nobody else home – I’d change his clothes. I didn’t spend a fortune on outfits or anything, but I always wanted him to look cute. Fortunately he’d wear whatever I bought for him and enjoyed being stylish. He rocked newsboy caps and coordinating Chuck Taylors. He had style and I loved showing him off.

Then my second son came and it was more of the same. Precious coordinating outfits down to the matching underwear and socks. Such a cutie-pie and a personality to match. I loved getting compliments on my boys, especially when they wore matching outfits. Weren’t they adorable?!

Ahhh, coordinating outfits! This makes my Type-A heart sing 🙂

I also have a stepdaughter. Up until about 2 years ago, I chose her outfits for her, buying the cutest things with coordinating accessories. Each morning without fail I’d do up her hair in elaborate styles with braids and bows. I loved seeing her dolled up and hearing the compliments on how pretty she looked.

Enter my baby daughter. She’s currently 19 months old and I’ve been so fortunate to receive a plethora of cuter-then-cute hand-me-downs. She loves to dress up too. After I’ve gotten her dressed in the morning and fixed her hair up into a bow, she checks herself out in the mirror and squeals with delight! She never pulls her bows out, not since she was a tiny baby. Naturally I absolutely adore dressing her up in sweet outfits and hearing all the buzz from passersby about how adorable she is.

I mean, come on…this outfit and that pose!! She’s a natural!

Letting Them Pick

Okay, so my eldest is now almost 14. My stepdaughter is 13. And my middle son is about to turn 6. Of course, though I’m still in charge of purchasing their clothes I’m beyond the point of being able to pick and choose their daily outfits (maybe Christmas outfits, being the exception!) These three big kids choose what they’re going to wear. And that’s both a good and bad thing. And I had the HARDEST time letting it go.

I started getting push back from my eldest, wanting to wear only basketball shorts and everything in black. He’s since added in more color to his wardrobe, but it’s still all pretty much basketball clothes. And the shirt that he wore on his kindergarten t-ball team? He only stopped wearing it last year – people, he was 12!! He has finally passed it down to his little brother (despite that it has older brother’s name silk screened on the back)..

Stepdaughter started asking if she could choose her own outfits and I obliged. At first it was cringe-worthy, the patterns and styles that came out of the bedroom in the morning. I sent her back to her room a lot to swap out either the top or the pants, because I just couldn’t let her walk out of the house wearing an orange striped shirt with red jeans, could I? I still did up her hair for a while though, until she took that over too, not wanting braids or bows any longer. Hair is usually pulled back sloppily into a regular ponytail.

Second son is probably the most eclectic of all. He’s incredibly creative and at 4, started resisting to the outfits I’d chosen. He now regularly walks out for the day wearing sweatpants, a tank top and knee socks pulled over the hem of the pants.

The Day I Gave Up Caring

I was going through a drawer filled with pictures at my mom’s house. The kids and I were giggling over the old photos, in particular the ones with the 1980s version of mommy. I was rockin’ copious amounts of blue eye shadow behind my enormous pink glasses. Permed hair with wild bangs that I never could get ratted up quite right. And the outfits. What’s funny is I know that I dressed even more wildly, there is just no photographic evidence. My wise mother didn’t capture those over-the-top moments when I was wearing four ponytails, layered socks and two skirts (yes, I remember layering a short skirt over a long one!) I certainly did dress funky, even though my excuse is that it was the 80s. Each outfit was my own personal style.

Not terrible but I am wearing a white sailor hat (why?!)

And then it hit me – I was stifling my kids from having their own personal style.

In not letting my kids wear what was their personal style, I was really putting a damper on letting them grow and develop into the unique person that God wants them to be.

I’d asked my mom about those wild outfits years ago, cringing at a particular photo of me with both blue eye shadow AND blue mascara. She told me that she’d always admired my fashion gusto as a child. She wanted to foster my creativity. And that if I wanted to wear three ponytails on my head or a half dozen hair clips, she’d let me. She said her only suggestion was that I not mix plaids, even if my kindergarten reasoning was that they had the same colors.

Letting Them Grow By Letting It Go

And so I stopped making suggestions on what my kids should or shouldn’t wear. I started turning a blind eye (literally) to what I was seeing them wear at the breakfast table. I changed my commentary to say things like, “That’s a cute top on you” or “What a colorful outfit today!” The self-confidence is rising.

If I don’t want my kids to wear a particular item anymore, I unceremoniously remove it from their closet and put it in the donation bin. If it’s not in the closet, they can’t wear it anymore.

People aren’t complimenting my eldest three on their clothes anymore. People just don’t say anything about their appearance. Nobody really cares that the oldest boy is wearing basketball shorts again. Or that stepdaughter has her hair in a sloppy ponytail. Or that little son is wearing neon green socks with orange sandals. I no longer think that it reflects poorly on me if my kids aren’t dressed to the nines.

But what I do hear goes deeper than that. I’m hearing how well behaved they are. How generous and how kind. What good friends they are. That’s what’s really important, right? Not that they’re wearing something mismatched.

You may see me out and about with the kids, or maybe you see a photo of them online. One of the kids is wearing a clip-on tie with their t-shirt, one is wearing a Christmas themed shirt in July and the other has spiked his hair with too much gel. Just smile and nod. And know that I’m dying inside to correct them. But that I’m choosing to let them grow by letting it go.

Fashion & Style on a Budget – Looking Good on a Dime

Fashion & Style on a Budget - Looking Good on a Dime. Dozens of tips for looking fashionable & stylish without breaking the bank.

I love to look fashionable but I don’t have a lot of extra money to spend or time for much effort. Fortunately it’s not that hard to work with what you have in order to get fashion and style on a budget.

Once upon a time, I was accepted into the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Unfortunately my family simply could not afford for me to go to this college and I settled for junior college. It was a major let-down in my dream as a fashion designer but I eventually started designing, sewing and selling my boutique items on Ebay & Etsy.

Now, I’m not a fashionista by any means. But I do believe that I know what works for me. It’s up to you to find out what works best for you in creating your own style and flattering look. And it doesn’t have to be a pricey endeavor…it just takes a bit of organization, planning before purchasing and thoughtful accessorizing (did I sound a bit like Tim Gunn there?) In any case, read on!


Organize and look more fashionable on a budget!

SEASONAL STOCK

Keep out only what’s in season and pack away the rest. I have a teeny-tiny closet and don’t have the space to keep sundresses and tank tops hanging up during the winter. I have two bins under my bed that I use for my seasonal wardrobe. When the weather starts to change, I hang up the sweaters and coats and put away the swimsuits and flip-flops. It’s also much easier to find an outfit when I’m not pushing aside summer clothes when it’s 40 degrees outside!

Organize like items together. Bathing suits and sunhats go into one box on the top shelf with scarves and winter hats in another. Take the time to arrange clothes, placing like items together. I have dresses on the far left, then jackets, pants, tank tops, short sleeved tops, long sleeved tops, then cardigans. Having my closet organized makes it so much easier to find what I’m looking for.

Fashion & Style on a Budget - Looking Good on a Dime. Dozens of tips for looking fashionable & stylish without breaking the bank.

LAY IT OUT

Take everything out of your closets and drawers and assess what you have. Only in doing so can you really determine what you are lacking and what you’ll need to purchase. Weed through items that haven’t seen the light of day in 6 months or longer and determine if you want to keep or donate. If those pants make you look lumpy in places you’d rather they not, then why bother keeping them? Or that blouse that never quite fit properly across the bust? Put them in the donate pile! Sweaters with holes or blouses with missing buttons? Fix them within the week or put them in the donation box, do not put them back in your closet until they are repaired and in wearable condition again. Keep only clothes that make you happy and make you look fabulous. Better to have a minimal wardrobe that makes you feel good rather than an extensive collection that you either don’t wear, is uncomfortable or is unflattering.

Plan your outfits in advance. Figure out the night before what you planning on wearing to avoid a scramble in the morning (or the temptation to wear your sweatpants to work!) Set your outfit aside, including your jewelry so you can grab, dress and go!

Fashion & Style on a Budget - Looking Good on a Dime. Dozens of tips for looking fashionable & stylish without breaking the bank.

DETERMINE YOUR TASTE

How do you want to look? What pieces catch your eye? What colors and styles are you drawn to? What outfit to you currently own that you love and feel is flattering to you? These are the pieces that you should be replicating in your closet.

Find a few images on Pinterest that you like or are inspiring to you. Choose one or two things new to try to see how they fit your personal style.

Fashion & Style on a Budget - Looking Good on a Dime. Dozens of tips for looking fashionable & stylish without breaking the bank.

LOVE LAYERS

Layers add depth to your style. I personally love cardigan sweaters and own them in every color of the rainbow. Button just the two middle buttons and a cardigan hides any midsection bumpy bits, makes a flattering V-shape at the chest and nips in the waist. A brightly colored cardigan can jazz up even the most plain tee. Top it off with an eye-catching necklace as the final top layer. I like pairing my lightweight summer blouses with a long sleeved tee for winter.

Know how to layer your looks. If you are going with upper body layers (like a tunic with a loose cardigan) pair this with slender-legged pants. Likewise if you are wearing loose-legged pants,  something with details like cargo pants or a long flowing skirt, pair it with a body skimming tee or a blouse that nips in at the waist to avoid looking baggy. Keep in mind this rule: Loose on top, go more form-fitting on the bottom. Form-fitting on top? Keep the bottom more loose.

Fashion & Style on a Budget - Looking Good on a Dime. Dozens of tips for looking fashionable & stylish without breaking the bank.

EMBRACE COLOR AND PATTERN

Color & pattern make all the difference. What colors do you have in your closet? Consider adding in pops of brightness that you can pair with black, gray and navy. Strategic use of color in your wardrobe can be your best friend. Place color and pattern where you want eyes to go. I have a petite upper body and wider lower half. I like to wear a small scale patterned top in a neutral that I pair with a bright cardigan that draws the eyes up to my face. If you have slender legs and a larger top half, you could wear a small scale print pant or a trouser in a bright color with a neutral on top.

Fashion & Style on a Budget - Looking Good on a Dime. Dozens of tips for looking fashionable & stylish without breaking the bank.

ACCESSORIZING

Little details from head to toe accentuate your style and add charm. The key to taking a drab wardrobe to something eye-catching and fun is definitely in the accessories. A bib necklace, colorful cardigan, dangling earrings or a bright scarf can turn an ordinary outfit into something special. Take a look at what you already own and set aside the pieces that you wear most often. These should be given a prominent place in your jewelry box/organizer. If you haven’t worn a piece in forever, donate it or sell online. Sentimental pieces or dressy items that you don’t wear often but want to keep should go in a place that is out of the way.

I’m a petite 5’2″ and feel overwhelmed when I’m wearing too much jewelry so I’ll choose one piece only, either a necklace, bracelet or earrings and not all three. Especially when wearing a large “statement” piece, it’s best to choose just one and let that piece speak for itself without too much else going on. I like to wear long necklaces to lengthen my figure when I wear colored pants. I wear shorter chokers or earrings for drawing the eye upward when wearing bright colors on top.

Fashion & Style on a Budget - Looking Good on a Dime. Dozens of tips for looking fashionable & stylish without breaking the bank.

I also love to accessorize with Jamberry nail wraps. Whatever Jamberry wraps I’m wearing that week definitely sets the tone for what colors I wear. Having pretty nails definitely keeps my spirits up and I’m more excited to plan a cute wardrobe when my nails are done.

Fashion & Style on a Budget - Looking Good on a Dime. Dozens of tips for looking fashionable & stylish without breaking the bank.  Fashion & Style on a Budget - Looking Good on a Dime. Dozens of tips for looking fashionable & stylish without breaking the bank.

BASIC BRUSH-UPS

Bra and underpants are the first layer. Just because they hide under your clothes doesn’t mean they should become an afterthought. A well-fitting bra and panties that hold everything in place and look invisible & smooth under clothing are worth spending good money on. Request a fitting at a lingerie shop and start small with one bra and one pair of panties in your skin tone and add another set in black. I choose practical pieces that hold up to every day wear and disappear under clothes (no lumpy lace or sequins).

Fashion & Style on a Budget - Looking Good on a Dime. Dozens of tips for looking fashionable & stylish without breaking the bank.

THE DETAILS

Changing our your handbag or purse can put a whole new spin on your style. My brother bought me a gorgeous charcoal Coach bag for my birthday. I’ve never had anything like it before & I was afraid to use it! After keeping it in the closet for a few months, I finally got over my fear of taking it out of the house and now it’s my regular bag. I certainly walk more confidently with that lovely bag on my shoulder! Like-new accessories are within your reach at ThredUp (affiliate link), where someone’s resell becomes your beautiful new designer (reasonably priced) handbag.

Organize and look more fashionable on a budget!Organize and look more fashionable on a budget!Organize and look more fashionable on a budget!

The same with shoes, as a pair can easily make or break your outfit. I have a confession to make: I don’t like buying new shoes! I find them awkward and uncomfortable to get used to and I very rarely find a pair that fits me well right from the start. I’m probably buying the wrong brand, because shoes really shouldn’t require “breaking in”. I prefer to purchase with comfort in mind. A friend discovered these wedge Crocs heels; they are comfortable and super cute! I like having pretty shoes without sacrificing my toes or developing blisters!


Share your fashion resolutions in the comments! What changes would you like to make in your style?

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DIY Recipe for Spaghetti Factory’s Creamy Pesto Salad Dressing

I adore The Old Spaghetti Factory, it’s my favorite restaurant! Unfortunately there isn’t a restaurant very close to me so it’s been relegated as one of those places we only visit every few years. What do I do when I need a big plate of spaghetti mizithra or a salad with their delicious creamy pesto dressing? Well, I do the next best thing to going out to eat…I make it myself at home! The Spaghetti Factory’s Creamy Pesto Salad Dressing will make you crave a big plate of greens.

DIY Creamy Pesto Salad Dressing (Old Spaghetti Factory recipe)  - My favorite dressing, and so easy to make at home!!

I made several jars of this dressing for my birthday party last weekend. I created a salad bar with lots of different toppings. This dressing was by far the hit of the evening and we were scraping the bottom of the jar by the end of the night! Fortunately the container of buttermilk I bought was enough for me to make this recipe three times.

DIY Creamy Pesto Salad Dressing (Old Spaghetti Factory recipe)  - My favorite dressing, and so easy to make at home!!

Everyone at my party was requesting the recipe, so here it is for your dining pleasure!


Gather your ingredients!

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DIY Creamy Pesto Salad Dressing

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp dried basil (I rub it between my palms to break up and release the aroma)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (or one 1/2 tsp of chopped garlic for a stronger garlic flavor)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients in a bowl with a whisk until smooth and creamy. I put mine into a shaker cup with a wire ball to mix and it was perfect (it even has a pouring spout in the lid!). For making multiple batches try mixing the ingredients in your blender.

Refrigerate for one hour to help the flavors blend. Dressing thickens overnight. Serve over salad or as a dip. The recipe made slightly more than what fit in this mason jar.

DIY Creamy Pesto Salad Dressing (Old Spaghetti Factory recipe)  - My favorite dressing, and so easy to make at home!!


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