Just a lovely girl

I don’t have a lot to say about this little dolly. There are some dolls that seem to fight me during their creation. They insist that I redo their eyes several times. Their mouth seems to be off center or their eyebrows simply refuse to line up. But this girl came into being without much fuss, – just quietly, without much ado. Her eyes didn’t cross, she had a good hair day from the first and her sweet, lacy clothing fit to a tee.

All she seemed to ask of me is to acknowledge how pretty she was and to please find her a home here. ☺️

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Increasing my stock

Doll making is slow this time of year. But then, demand is low as well (most people buy dolls at Christmas) so I feel like I can take my time, sewing when I can and posting whenever I am ready. The last thing I want with this little side business of mine is to feel stressed. ☺️

The next two or three dolls I have been working on are more ethnic in nature. I can tell you, working with the same ‘cream’ tone of Kona cotton ( my favorite fabric for doll skin) can get really old after a while. Thankfully, they sell many different shades that work well for dollies. (I’ve been working with some ‘latte’ and ‘mocha’ this week. Makes me wanna sew in a coffee shop.)

I’ve sold a fair number of Asian dolls in the past so I wanted to get one up on my shop again.

I’m particularly pleased with this girl’s ensemble. I opted against a frilly dress this time and went for some super girly floral trousers with button fastenings, a loose, summery blouse and a sweet, blanket stitched, suede jacket to cover all.

I’ve been enjoying doing more tiny details on these dolls as well, such as the little, hand-embroidered floral motif on her blouse. 😍

So there she is! She’s on the shop. Also posted is this girl, who is fast becoming a favorite. She’s just so colorful and pretty with her contrasting darker skin and bright eyes.

Floral skirt with tulle are just about my favorite, especially when accompanied by pleated, bell-sleeved, floral-embroidered blouses.

And her hair. Well, I never get tired of playing with their hair.

I had hoped to get my other dolly included in this photo shoot but my light ran out, so she’ll just have to have her own blog post. Check out my shop for more information! Thanks!

A few more introductions

Hello again! Thank you for your warm reception of the little dolly I introduced a few days ago. She was pretty lonely on my shop so I have her a few companions- these ladies also inspired by the coming spring- dressed in lovely florals and lace.

Blue eyes and dark hair have always been one of my favorite combinations. So I took the blue eyes and made it the motif for this girl. (I also did a photo shoot with some of my favorite books because they were just sitting there and coordinated so nicely.)

Red hair is also a favorite of mine as I may have mentioned a time or two. And red hair means green eyes (for me at least). So green highlights were called for here.

And last but not least, for tonight at any rate, this sweet, dreamy little girl in pink and lace with a dainty hat. I just love her big brown eyes.

I had a lot of fun outlining this delicate little floral design on her blouse and you guys- she even has pink leather shoes. I didn’t used to like pink but it has really grown on me in the past couple of years, which is good because it’s really her color, don’t you think?

These ladies are all on my shop tonight- looking for a good home!

What’s a year long absence among friends?

Well friends, I’m back. At least for today. After a crazy start to 2018, I find myself with a week off of work and figured it would be as good a time as any to try and push my poor neglected Etsy shop a bit. I thought I might as well do a blog post on these latest dolls of mine, since I so enjoyed making them and would like to introduce them properly, instead of just a quick Facebook pic.

I have seven dolls ready to ship although it might take me a while to get them properly photographed and up onto my shop. But I thought I would get this girly up now because she just says ‘Easter’ to me (might have something to do with the seersucker. 😉). and believe it or not, Easter is in just a few days!

She was so pink and, well, pastelly that I couldn’t resist a photo shoot in my daughter’s doll house. Here she is!

And here is her ‘house.’ (Not included with purchase 😁)

I have more and more fun designing the clothes for these little ladies. It might be spring but we all know how changeable spring weather can be so I felt she needed a little pink trench coat, just in case.

But the coat is fully removable (as are the rest of her clothing) and washable as well! So if she gets hot (or muddy) she can always take it off.

I always like to remind my customers that these dolls might seem really delicate but I design them to be played with- a lot. I remember the first really beautiful doll I ever owned- a china doll from my mother. But it was fairly fragile (duh) and one of its feet broke the first week I had her. We had to amputate. I played with her still, but it was more out of pity than anything and I was always nervous that the rest of her would break.

So when I grew up, I determined to make a doll that was as pretty as a china doll but sturdy enough for even little hands to play with. She can even be tossed in the wash if need be.

You may have noticed that I changed her hair for this second set of pics, which brings me to my second reminder.

These wigs are a special design of my own. I have never really liked acrylic yarn hair and the real wool stuff is expensive and hard to play with without it getting ratty really fast. So I make my own ‘yarn’ out of long, thin strips of cotton jersey which is soft and stretchy and doesn’t tangle. Because it’s so long and stretchable, there are a myriad of different ways to style it. This is another result of doll disappointment as a child. I never could seem to get a doll with hair long enough to really play with or one with hair that didn’t turn into a matted mess soon after purchase. And so the cotton jersey wig was born.

So that’s that. As I said, she’s on my shop, hopefully to be followed by others. I plan on selling this outfit individually as well for those who are looking for a wardrobe upgrade for previously purchased dolls.

Let me know what you think. And Happy Easter!

Old shop, new chapter 

Hello dear friends!  I’m blogging! Is that still a thing people do? Do people still   take the time to click on a link that takes them to another site and away from their news feed? I don’t know. Nor do I know if a blog is still a good way to advertise one’s product.  I suspect it’s not.  But I am going to do it anyway, just as a means to update those of you who might be interested in my Etsy shop. But I think from this point I will be doing most of my advertising via social media.

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram at all, you know I have been contemplating opening my shop again after a looong hiatus.  I’ve debated the pros and cons, told myself I have too much on my plate to tackle sewing right now and generally hesitated to jump back in.

But three things convinced me-

-several people asking if I would please reopen

-the fact that I am always sewing anyway so I might as well try to make some money on it

– and, well, money. Spare cash is always acceptable.

Of course I am busy. I have five kids. I homeschool. I work part time for my church and our house is still in process of remodeling.  But I figured if I had a few spare minutes, I would just sew what I had time for, have some fun and not stress about it.

There are some things I learned from the last time I was selling dolls etc.  Most people aren’t going to shell out money for an expensive doll unless its Christmas or some other really special occasion which always made the Christmas season more than a bit overwhelming.  Custom orders and last minute Christmas dolls will have to be minimal.  When I have something to sell, I will post it.    And I am reopening in February- not because it is a great time to sell dolls but to slowly build up a stock of inventory so that when/if a Christmas rush does come, I will be better prepared.

All that to say- I have spent the last couple months trying out some new things. My dolls haven’t changed much- the biggest changes being I finally figured out a way to do 3D noses and I am now using yarn for hair. What’s been really fun is learning how to design stuffed animals.  My old horse will always be a standby but I started in on unicorns and then figured, the skies the limit once you have the basic idea down.

I designed a zebra, an elephant, a sheep, even a dragon!  That led me to develop a new section of my shop- The doll and rider.

My horse and doll combo was always a good seller so I decided to make more combos, just for kicks.  I am selling them as pairs or individually on my shop but I will introduce them here.

My original combo, as I said was a horse and doll.  This is Susannah, my pioneer girl and her horse, Henry.


I love her sweet face and her curly hair which I achieved merely by using the crinkly end of a skein of yarn!

From there I moved on to another animal in the horse family- a zebra named Zeke who naturally needed an African girl named Zara to ride him. 


 

What other horses are there? Why magical ones with horns of course who are best friends with medieval girls named Cecily.  I’m still debating a good Unicorn name. Ursula?


Then it was time to break out of the horse world.  Why not elephants? And since I already had an African girl, it was time to go with Indian.  This is Elliot and Ananda.

Now that I was going with different countries and because I love red hair, I had to do a Scottish lass named Bonnie. I had a hard time thinking of an animal for her to befriend and I’m not entirely sure that riding a ram is feasible but I love my little highland sheep just the same. 

And last but not least, we reenter the magical realm, where sweet Scandinavian girls named Brigitte ride gentle flying dragons named Dexter or Drake.  Which do you prefer?


 I would also like to do a little Chinese girl with a red dragon but I haven’t gotten that far yet. 

Phew! So that’s a start.  I’m hoping to get back to doing a greater variety of just dolls but for now, this is what I have.  

I have been able to collect quite a bit of feedback over these two years and have seen several specimens of these dolls that have really held up well. These dolls may look like delicate China dolls and I know several people who were afraid to purchase them for their younger girls but they really are very sturdy and can withstand a fair amount of abuse. Per the request of several, I am stitching the shoes and underclothing onto the doll so they don’t get lost but the stitches are easily clipped if you want removable shoes etc.  

 Pricing these things is always tricky of course.  Clearly they take me several hours to make, not to mention cost of materials and hope of some profit.  But I always want them to be affordable and don’t like charging friends and family an arm and a leg.  So the prices I have put on them are more of a test price. They may go up or down depending on sales.   And as always, questions and feedback are welcome.  

Here’s a link to my shop just in case. And feel free to share! 

When push comes to shove

Dear people,

I’m sitting here in my quiet living room, with the sunshine streaming through my sparkling new windows, taking a breather after a seriously intense couple of weeks.  I’m exhausted but I’m also deeply joyful, grateful, satisfied.  

I know in theory that God’s timing is always perfect but I’ve never quite felt the truth of that fact so strongly.  This fall has been busy.  I always think that we are busy but things kicked up yet another notch in October and we were busier still. And through all the busyness loomed the nagging reminder that this house of ours that has come so far was still not ready to handle winter.  But the weather kept lulling us into a false sense of security- it was just.so.warm.  We were comfortable, the sun was shining, the temperature hovering around 80 degrees.  

But then the first cold struck and it was time to do a little panicking.  At least, I did.  We had the heating systems in place but still, due to all the myriad little things that always seem to accompany final inspections, we had not been granted permission to actually turn on the gas.  We prayed, we worked, we worked a little more, we prayed and finally all systems were a go.  The heat began to blow.  That night, the temperature dropped to thirty degrees. I breathed a sigh of relief- but just a little one.

We had heat now, but not much to actually keep it in the house.  Plywood and plastic can only do so much.  We had managed to install most of the windows in the two bedrooms upstairs, so we were comfortable up there but the downstairs was just so cold.  So every evening after work, the hubby and I bundled up and headed down to work.  Not only were we in a race to beat the bitter cold, but we had also made the slightly risky decision to host our first Thanksgiving here this year.  It was now or never.

I am continually amazed at the human psyche- how it can go from thinking a project impossibly big and never ending to a weary resignation that the task must be done to a grim determination that ‘as God as my witness’ (and helper) we will get this job done and in record time. And so we did.  The process went something like this-

-Pull one of the empty, half painted window frames into the workroom and put it on the table.

-scrape any paint residue off the interior and prime the wood with clear primer. Let it dry.

-apply the first coat of glazing. (For those who don’t know, glazing is kind of like clay- pressed into the inner edges of a window frame, helping to insulate and hold the pane of glass in place) 

-cut glass to size (after hunting around town for salvaged windows, prying the glass from the old frames and cleaning it) 

-carefully tape all panes to 1/16th of an inch from the edge for easier painting later. (Each window had an average of eight panes)

-install glass and staple it in place, praying that it won’t crack and need to be replaced. (This happened with about one out of every eight panes)

– apply second coat of glazing, scraping and smoothing it as straight as possible with the special technique your hubby tries to teach you.  This step usually took about two hours.

-scrape and remove any excess glazing from both sides of the window.

– allow to dry at least three days and then sand it.

-prime and paint again.

– carefully remove tape and clean the entire window.

– finally install.

-repeat 28 times

With three days left before Thanksgiving, we really went into overdrive, working late into the nights, getting up early, trying to clean and prepare for guests and getting what cooking done that we could. Wednesday night, while the turkey brined and as I prepped stuffing and sweet potatoes, the hubby and his brother installed the final window for the front of the house.  It was an amazing feeling folks. And the next morning, coming down into the blindingly bright rooms below, I was overwhelmed with thankfulness.  Happy Thanksgiving indeed.  

Now I wish I could say that this is the end of the window saga. The windows we completed were only the original ones we had refurbished from the front of the house.  There are still some to be made from scratch for the back of the house. But the biggest hurdle has been jumped and those remaining ten will come and now I will know how to help when they are ready. For now, they are insulated against the cold and we are toasty warm, incredibly tired but looking forward to a joyous Christmas season in our increasingly beautiful home.  

When I think back to where we were last year, I can hardly believe that things have come this far and I thank you all, from the bottom of my heart for the faithful love, prayers and support you have extended during this time.  We can’t say it enough. God bless.  Now here’s a photo dump for ya.






A tale of two cakes

Once upon a time, this was a cooking blog.  So here is a story about my most recent cake.

I have been toying around with the idea of getting some kind of a cake making business off the ground for a while now.  I have also been debating whether or not to pick up needle and thread again.  Its usually a tug of war, depending on my mood- cakes or dolls or maybe something new? But most days I just vaguely wonder how I ever had the time to run a small business on the side of everything else that is going on in my life.  And keeping up a blog? How does one do that?

At any rate, my attempts at cake making have pretty much boiled down to me experimenting with various recipes and methods and seeing if anyone out there wants one.  I have sold a few but not enough to make it worth my time at this point.

This past Saturday was one of my son’s birthdays and we were also invited to a dinner party that same night with some old friends.  My son was busy scouring pinterest for birthday cake ideas and I was also asked to bring a cake to the dinner party so I figured I would kill two birds with one stone- make a kid friendly cake and a fancy one that I could take pics of and see if I could drum up some interest.

The son decided on a ‘build your own’ Minecraft cake which I figured would be easy enough- minimal decorating and maximum visual impact.  Then I thought that since I would need to make a chocolate cake for that one (to represent dirt) I might as well make two and decorate the second with something other than grass green frosting.  blech.

Visions of chocolate ganache icing and truffle filled raspberries were dancing in my head as I made my way to the grocery store but when I arrived, there was not a raspberry to be found in the store.  Sightly disappointed, I glanced at the strawberries but they were few and very lack luster- more white than red.  What I did see surrounding me (and no wonder- it is officially fall now, even if it doesn’t feel like it) were pumpkins, nuts and spices.  I decided to change tack completely and come up with some Autumnal spicy, nutty delight.

But first I had to finish shopping for the Minecraft, which including visiting the jello aisle (red jello for lava and blue for water) and the cereal aisle (rice krispie treats for sand or some unknown mineral that my boys get excited about).  A big bag of marshmallows topped my cart and a traditional giant bottle of root beer rolled around in the bottom.  My teeth were already aching.  But the fancy spice cake was going to erase the sins of the plebeian jello/marshmallow/green, store-bought icing abomination.

It was fairly late on Friday afternoon before I got started and not a great time to start either.  The thermostat was holding steady at 94 degrees outside and my kitchen wasn’t far behind.  Undaunted, I soon had the chocolate cake beating, the water for jello boiling, marshmallows melting on the stove and was prepping the ingredients for spice cake when things started to unravel.

First, the baby woke up.  I heard her little toddling feet coming down the stairs and they were to me as the footsteps of doom.  I looked quickly around and got panicky.  The flour bin was wide open on the floor, a chocolate covered rubber spatula was well within reach. Two bowls filled with sticky red and blue food product were full to the brim and a short distance away from the bar stools that she is past mistress of climbing.

I lost focus as I began covering things up, shoving things out of the way and generally trying to cover my tracks.  I got her a drink of milk to try and distract her from investigating what mommy was up to and in the meantime, the whipped cream frosting that had been beating in the mixer got away from me.  A grainy, lumpy mass of coagulated dairy was the result.  No amount of straining, adding of more ingredients or googling for answers was able to save me from tossing half a pound of butter and a pint of heavy cream.

Whilst googling, it finally dawned on me that several of my children were asking if I was making s’mores for dessert.  I soon discovered that burning marshmallows for rice krispie treats smells pretty much the same as the traditional campfire delight, but they really don’t taste the same.

And so it went.  It was dinner time now and all baking had to be put on hiatus.  The hubby called from the store to see if I needed anything.  I asked him to buy more butter for a fresh batch of frosting.

By the time I had dinner done and kids fed, the dishes had reached alarming heights in the sink and I had used all my mixing bowls.  Half an hour later, dishes were done.  I wiped my brow and continued on.  I managed to get spice cakes in the oven, a fresh batch of marshmallows melted and stirred into the rice cereal and new frosting started.  This time I was going back to an old favorite recipe that I knew I couldn’t flub- a swiss meringue butter cream.  The butter was softening, the eggs were separated but alas, I was completely out of sugar.  I hadn’t even noticed how much sugar I had been going through.  There was nothing but a bit of brown sugar left so with a sigh of frustration, I threw it in and hoped for the best.

Once the egg whites were cooked, I began to whip them up.  And I whipped and I whipped and they just wouldn’t stiffen.  It was only then that I remembered how much meringue and humidity don’t like each other. And boy howdy was my kitchen humid. The steam coming from my ears at this point wasn’t helping much. So much butter was at stake!.  So I stubbornly cracked the whip over that poor kitchen aid for several minutes more until Oh Joy! the frosting started coming together.  The butter worked its magic, I guess, or maybe it was an inspired sprinkling of nutmeg towards the end that convinced those weary egg whites that life might be worth striving for after all.

The result was a glossy smooth, buttery pile of deliciousness that tasted all the better for the substituted brown sugar.  Who knew?!  By ten o clock I had all the cakes and various components of the birthday party sitting on the counter, kind of ready for the next day.

The next morning, everything had to be finished.  Wobbly jello, sticky rice krispies, and a super crumbly chocolate cake had to be cut into blocks for building. Grass frosting had to be applied where necessary.  I was on a stool, having just remembered to tack up a last second happy birthday banner when the birthday boy himself finally appeared.   There was a bag of balloons sitting on the table, unblown, which he noticed.  Thinking hard, I told him in as excited of a voice as I could muster that I was going to let him blow up his own birthday balloons this year.  He bought it.  He and his brothers spent the rest of the morning blowing up balloons and letting them go, laughing hysterically over the kind of gross noises they made while I got the rest of the party ready.

The rest of the day went fairly well.  Friends and cousins arrived, the cake was a big hit and I think everyone had a good time.  By the time the last guest had disappeared, I had about an hour to get the other cake ready.  I had wanted to garnish it with candied pecans but now wondered if it were worth the trouble.  But I had come this far and apparently I am a glutton for punishment.  I got out the pecans and the pan and had poured them all in. But perhaps you might remember, as I clearly had not, that I was still out of sugar.

A quick rummage in the pantry revealed a stash of some kind of unrefined ‘healthy’ sugar that the hubby had purchased at Whole Foods a while back.  I figured it would have to do. It melted immediately but would.not.stick to the pecans.   I gave up and stuck them to the cake with at least the essence of sweetness still clinging to their sides.  But I still felt that it needed something. Then, in a moment of inspiration, I remembered a batch of homemade toffee sauce that I had sitting in the fridge.

Toffee sauce is one of my favorite things in the world, consisting as it does of nothing but brown sugar, butter and whipping cream all melted together and I knew that it would taste fabulous with the spice cake. So I decided to top off my creation with a generous amount.  But since it is a good deal runnier than most glazes, I decided to make a crater in my icing and just pool it all there, surrounded by my wanna be-candied pecans.   Then, with minutes to spare, I had to drag all my kids out of their sugar comas from their first cake encounter of the day, scrub them up and herd them into the car.

At last we were off, the hubby driving and me with my long suffering cake in my lap.  But the hubby had forgotten to mention that our friends had moved.  The drive would not be a quick hop onto the freeway as I thought but a forty minute trek into the country.  Not only that, but it was on top of one of the nearby mountains and in order to reach it, we had to follow one of the curviest, hairpin-bendiest roads we have ever encountered.  And this cake was heavy and Nicky-the-ingenious-cake-baker had decided to top it off with a large pool of very runny butter sauce.   It was an adventure in physics as I battled the acceleration of the car and the turns in the road by tilting and turning that cake so that I wouldn’t end up with a lap full of gooey.

But we made it at last.  And the dinner was delicious.  But I won’t lie to you.  By the time dessert came, I was feeling pretty nervous. I was sure that something else would be wrong with that cake. But as I ran my knife down through the several layers and pulled out the first slice, all slathered with swiss meringue and dripping with toffee sauce, I knew we were going to be okay.

It was a good cake. A really good cake. An almost-worth-all-that-angst-and-labor kind of cake.   There was a sizable piece of it left at the end of the evening so I left half of it with our gracious hosts and wrapped the last remaining slice carefully

in plastic wrap and put it in the car.

It was promptly stepped on by a wayward child.  You could almost read the word ‘Crocs’ imprinted in the buttercream.

But you know what? The hubby and I ate it anyway.  For breakfast this morning. It was still good.