Dec 142016
people waiting for the start of a parade

Gathering for the start of the downtown Fredericksburg Christmas Parade

At the moment, I am a bit frazzled by the Christmas season. I find myself in awe that every year we voluntarily agree to take on all these extra duties. Added to the regular mix of taking care of and educating four children, I am now a full-time shipping and receiving clerk, with a living room full of boxes. I also double as a personal shopper and bookkeeper, managing the purchasing and budgeting for all of our gifts. As if all this isn’t enough, as we put up the tree last weekend to my children’s great delight, I found myself questioning the sanity of this practice. If it wasn’t Christmas, who in their right mind would move the furniture to put a huge tree in the house!

But I promise I am not the grinch of the season. We have been having lots of fun as well and I wanted to briefly share a few of these moments.

We kicked off our Christmas celebrations by attending the Christmas parade in downtown Fredericksburg. This is the first time I have actually made it out to the parade. I was duly warned that since the parade started around 5:00 p.m. it would turn very cold. So, in my infinite wisdom, I brought chairs and a huge blanket with us. We had two additional children coming with us. My husband was out of town on business so this was a solo project.

We had to park quite far away and I shepherded the transit of six children, two portable chairs, four heavy folding chairs and a large blanket over several blocks. This was a frantic process which required numerous stops to rest.

We finally reached a good spot on the parade route and set up camp. There were enormous crowds and the only spot available to place our chairs was adjacent to a bike rack. We jammed two chairs in the bike rack space and three more chairs squeezed so closely behind it is amazing we were able to sit. The bike rack ended up being a strategic crowd control measure. It gave us guaranteed space on one side. We loaned our extra chair to another family. As soon as the parade started, people jammed in to stand right behind our chairs and we were pretty much cemented in for the duration.

pick-up truck decorated in lights

The parade kicked off with lots of pick-up trucks, lights and baton twirling.

people dressed in inflatable ornament costumes, their legs exposed

The best costume…..some leggy ornaments.

marching band with lighted instruments

One of many marching bands. All of the bands were excellent and had great LED lights wrapped around their instruments.

gymnasts in a Christmas parade performing handstands

We got a taste for some of the city’s talent, including many gymnasts and dancers. These gymnasts were doing handstands throughout the parade route! (Also, notice the dogs in the foreground. They got lots of attention from the parade participants.)

horses in a Christmas parade

Equestrians representing a local horse club. “Ditch your car. Ride a horse!” one cried out.

float in a Christmas parade

There weren’t too many elaborate floats. Most were pick-up trucks or commercial rigs with a few lights or towing a small bed of children. This was one of the more detailed floats.

toddler pointing to Christmas parade in excitement

My son was a HUGE fan of the parade.

About halfway through the parade, the older children said, “We’re cold. Can we go now?” Unfortunately, with our enormous load of children and chairs and the huge crowds, there was no way for us to leave. “Snuggle under the blanket! It will be over soon!” My toddler son, however, was positively thrilled by the parade and was the most enthusiastic observer, waving to all the participants.

My phone battery died before the parade ended so I didn’t get a shot of the finale with Santa on a giant sleigh float. Once the parade ended, however, the next adventure for us began.

After we waited for the crowds to die down a bit, we paused to reconsider our carrying strategy to get all the gear back to the car. Amazingly, one of my children brought a jump rope with them to the parade so we used that to tie the four folding chairs together. I was the designated lifter of said chairs and the one problem with this strategy was that four chairs are super heavy!

We waddled down the street a block at a time, pausing to rest frequently. With the phone out of battery, we had to rely on our memory of where the car was. We got fairly close to the car but were missing the cross street we walked down. We tried asking various strangers if we were headed the right direction. No one seemed to know downtown Fredericksburg at all.

Since it seemed like it could be a while until we found the car, I ditched the chairs at a corner, making note of the cross street to pick them up later. I picked up the toddler to improve our traveling pace.

Finally, a mom with a stroller pointed us in a direction and we headed that way. Unfortunately, this took us in a completely wrong direction and we ended up somewhere near the University of Mary Washington. We ran into numerous college students and asked them for directions but they were worse than the parade strangers having almost no idea of even well-known attractions in the city. If it was anything outside of a one block radius of the campus, they had no idea.

Eventually, we wandered down a street and found the Sugar Shack Donuts. We all remembered driving past this on the way in. We tried to ask some police officers at the donut shop to point us the right direction but they were busy questioning or arresting some college students so we decided to try to remember our way back to the car.

Fortunately, my landmark memory kicked in and we got on the right track. As we got within 3 blocks of the car, the mom who had pointed me in the wrong direction came driving up, “I’m so sorry!” she cried. She offered to give us a ride the remaining 3 blocks to our car but we just thanked her and hoofed it.

It was funny to see the children, who were complaining about being cold and so tired they were going to fall down, start RUNNING to the car once they saw it. They were so thrilled. We all felt the rush of evading danger, as though we were survivors of some life-threatening emergency.

map of how lost we got finding the car

Map of our own “parade” route trying to find the car. Orange = the path we were supposed to take. Blue = the convoluted path we took back to the car

We all loaded into the warmth of the car and plugged in the cell phone to charge and navigate back to the chairs. They were still there waiting for us.

After all this exercise, the children heartily devoured two large pizzas and a grand time was had by all.

I’m not sure I will attempt this parade again but it was fun to do once. If you ever go to a night parade in December, a few organizing tips:

1) bring chairs (but not folding chairs)
2) bring a blanket for the wind chill
3) drop your stuff at a convenient safe place close to your parade spot and pick it up on the way
4) charge your cell phone fully beforehand!

 Posted by on December 14, 2016 General Tagged with: , ,
Nov 242016

Anne and kids at Thanksgiving table

Long time no see, Ruly readers!

This year has generally come down to a choice between blogging about organizing and actually doing my organizing. I have been working on a lot of great projects but have been terrible about keeping you updated.

While I wish my return to blogging could be with a wonderful, insightful post, after a long day of cooking and cleaning, this is about all I am up for at the moment!

As a quick note, this Thanksgiving, we tried a few new things:

  • We flavored the turkey with cinnamon, pepper and salt per these instructions. It was delicious but not that much different in flavor from our typical turkey.
  • We tried substituting mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes again. I left out the garlic and they came out much better but are still not quite like the real thing.
  • My table was set with one of my grandmother’s pottery dishes and my other grandmother’s glassware and silver. This was a wonderful way to remember them and feel a bit of home. If you are ever in the sad position of taking a memento from a grandmother’s estate, a piece of serving ware is fairly easy to store and brings back a lot of good memories.
  • My daughters were a tremendous help to me! They are getting quite talented at decorating for the holidays and they set the table themselves! They also each made a pie. One chose the classic Nestle Toll House cookie pie (which was delicious but next time we might cut down the amount of butter in it). The other chose Creamy Pumpkin Pie, which is super simple to make and a kid pleaser.

Hope you had an incredible day and thank you for sticking with me through all the twists and turns that organizing journeys take!

Thanksgiving 2016!

Thanksgiving 2016!

 Posted by on November 24, 2016 General Tagged with: , ,
Sep 072016
Left: the old site and Right: the new design.

Left: the old site and Right: the new design.

Thanks to my amazingly talented husband, has had a facelift over the weekend. My site now runs on new technology and has a few new design changes and improved features you may enjoy!

Clean, white background

This is something I have always wanted but never got around to fixing properly. Now lots of white space.

Simpler design elements

With a little tweaking of the aptly named “Minima” version of the Suffusion WordPress theme, posts have simpler fonts and easier to access comments.


Technical fixes

In the course of upgrading, a few broken links and other minor technical problems were fixed and upgraded.

Suggested posts

Thanks to the Contextual Related Posts plugin, each post now will suggest 3 other similar articles based on the content of each post.



I have added a favicon. Now if you bookmark or save it to a favorite on your phone or in feedly, you will see the Ruly woman caricature.



It has taken me some time to learn that if you want your photo to appear next to your blog comments, you need to set up an account with Gravatar. At long last, I have done so. If you prefer to be recognizable in your comments, you may do so as well. It is free and easy. If you prefer to remain anonymous, the comments still work the same as ever.


What do you think of the new design?

 Posted by on September 7, 2016 General
Jul 312016
Scene: The Byrd Theater, Richmond, Virginia, midnight.

Scene: The Byrd Theater, Richmond, Virginia, midnight.

After watching her children fill their summer reading logs with Harry Potter, the Briggs Mother scours the closets for Harry Potter-ish clothing, having a bit of luck that last year’s Halloween costumes included 2 Harry Potter characters.





The Briggs children reluctantly slip into their costumes and are excited by the prospect of being out so late at night. The family loads into the minivan and drives south to Richmond, Virginia during an exciting thunderstorm. Heavy rain falls as thunder and lightning enliven the night sky. Along a country backroad, they encounter a black and white owl (Hedwig perhaps?), frogs are hopping in the puddles and deer hide in the meadows.

They arrive in Richmond just before midnight. The storm has stopped. At the Byrd Theater, a line of people stretches around the block. The crowd is full of Harry Potter fans, some in costume and some wearing more subtle costumes like Quidditch team T-shirts. As the children take their place in line, someone calls out from the crowd, “You are winning at parenting!” People walking by stop to chat with us and admire the costumes.


A few people have these realistic looking stuffed owls.

A few people have these realistic looking stuffed owls.

If they are nice, they might even let you hold it for a minute.

If they are nice, they might even let you hold it for a minute.


As midnight approaches, the Chop Suey bookshop owner appears in wizard robe and hat and counts down. 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 .. . . the crowd erupts in cheers and bookstore workers cut open the boxes and start distributing books. Everyone starts reading in line.



After a while, the Byrd Theater opens its doors and people stream in. The theater is a gorgeous historic gem, complete with velvet seats, curtains, paintings and carvings on the walls, a balcony and a piano and harp in the wings.


The crowd settles in and after a short wait, a rotation of attendees begin reading from the first act of the book. The Briggs daughters listen to the performance, following along in the book. The youngest Briggs is too excited by the theater and runs through the empty back seats the entire time. The Briggs Mother follows closely behind.


As the reading ends, people begin streaming out of the theater. The youngest Briggs daughter asks to purchase one of the delicious cupcakes being sold in the lobby. The Briggs Mother agrees to get one to share and as the daughter is selecting her cupcake, the cupcake purveyor inquires, “Would you like to try our sorting hat cupcake?” “Oh yes!” the Briggs daughter replies and is rewarded with a chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting.


The family piles back into the minivan for the drive home with the oldest brother sulking that he wants his own cupcake. Everyone tastes the rich, gooey confection and discovers that the center appears to be peanut butter filled.

“Hufflepuff!” comes a cry from the backseat.


 Posted by on July 31, 2016 General Tagged with: , , , ,
Jul 122016

the word endure embossed on a gray background

I didn’t manage to choose a theme word for 2016 but the word “endure” keeps coming to me of late. 2016 is an odd year! I don’t feel that I am making much progress toward accomplishing anything and that for every step forward I take, I am set back by some small emergency or another. Fortunately, I manage to recover from my emergencies and get back to where I started but for me 2016 so far has been a lot of running in place. It is no small coincidence that I am also living with a 15-month old who manages to wreak this type of havoc everywhere he goes.

I feel very fortunate that my emergencies are just small, frequent and irritating. I have heard from many people for whom 2016 has dealt some heavy blows to them personally. And in the news we also see a lot of this type of backsliding pattern:

*economic data that seems to suggest that it gets harder and harder just to maintain whatever standard of living we want to achieve

*presidential candidates from both parties who manage to slog through exhausting state-by-state primaries only to find significant parts of their own parties who don’t want to support them

*Muslim and gay Americans who found their worlds torn apart and safety threatened by the shooting in Orlando

*Black Lives Matter protesters who, just as they are gaining traction for their cause, are blindsided by a vigilante shooting police officers

When all of this chaos is going on, it is easy to get down and feel frustrated. But so far, the lesson of 2016 also seems to be that if you can just be patient, and thoughtfully evaluate and react to what has happened, life will reset to a manageable level.

It has been very inspiring to me of late to see the reactions to the police shootings in Dallas. So many people of differing backgrounds reaching out to confirm that no one in America wants a full on race war that threatens everyone’s safety.

So if 2016 is tough for you, hang in there! Endure.

P.S. Due to a recent inundation of spam comments (one of my 2016 irritations), I needed to improve the CAPTCHA to blog article comments requiring you to do a math problem to make a comment. If you cannot comment, please feel free to drop me a line by email.

 Posted by on July 12, 2016 General Tagged with: , , ,