A boy and his horse

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while but I’ve been busy with other things. I hurried out to take these photos last week before I had to ship this little boy to far off Norway. I thought he might want a keepsake of his best friend, the horse.

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I never intended for horse and boy to meet. The horse was supposed to be a solo item, but my own children immediately saw that the boy doll would fit nicely on the horse’s little green saddle. And so he does!

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The poor horse was sorry to see his friend go, so I thought if I made him a little bridle, it might be easier for someone else to ride him.

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And what do you know, a more cautious young lady was willing to give it a try so long as she had something to hold on too.

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Whatever the case, with a rider or without, this little horse is a keeper.

The girl with the Titian hair

I have always had a fascination with red hair. I wished I had red hair as a child, and even contemplated dying it once or twice when I got older, but I never had the guts. And I could never understand why Anne of Green Gables hated her hair. She claimed it gave her a bad temper, and I guess if people called me “Carrots” all day……

Anywhooo, all that to say, I have been meaning to make a doll with red hair for a while now and I finally finished her!

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Her hair is rather vivid, but I am not sure if it is red or auburn. What’s the difference anyways? And I am totally in love with the scalloped edge on this ribbon.

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I contemplated a sprinkling of freckles on her cheeks, but was not sure how to accomplish it without her looking like Raggedy Ann.

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So there she is. I had a lot of fun with the embroidery on her dress, and I can’t decide if I like red or blue shoes best. I think the blue will win out here.

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Also I am working on changing a few things on my Etsy shop, but hopefully it won’t cause any problems if, you know, browsing turned to buying ; )

And when I want to sing

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My maternal grandmother was a wonderful Christian woman. She brought nine children into this world.  From those nine came so many grandchildren that I have lost count. I consider myself blessed to be numbered among them. She came from hardworking, no nonsense German and Norwegian ancestry and she was an efficient and very practical woman. This practicality applied even to music. She was a self taught musician, played the organ for many years at her church, and taught me and my sisters to play the piano.

We weren’t as disciplined in getting to our lessons as we might have been if we had been paying for a teacher, but we made some progress. Grandma always made it very clear however, that she would only take us so far in our musical education. Her goal for us was that we might be able to be of service to the church, to play hymns for services and to be a good accompanist. She always said that the sign of a good accompanist was when they weren’t noticed, which is very true. Grandma also often warned me that talent and ambition were highly dangerous things that usually led only to vanity. It was safer to be in the background.
I carried that warning with me when I went to college, and as I wrote before, found that balancing my love of singing with true humility was indeed a struggle. After graduating and after abandoning my feeble attempts to join the opera world, I found myself a member of a wonderful university choir in my home town. I was determined to be content as a supporting member of a larger group and I truly enjoyed my time there. But after a year or so, that old ambition reared up it’s head. My director introduced a new piece that would be the core of our next concert. It was a lovely mass, combining our choir with a local children’s choir, and there was an extensive and beautiful soprano solo woven throughout.
I wanted to sing that solo. I just ached to sing it, and as I sat in my car after practice, debating whether or not I should audition for it, my grandma’s warnings kept echoing through my head. What did it mean to glorify God with my talents without drawing attention to myself?  How could I truly be humble and stand center stage at the same time?  As I struggled with these questions, snatches of hymns came to mind.

Take my voice and let me sing; always, only for my King. Take my lips and let them be, filled with messages from Thee.”  

And this simple but lovely line from an old spiritual-

And when I want to sing, give me Jesus.”  

I prayed there in my car, and told God that if I tried out for that solo, it would be for his glory alone.  I wouldn’t do it for any praise or personal recognition. I just wanted to sing his praises to the best of my ability.  I truly believed that I meant it, and decided to try out for the solo.  I got it.  Well, partially, at any rate.  It was such a big concert that we were doing two performances, so my director split the solos.  Another soprano was to sing on Friday night and I was to do the Saturday concert.  I was elated.  I told my hubby and my mother, but didn’t bother broadcasting the news much further.  After all, I wasn’t singing for myself.  My mother told people- my sisters, some aunts and uncles, cousins and friends, but that was nothing to me of course.

The night of the first concert came, and I was so glad I wasn’t the first one to sing.  I would be able see how the other soprano did, and have one more night to get over my jitters.  I walked into the practice room and my director smiled at me.

“You ready to sing tonight?”, he asked.  I laughed, thinking he was joking and I told him I would be ready tomorrow.  His face fell, and he said

“Didn’t I tell you we had switched nights? That the other soprano can’t be here tonight?”

My face must have answered his question, since he began apologizing profusely and asking rather nervously if I would be ready to go on anyway.  In a falsely confident voice I gave him my assurance that I would be, and left the room.   I was shaken up.  I told myself it was fine, that it didn’t matter what night I sang, so long as I got to sing. But then I thought of my hubby and my folks and all the people they had invited, and I burst into tears.  I wanted them to hear me!  I didn’t even have a cell phone in those long ago dark ages, but someone passing by saw my distress and offered to help me.  I asked her if she had a phone, which she readily lent me.  I called my husband and through my tears, I tried to let him know what had happened.  The concert was starting in fifteen minutes, and I knew he had a twenty minute drive to get there, but I hoped he at least could make it for part of it.  That was all I could do.  I had to be on stage.

As I stood there, watching the last of the audience filing in, I had to laugh at myself.  I realized that God had taken me at my word, that I was being given the chance to sing for his glory without the praise and encouragement from my family and friends that I was so often greedy for.   I sighed a little, and then shot up a little prayer saying, “All right then God, give me Jesus.”

I will never forget the feeling of joy I had that night as the concert began, but my heart nearly burst a few minutes later when I saw my hubby sneak into the concert hall, followed by my mom and dad, my sisters, even a few other relatives and friends.  I never learned what super human efforts they all made to get there that night.  I did learn that when you ask God to give you Jesus, it is sufficient.  But I also found that God is not stingy.  Along with the peace of Christ, he can send the love of a supportive husband, the pride in a parent’s face, and the devotion of sisters who came, even when they were sick and feverish and suppressing their coughing so as to hear you better.   He can even give the opportunity to stand in front of four hundred people and share the grand and ancient hymn of his people that we closed our concert with that night-

Praise God from whom all blessings flow

Praise him all creatures here below

Praise him above, ye heavenly host

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Variety is the spice of life

Well, I’m pretty excited to share this next set of dolls with y’all. I just had so much fun with them. I am leaning more and more towards focusing entirely on doll making at this point since there seems to be a lot more interest there than in the clothing. It’s actually less stressful as well, since I don’t have to worry about sizing or finding models- hah.
If I can find the time, I also want to purchase my own blog domain and change it to Climbing Vine Creations or something like that. And I would like to set up some pages on my shop or facebook for custom designing your own doll or ordering extra clothing. But one step at a time, and time is something I seem to be short on most days.
Well, without further ado, I’d like to introduce three new young ladies. Anyone want to name them?

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I have had a few people express interest in dolls of different ethnicities, so these are my prototypes, if you will.

I went with lots of rainbow-y colors for this girl.

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And this one just needed a red dress- there was no other color that would have worked.

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And for this one, well, I thought it was time for a nice sunny yellow dress, with plenty of ruffles thrown in for good measure.

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Here they all are, having a good time and letting their hair down.

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I have had a lot of fun figuring out how to make their hair, by the way. I like it better than yarn because it won’t unravel or get frizzy, and you can style it in so many ways. I have always liked doing doll hair which is why I am sticking to long hair at this point. And maybe I’m still recovering from my childhood when we got imitation Cabbage Patch dolls for Christmas one year and mine was the one with the short brown hair I couldn’t do anything with. But I loved her anyways and never let her see when I would sneak off to braid the long blond hair on my sister’s doll.

So long hair it is, unless someone would like me to try a cute little bob or something.

Aaaand one last group shot, just ’cause they like to show off their shoes.

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Peaches ‘n Cream

Being a northern girl, I didn’t grow up eating a lot of peaches. We had cherry trees and apples and lots of berries, but we were weak on peaches. Cherries have always been my favorite fruit, and I have always dreamed of having an orchard full of them. When we first moved to the south, I went to the local nursery and asked a gardener there if I could look at their fruit bearing cherry trees.
“We’re all sold out of cherry trees ma’am,” he said in his friendly drawl. “They sell out quick this time of year.”
“Oh,” I said, “So they grow well around here?”
“Nope,” he replied.

Though disappointed, I thought to myself, “when in Rome,” and bought some peach trees.

Those trees haven’t been too successful either, but there are always plenty of good peaches for sale this time of year, and this is one of our favorite (and easiest) ways to eat them. Grilled!

We have actually never owned a grill in our twelve years of marriage until this last labor day when the hubby found this itty-bitty table top grill on sale and brought it home. Up until labor day, I had been happy to grill peaches on my cuisinart griddler, but I must admit they are much tastier over charcoal.

It’s handy too because you can grill and eat your dinner, and then just throw halved peaches on there after the coals have cooled a bit.

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It’s hard to say how long they take- between five and ten minutes. Just check them occasionally, flipping them once. They should be just the slightest bit black, and soft without falling apart.

While they are cooking, you can decide what to serve on top. Vanilla ice cream certainly works, or whipped cream, but our hand down favorite is my imitation crème fraiche. I know I talk a lot about the foreign things I have in my fridge, but I can’t afford to keep real crème fraiche on hand, so I have learned to substitute. The closest thing we have to crème fraiche in the U.S. is sour cream, but according to the hubby, it’s not quite right. So what do we do around here to fix things? Add cream of course! I told you we add cream to everything, even if it’s cream.

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I’m not a big fan of measuring things, so I usually just put a big glop of sour cream in a bowl (maybe a cup?) and pour enough heavy cream to cover it. Oh, and just a hint of sugar, maybe 2 tablespoons. (That’s raw sugar, in case you are wondering why it’s brown)

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Then just whip it up until it’s nice and thick and creamy. Let me tell you, this stuff is good.

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Put a nice dollop on each peach half. You could leave it like this, but I find that what really puts these over the top is a sprinkling of nutmeg, fresh ground if you can manage it.

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And there you have it. A super easy summertime dessert that I just realized I am posting on the first day of autumn.

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Ah well, better late than never.

Bunnies and boxes

As soon as I finished my first bunny order I got another one, but I was out of grey cotton. So I went for a nice chocolatey brown rabbit with a pink ribbon since it is for someone’s niece.

Here they are, looking inquisitive.

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I can’t decide which I like better.

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Here’s a few close ups of brownie, including a back view so you can see her cute little tail.

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I finally found a box that I think will work for packaging. I found them on ebay, they are just the right size, and very reasonably priced. So yay! I am working on a design for the top of the box so it can look professional, like I know what I am doing here. I freehanded a few vine motifs with a basic alphabet stencil.

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I love this stencil. My mom gave me a set of these stencils when I was eight. I think she won them as a door prize at a tupperware party or something, and they still work great! My kids use them all the time. Anywhoo…

Here’s the first attempt-

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I thought it needed a little something, and then remembered the stencil I had designed for my original blog motif so I tried that.

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I didn’t like the colors, and I wanted to have the lettering cover the entire box, so I went back to my original letters.

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I think I like the last one best. Any opinions?

At any rate, I am finally able to start packing these guys up and shipping them off. Fun!

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The Buck Stops Here

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Well, it’s story hour folks. Sit right up and grab a bowl of popcorn, or just scroll on down to the bottom where there is a super exciting picture of a sewing machine. Your choice.

For those who choose to continue reading, I will tell you that about six years ago, we decided to buy our first house. For four years we had been renting a tiny duplex- about 900 square feet tiny. Our second son had just been born, and this bigger house- four thousand square feet bigger, was on the market for a steal. The real estate market was booming, the hubby had a pretty good job, and this particular area in our city was the place to be if you wanted to renovate a house. So we bought it, such as it was. It was a gutted structure with half a roof. What roof was left was populated by a plethora of pigeons. It was a mess, but oh the plans we had for it.

We set to work with a will, but it was such a big job that we knew it would be a while before we could move in. We rebuilt the structure, fixed the roof, put in a lovely staircase. We continued to work, even after we discovered I was expecting my third child. We had high hopes that we might move in before he was born. We worked many late nights there with our babies sleeping in sawdust covered playpens. My big ol’ pregnant self learned to measure and cut piping according to instructions hollered through a hole in the floor where he was putting our plumbing together.

We were getting close, the plumbing was in, the electrical completed and the insulators were coming when the economy fell apart.  Details aside, we had to put the house on hold. I made room for our third son in our tiny duplex, and the hubby, in order to keep his job, was asked to start working in Memphis, six hours away. We had family troubles as well, and when my dad was diagnosed with dementia, I offered to go help my folks out for a couple of months since the hubby was gone most of the time and I needed some help too. It was meant to be a two months visit, but slowly stretched out to six as there was no end in sight for the Memphis job. We finally bit the bullet and moved to Memphis, but all this time, there was the house looming in the background, sitting empty, sucking us dry. We finally moved back, and found a “temporary” tiny house to live in. We are still in it three years later.  When we went to the big house, we discovered that thieves had ripped out all of the wiring and some of the plumbing we had put in, and stolen many other things beside. I remember sitting and weeping when I discovered that someone had stolen all the books I had been collecting since childhood that had been in storage there. That was a low point. And then the hubby lost his job a few weeks before baby number four was due to arrive.

Well, life went on. We have had many changes in our lives the past few years, but the looming house has been a constant worry, always nagging at the back of the mind. I felt I was content with my lot, but I had learned to shut the door to thoughts about the house, and hated talking about it to anyone. I started having dreams that I would show up at the property and it would all be finished, or that our current small home had bedrooms or even whole floors that I forgot were there. I would wake up asking myself why on earth I didn’t use that extra space and then reality would hit.

When we found ourselves members of a new church, I didn’t want to tell anyone, so no one would ask that wearying old question, “Soooo, how is the house coming on?” But at church one night, there was a group of people sharing prayer requests and I felt I would just mention the circumstance. One of my pastors prayed, and all he asked was that the Lord please help us to finish our home because “A hope deferred makes the heart sick”. (proverbs 13:12)

I broke into tears as it struck me how sick my heart had become. I realized how weary I was of waiting, weary of putting my life on hold until our real home would be finished. I had gotten to the point where I could push it all out of my mind, but then it would come bursting out in moments like those. It could all pretty much be summed up in thoughts about my craft room. That may sound silly, but from the beginning of our plans for the house, the hubby wanted to make sure I had a room of my own. A place where I could make and store all the crafty stuff that is constantly being spread around my house by my mischievous boys. It could even have a lock on it! The hubby designed it with lofty ceilings and a dormer window. I can show you a picture in it’s sadly unfinished state if you like.

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This is the view from the windows, where I try not to imagine myself sitting on my cozy window seat, stitching dainty things whilst ignoring my children.

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That room seemed to symbolize all of my frustration and weariness, all of my excuses for sitting on my bum and bemoaning my life.

I am relating this long sob story, not to throw myself a pity party, or to throw a fund raiser so that we can finally finish that monstrosity of a house. I tell it because God has been so merciful as to open my eyes to the way my life was heading. It was becoming a constant sighing for what I did not have and an unwillingness to embrace what I did have and make the most of it. Through the prayer of my pastor and others, God started to wake me up. I began to feel that circumstances had dominated my attitude long enough.
Around the same time, the hubby attended a convention for a new company he was interested in working for. When he came back, he was fired up. He seemed to have a new energy and kept muttering the word GOYA under his breath as he went about his day. I finally asked him what GOYA meant. It sounded like some goofy, new-age mantra to me.
He laughed and said,
“Well, it stands for “Get Off Your Ass.”
I about died laughing. I guess that was the rather crass theme for the convention, but I liked it. It said to me in a refreshingly flippant way that life is hard, but God is good. Now get to work.
The result is this blog and a brand new craft room that I made myself. Well okay, it’s just an ironing board in my living room and a dresser full of fabric, but it works.

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Oh, and as promised, this is the sewing machine the hubby got me last year. Isn’t she a beaut?

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At any rate, the house is still there-unfinished, slowly being reconquered by the legions of pigeons. Remarkably we still own it, which leaves room for hope. But the moral of the story I hope I have learned thus far is ora et labora- work and pray. Hopes are often deferred, but as children of God, our hearts do not need to be sickened. Look your trials in the face and get to work. And as hard as you work, pray even harder. Leave the rest up to Him.