Book Review–“Dressing the Queen”

I mentioned Dressing the Queen: The Jubilee Wardrobe by Angela Kelly a while back, and I’m finally getting around to reviewing it. In short, if you’re a fan of fashion, or Queen Elizabeth II, or history, you’ll love this book!

It’s filled with beautiful pictures of fabrics:


And jewelry:


And pictures that show the amazing detail that goes into every aspect of the Queen’s wardrobe:



There are also sketches created by Angela Kelly:


And some photos that can only be described as whimsical:


One of my favorite parts of the book is a picture of the Queen in what can only be described as a “casual” pose…as casual as you can be when you’re Queen, anyway!


Pictures aside, this book is full of information. You’ll learn what kind of fabrics are used, and during which season, and where the fabrics come from. Some of them are quite old! You’ll learn what the team of dressers actually does, and how they keep track of what the Queen has worn in the past.

There are also sections on hats and accessories, which are fascinating. And the care of the Queen’s wardrobe is also discussed, as is packing it up for a trip, big or small. No book about the Queen’s wardrobe would be complete with a section on her jewelry, and there is a nice representation of the different gemstones she favors in photographs. I was very interested to learn how the jewelry is presented to the Queen every day!

A big section of the book is naturally dedicated to the Diamond Jubilee wardrobe, as the subtitle suggests. Of course, the famous three outfits of the Jubilee weekend are shown, but so are less-known outfits, like the ones worn to the Royal Windsor Horse Show, the Sovereign’s Lunch, and the Royal Ascot. And the Queen’s “Bond Girl” dress from the Opening Ceremonies of the London Olympics is discussed in great detail!

Dressing the Queen is both beautiful and informative. It is practically unheard of for a member of the Queen’s staff to be given permission to write a book about his or her job, which makes this a very special, unique item, with a very unusual perspective. I highly recommend it!

My New Favorite Book

I have a new favorite book–Dressing the Queen by Angela Kelly. I think it may have even made its way to my top five list.


I hope to do a full review later, but for now, let me just say, if you love the Queen, or fashion, or both, you’ll want to pick it up. The pictures are amazing, and really show the amazing detail that goes into the Queen’s wardrobe, especially for those of us who have only seen her on TV or in print, but never in person!

More 2012 in Review

This has been A Year. There’s really no other way to describe it. It was, by far, the best year of my life to date, and there’s a part of me that doubts that there will ever be another year quite as good. The events that occurred, and the timing of those events, was so outstanding that all I can do is sit back and thank God for the way He arranged this year of celebrations for my family!

January was by far the quietest month of the year. We celebrated our 100th day of school, and Ladybug joined in, as she unofficially started kindergarten during that month. We finished preparing our home for Chickadee’s arrival. I was sad to see the end of One Life to Live, although, if it had to end, it certainly went the right way. We also re-subscribed to cable TV, so I spent a lot of my pregnancy-induced sleepless nights catching up on What Not to Wear!

In February, things started to get busy. Ryan rejoined the American Kantorei for the Bach at the Sem series, and we all enjoyed attending his concerts. I got to see Chickadee holding onto her umbilical cord during an ultrasound…it should come as no surprise, then, that she loves holding onto my hair now! We also made sure she’d be well-equipped for her first Opening Day and Cardinals game. Turkey had two teeth pulled, and hardly even noticed it happening. Ladybug picked out new animal print glasses. We had a fun field trip, started a new Lenten tradition, and celebrated Leap Day. Above all, we spent all of February excited knowing that Chickadee would be arriving the next month!

Without a doubt, March was the craziest, most exciting month of the year. The highlight was, of course, the birth of our little Chickadee. A few other things happened, too, though. We finally got a Dunkin’ Donuts, which was very exciting for me. We had fun celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, and even got to help Moose make a Leprechaun trap for school. I spent a lot of time baking, even though I couldn’t indulge in eating many of my creations due to gestational diabetes. Turkey turned nine. The children got to meet their new sister, and we brought her home!

April was almost as busy as March. Turkey and Bunny were confirmed on Palm Sunday, the same day Chickadee was baptized into God’s family. That was one of the most amazing, emotional days of my life. We celebrated Easter a week later. We had our traditional Opening Day food fest at home, and less than a week later, took Chickadee to her first Cardinals game. Much to Bunny’s delight, an American Girl store opened in St. Louis. We found that last year’s bird’s nest was once again in use. We also had the interesting experience of oven shopping.

Things remained busy in May. Chickadee started smiling at us–so cute! Our new oven was delivered. I got a new pair of glasses for the first time in over five years, and I must have been inspired by Ladybug, because they, too, have an animal print. The next generation of baby birds hatchedLadybug turned five. Ryan and I got to go to the Cardinals game (along with Chickadee), where Tony LaRussa’s number was retired. The following day, Ryan and I (and Chickadee, again), went to the Science Center to see Star Trek: The Exhibition. Moose graduated from kindergarten. We not only went to Art on the Square, but actually bought something for the first time ever. We spent an afternoon at Grant’s Farm, one of our very favorite places to go. Ryan and Ladybug went to a Cardinals game, just the two of them, and got to meet Fredbird and get autographs from two players. We celebrated the birthday of the church on Pentecost  Turkey started his third season of parks and rec baseball, and loved every minute of it.

Life finally slowed down a bit in June (but only a bit!). We celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee from afar. As part of our celebration, we had our first tea party of the year. This was one of my favorite non-family related parts of the year, learning all about the Queen and her reign. Turkey and Bunny finished third grade. The summer really started to heat up, making everybody miserable.

July brought an end to the slower pace we enjoyed in June. I spent my first-ever day at the spa, and hope I can go back again sometime. We celebrated the Fourth of July in our typical fashion, but sans fireworks, thanks to a ban on them due to excessive heat and drought. Turkey had his last baseball game of the summer. Bunny turned eight, and we enjoyed tea party number two of the year to celebrate. Chickadee attended her first-ever VBS at our church, along with the rest of the family, of course. She also gave up being swaddled at bedtime, which was a little bittersweet. We enjoyed the beginning of the London Olympics, which included tea party number three, and special lessons in school.

At the beginning of August, we managed to tear ourselves away from the Olympics long enough to go to Build a Bear day at Busch Stadium, which also included a walk along the warning track. It was also a “turn back the clock” night…I loved the throwback uniforms and high socks! We had our own family Olympics, in which “Team Markel” won. We got rid of cable TV–again. I got ready for the start of our fifth year of homeschooling by rearranging the school room–again. Moose started first grade, Ladybug officially started kindergarten, and Turkey and Bunny began fourth grade. We went apple picking and got 12 pounds of apples. Chickadee was our little tagalong in school, and constantly kept the whole family amused with her antics.

At the beginning of September, I worked on creating a logo for our school, with help from the children. We were quite happy with the results. I discovered that one of my favorite books ever had finally been reprinted. Chickadee started crawling. We saw the Thunderbirds perform at the Scott Air Force Base air show. We took in another baseball game, and had a kind usher take the best picture of the seven of us to that date. Chickadee reluctantly started eating solid foods. We had fun making handprint angels on Michaelmas.

We spent the month of October learning about the Reformation and enjoying the beautiful fall colors. We had our annual trip to the pumpkin patch, where we picked over 40 pounds of pumpkins. Moose lost three top teeth…eating became a very interesting activity for him! Ryan and I enjoyed the “Kozmania” that overtook Cardinal Nation, especially since we had seen his very-first major league at-bat the year before. I finally found a hat to wear to church. We watched Felix Baumgartner’s incredible, insane skydive from practically outer-space, some of us with morbid curiosity.

In November, Chickadee figured out how to pull herself up to a standing position. Moose turned seven. I had my best-ever game in Bookworm, and promptly stopped playing so I could go out on top. We started Thanksgiving school, and a “Thankful Tree.” We had a nice Thanksgiving…it was especially fun to share Chickadee’s first Thanksgiving with her! We went to our town’s tree lighting, and then went back downtown on a nicer day to look at all of the gingerbread houses. I rearranged our schoolroom–yet again. I think it will stay this way for quite a while! We started our Christmas celebrations a little early by taking the children to their first Boar’s Head Festival, in preparation for our “Christmas in England” theme in school this year.

December brought our favorite time of the year…the Advent and Christmas seasons! Many of our favorite activities take place in December…Christmas on the Hill, Tuba Christmas, and going to St. Charles for the Christmas Traditions festival. In school, we continued making banners for the church year, and learned about Christmas throughout England’s history, which included reading some great books, such as A Christmas Carol. We had a Christmas tea party (number four for the year!), and an English Christmas dinner to accompany our lessons. It was great fun being so very British this whole year! We added readings for the Great “O” Antiphons to our Advent traditions. We spent a lot of time baking, decorating, and delivering cookies and other treats, and basically kept busy right up until Christmas. It was especially fun to get to celebrate a first Christmas again! We even had a white Christmas, although a few days late…but it was still during the season of Christmas, so it counts! I did a lot of work on my blog this month, too, adding pages for liturgical year things such as feasts, festivals, and commemorations, the Jesse Tree, the Great “O” Antiphons, and the Jesus Tree, that are important to our family.

I can’t wait to see what 2013 holds for our family…I know that there will be lots more holidays and celebrations to look forward to sharing together. I pray that God blesses all of your families as greatly as He has blessed mine!

Jubilee Moments

As Jubilee Week comes to a close, I have some thoughts on my favorite parts of the various events celebrating the reign of Queen Elizabeth II:

  • The Gloriana–I thought this “rowbarge” (the word barge seems to have a slightly different meaning in England) was absolutely beautiful, especially when you saw all of the rowers in their synchronized movements.
  • The Belfry Boat–I’d never heard of such a thing before, and maybe never will again, but it was amazing to see and hear this eight-bell boat as it made its way down the Thames.
  • Elderly Soldiers–There was something very moving about seeing the Queen greeting elderly soldiers, some of whom were unable to stand, and even more moving to see their emotional responses to meeting her.
  • Salutes–There were so many salutes over the course of the long weekend, and I just didn’t get tired of the ceremony involved when military members saw the Queen and/or her family.
  • Tower Bridge–I’ve never seen the Tower Bridge get the “full lift” before, as they call it. Apparently the Queen always does receive this honor, regardless of the size of the boat she’s on. It’s amazing to watch it go up, and to see how quickly it’s done!
  • Beacon Lighting–I really liked the symbolism of all of those beacons being lit around the world…it made me wish we had a beacon to light, too!
  • Playing of “Jupiter”–This is one of my favorite pieces of music, from The Planets by Holst. I thought it was very cool when it was played during the fireworks display following the beacon lighting…very inspirational!
  • Charles Saying “Mummy”--A touching personal moment in public, from a family that works so hard to keep its private moments private.
  • The BBC Special–Along those same lines, I loved watching the tribute by Prince Charles that BBC aired. Getting a glimpse into who the royal family really is was fascinating, and it was a touching tribute to Elizabeth, both as Queen and as mother.
  • God Save the Queen–We really don’t have anything like this in America, but hearing the whole crowd chanting this so enthusiastically was thrilling, even for someone who doesn’t really have an allegiance to the Queen.
  • The Te Deum–I’m a sucker for a Te Deum, especially a special occasion Te Deum. I loved hearing this sung as the Queen walked into the church.
  • The Flypast–I love a flight demonstration team, and I’ve been interested in the Red Arrows for several years. The best part was the red, white, and blue trailing behind them…it was almost American!
  • The “Hip-Hip-Hooray”–I guess I didn’t realize that people actually said this, but like the chants of “God Save the Queen,” it was pretty amazing to hear such a throng shouting this in unison.
  • The National Anthem–I never tired of hearing “God Save the Queen” sung over the four days of celebrations, even though it was sung constantly. I don’t think I’ll ever sing “God Bless Our Native Land” quite the same way again!
  • The Fashion–I’m not going to lie…I loved seeing all of the clothing, hats, (oh that I could wear hats!), and jewelry showcased in these events. The Queen always looks beautiful and ladylike, and the other dresses and uniforms were fun to watch and admire!

Third Grade: Week Twenty-Nine Wrap-Up

The book has been officially closed on third grade!

I can’t believe we’ve finished our fourth year of homeschooling. I guess we’re no longer novices at this, especially since I’m now on my second cycle of going through things with Ladybug.

This week was pretty much what you’d expect from the last week of school: wrap-up and review. We finished our state study in “Adventures in My Father’s World,” (which, having completed it, I have to say, was an awesome program!), and in doing so, wrapped up westward expansion, as well. We’ll pick up where we left off next year, reviewing the Civil War, and then going on from there in American History.

We finished our math books, and I think that may be our greatest achievement this year. Not finishing the book, because we always do, but learning everything in it. We’ve conquered multiplication and division, (although, not long division…yet), we learned about fractions, geometry, and simple equations…in short, we covered a lot of ground this year!

We wrapped up everything else, as well…except Latin. We’ll have to finish Latin Christiana I up in fourth grade, before we move on to First Form Latin. Something had to give following Chickadee’s birth, and that something was Latin. I’m just glad we kept up with our vocabulary review…hopefully that means when we pick it up again, we won’t have forgotten everything!

We did have a great time celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this week. I’d like to think we would have done this even if we weren’t homeschoolers, as it was a once-in-a-lifetime event. I think we would have, but I probably wouldn’t have worried about the educational aspect…we just would have had fun of making crowns and having a tea party. We probably wouldn’t have worried about the documentaries or the worksheets, though. I do think that when I look back at Turkey’s and Bunny’s third grade year, this will be my favorite school memory. Like I said, it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and sharing it with my children made it even more special!

On the agenda next year? Fourth grade for Turkey and Bunny, (and I’ll be designing our curriculum!), and a more formal kindergarten for Ladybug. I can’t  believe I’ll be starting my fifth year as a homeschooling mom!

The Queen’s Speech

I really liked this short speech Queen Elizabeth prepared for the end of the Jubilee. I know that the events of the last few days will, as she said, “brighten my life for many years to come,” as I look back on this historical event, and remember sharing it with my children.

The Diamond Jubilee

I don’t if it’s been apparent here, but I’m something of an Anglophile. I also love history, and watching history-in-the-making. So, Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee has been a big deal to me, as it is something I had never seen before, and will likely never see again, and like anything that’s important to me, it found its way into our school and family activities.

I found a great website with lots of fun Jubilee, (as well as British), activities. There were coloring sheets, mazes, word searches, worksheets, and craft ideas. They were suitable for a variety of ages, so I was able to find some activities for Turkey and Bunny, some for Moose and Ladybug, and some for all four of them, (but nothing for Chickadee, yet…I guess I’ll just have to tell her about the Jubilee when she’s older). This was a great way to learn about the royal family, the monarchy in general, and even a little bit of British history. I’ll be coming back to this website for ideas for the Olympics later in the summer!

Of coure, we needed to make crowns again. They’re a little bit different from the ones we made for the Royal Wedding, but one of the basic templates was the same. Nothing wrong with recycling a good idea with a new twist!

I made one pattern for the boys…

And a different one for the girls:

It was fun watching how the children went about decorating their crowns… they’re all so different! Turkey, naturally, was very exacting about which gems he chose. Bunny was a little particular, but not to the extent Turkey was. Moose had a specific way of making his, but his reasoning wasn’t quite clear to me. And Ladybug? She just wanted to put the most gems possible on her crown! Typical Ladybug. Even Chickadee had a tiny tiara, although she wasn’t too excited about wearing it!

I did make one special crown myself, using this pattern. I made it to fit Ryan’s head, but mostly, I made just because I wanted to see if I could. I was quite happy with the results!

I found a children’s book about Queen Elizabeth II for us to read: Queen Elizabeth II: Her Story by John Malam. Sadly, I couldn’t get a physical copy of the book here in The Colonies, (sorry, I couldn’t resist), so this was my first attempt in the world of Kindle books, (but read on the iPad). It worked out fine in digital format, but I liked it so much, I really wish I had a printed copy! It’s a great book, which focuses primarily on the Queen’s formative years, and early reign, and has lots of interesting facts and great pictures. Bunny loved it, and read it on her own several times, which explains why she’s been entertaining us with Windsor family trivia!

We also did some “Jubilee math” in school. I had Turkey and Bunny figure things out like what year the Queen’s coronation occurred, how old she was when she was crowned, and what year she was born. We then answered similar questions about Queen Victoria’s reign. We also figured out how old Prince Charles would be if he were to reign for 60 years starting now, and were quite shocked at the answer.

We watched most of the festivities on BBC America, (with a little help from CNN), as well as some documentaries about the royals. The children were impressed by the number of boats at the flotilla on Sunday, but I think their favorite part was watching the Tower Bridge get the “full lift” for the Queen. I really liked the belfry boat. The beacon-lighting ceremony on Monday, followed by a fireworks show was also quite popular. I liked Tuesday’s church service especially the Te Deum, and the flypast was awesome, especially the Red Arrows, but I really just loved watching it all. We also saw specials on the Queen’s horses, as well as the new BBC documentary, The Diamond Queen, which  has been added to our movie library.

Anytime we learn about something British also means it’s time for a tea party. We tried a different flavor of tea this time, and I got really adventurous and made scones with “Devonshire Cream,” as well as shortbread, dried apricots, red currant jelly sandwiches, and my personal favorite, cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches on cocktail rye. Yum!

We also got to have two special, English-themed dinners. On Saturday, following the Thames River Pageant, I made sausage rolls, which were delicious. Tuesday’s dinner was a replica of the coronation chicken served at the luncheon following the queen’s coronation 60 years ago. The chicken was (somewhat surprisingly) a huge hit with all of the children…and I thought it would be too “weird” for their somewhat unrefined palettes! It was fun to make some English foods for dinner both nights!

I also picked up a four-pack of Boddingtons Pub Ale, which is an ale I’ve wanted to try ever since I heard it referenced on an episode of Friends. It was a little more bitter than I tend to prefer, but it was one of the most interesting beverages I’ve ever had, down to the fact that you can’t drink it out of the can because of a nitrogenated insert.

No English meal would be complete without a trifle for dessert! I chose a somewhat untraditional double chocolate mocha trifle. This recipe is definitely going in my permanent collection…it was amazing!

This was definitely an event I’ll never forget, and I really hope the children, (aside from Chickadee), will never forget it either!

A Truly Remarkable Woman

I’m not British, but I can respect and appreciate the service Queen Elizabeth II has given to her country. And while it’s not my anthem, I think that the words to “God Save the Queen” really reflect her reign, as God has truly blessed her, both with His gifts, and a long life and equally long reign.

God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us:
God save the Queen.

Thy choicest gifts in store,
On her be pleased to pour;
Long may she reign:
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause
To sing with heart and voice
God save the Queen.

Third Grade: Week Twenty-Eight Wrap-Up

This was our second-to-last week of third grade. Our main focus was on the Civil War. I found the Children’s Encyclopedia of American History to be a very helpful supplement to our studies, because, to be honest, “Adventures in My Father’s World” really just kind of skims over this event. I like the way the encyclopedia divided the Civil War–first, we looked at the mounting issues that led to the War, then some of the major battles, as well as the “modern technologies” that were used in fighting. We also learned a little bit about Reconstruction, and carpetbaggers and scalawags.

At the end of the week, we started our mini-unit about Queen Elizabeth II and her Diamond Jubilee. I put together some worksheets and crafts, and found a book to read and some documentaries for us to watch. We’ll finish up with those lessons during our last week of school…we’ll even be having tea! It’s a great way to end a great school year!