May, 2013

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Hands Off, Time

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This is the only picture I shot of Adam with his coat on, darn the luck. I made it from scratch. It was hard getting him to lie down on the paper. I keed! That’s a reference to how I make my patterns for doll clothes. I lay them down on paper and draw around them.

­With kids, you have to savor each stage of their life. This time of year there are a lot of graduations and on Facebook one mother lamented her daughter’s last day of school and noted how she cried because she knew things were going to change. It reminded me that I cried – and possibly many of you did as well – on the first day of your child’s school.


We taped some braided embroidery thread to his chin.

Since I just had the one son, I did my best to enjoy each and every stage of his life to the fullest. Holding holding his hand, because you never know when he’ll say, “Mom! Not in public!” It happens way too soon.

So today in this season of beginnings and ends, I’m featuring the Last Halloween costume I made for my son: Captain Jack Sparrow. It amazes me now just how young he was back then:


Adam is very detail oriented. I never would have thought to put the black dot and tattered wrap onto his hand.



He put it to good use. Look at that face! ACTING.


He had the walk down pat.



Goodbye Captain Jack, I’ll miss you! And your hands!


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As usual, Nina did her bang-up job. Why, Gertie! You’re beautiful! And still YOU!

Click on any photo to enlarge. You know you really want to study poor Gertie’s nose!

Nina strikes again! She’s the illustrator for the book series, and here is her illustration for the first version of the book, when Gertie was still a part of it. Gertie, hush! You will make your appearance!

Actually, Gertie pretty much takes everything in stride. She has to!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI found some pictures I’d taken of her soon after I brought her home. Her hair is pretty much a hank of mohair – and did I mention that her head is shaped funny?

I have to whisper this next part, because she’s pretty sensitive about it, but apparently these l-e-s-s-e-x-p-e-n-s-i-v-e dolls of her day had their hairdos molded into their heads, and then their hair was wrapped around it. Wish I had a side view, but it’s kind of like a “skin” tiara; built up in front, flat in back. She gets more appealing with each detail, doesn’t she?


Love her legs!



<In this second photo, I was showing off Gertie’s neat old legs. Nifty! You can also see how her body was holey and her arms were hanging by a thread.

Gertie House

We had several artists try out for the job. Nina was hands down the best with great little details. Click for a better view.


Here’s Nina’s illustration of the dollhouse. I loved things that she did so much that I borrowed some of her ideas. The triple bunk bed, for example. You can see my version in yesterday’s post. It’s since been painted.


These things are tiny. There’s a penny for comparison.

I also painted little portraits of Gertie and her wards for hanging on the walls. Note there are now NINE children! A little baby was added, *Poof*! Or, ta-dah! Just like that! No matter. There’s plenty of love in Gertie’s heart, which seems to grow larger with each addition.

And to these little hooligans, hers is the dearest face of all.

The Nanny Diary


I had to recover her body. Poor thing was falling apart (I can relate!). I’m going to make a little black and white maid’s uniform for her.

Look at that face. How could you not love that face?! I can hear my sister and probably many of your own voices in my head (a nice break from the usual noise) saying, “Oh. Hmm…yes, of course, Ruth. That doll is very…nice.”

I found this little woman with her wooden hands and her chipped black boots in a baggie on a random shelf in the place I affectionately call “The Crazy Lady’s Store.” For $2!

“Help! Can’t breeve!” she said.

The tone of our relationship was instant. “Hmm?” I replied, looking through the books and knick-knacks on the shelf beside her.

“Can’t breeve!” she called out again.

“Well, yes. But you’re $2! And it’s not even half price day!”


Her hair is a sight. And her head beneath is a funny shape. But those eyes! Those expressive brows! Love.

“Please!” she cried.

“Well, all right.”

In truth, my hands were nearly shaking with excitement. A 100 plus (probably closer to 150) year old glass-eyed, papier-mache-headed doll, and nobody had snatched her up already? That only happens to other people! In books!

I nonchalantly paid and carried her along with my other purchases in a large paper sack out to the car. Once inside with the door closed I reached into the bag where she lay amongst the vintage fabric scraps and other treasures I’d found, and I finally opened her little baggie.

“Thank you,” she said, her large eyes squinting in the sunlight as she looked around.

“You’re quite welcome,” I replied. “But if you’re going to come live with me, you’ll have to earn your keep.”

“Of course! Of course I will!”


This is the house pre-Gertie while it was still under construction (from an old house. Some of the walls were made of cardboard and needed to be replaced, along with the roof). There were only the triplets then. See that usurper in the bedroom above, as far away from the triplets as possible? That was one of the previous nannies. There were several, poor things.

And she has. She’s kept up her end of the bargain and I’ve no complaints, because I certainly couldn’t do what she does. Remember those triplets from yesterday? Well, they aren’t the half of it! She is nanny to eight little orphans. And counting! And she does it all in this two bedroom crooked little dollhouse. Not only that, she does it with love.


Gertie’s pride and joy (next to her charges, of course), the kitchen. Best tip of the day – from Casey’s minis, I’m sure: clear fingernail polish on sheet plastic makes GREAT wavy glass windows. You HAVE to have wavy glass!




I’ve written countless stories about her and I could write countless more. Alas, she was cut from the first book in the series due to space, but there is no way I could keep her and her charges out entirely! Not possible! Gertie – for that is her name, she told me – has a very important and pivotal role to play in the books to come.

Bless her heart.

SofaR, So Good


This orange sofa I made is being helpfully displayed by the triplets. It’s unusual to find three alike all-bisque’s that managed to stay together for so many decades, but they have! Some day I will repaint their features, but they’re rambunctious enough, even without their mouths!

There are many other blogs that I love. Blogs that I find useful. Blogs that I aspire to emulate some day. For today’s mini post, I point to my favorite blog on Minis: Casey’s Minis. She is AMAZING and it’s hard not to be intimidated. How many hours are there in the day again?

Clearly she has many more hours than me! So charming! So many pictures! Everything so perfectly done! Fer cryin’ 0ut loud, she weaves her own dollhouse wicker!

Ahem. Well, all’s I can do is all’s I can do. I made this sofa based on the one she made in her December 9, 2011 post.

Hers is a nice beige. Mine’s a furry orange from an old piano scarf that I found in crazy lady’s store. Looks like something Hagrid would sit on if he were a dollhouse man instead of a half giant (Harry Potter reference, of course!).


That’s some pretty wild wallpaper we’ve got going there…YEP!

It’s a piece in my much adored dollhouse given to me by a much adored woman here in town. The dollhouse itself, as well as the many characters who inhabit it, will be featured in a future “Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway” book series.

If I’m writing a book, there MUST be a dollhouse! Mine’s slightly crooked, and clearly “Good Enough Construction Company” (of which I am the sole owner/operator) got ahold of it. Witness the lopsided walls! But it’s sturdy! It’ll stand! It chock full of love if not skill!



In other news, Sweet Sophie did well by me last night. It was the first night of bats! I’m sure of it! Thankfully, none came to visit me INSIDE my house. That I know of. Of course, my eyes had to close for at least part of the night, so…








Sometimes I can’t think

Of what to write in my blog

It’s called writer’s…um…


Behold! For $34.78, a little magic can be had! Wrongs can be righted! Romance can blossom (in your head)!

I took my busted computer to the delightful “Computer Works and Vinyl Signs” place in Humboldt, Iowa and they fixed my computer. Same day! Plus, I had some witty banter with the fixer himself, who unprompted by me stated that even with all the numbers he works with all day, he believes in magic because sometimes inexplicable things happen. Kismet, so do I!

When he called to tell me he’d worked some magic and my computer was fixed, he asked how the problem occurred in the first place. I explained that the device that reads the ancient memory card from my equally ancient camera wasn’t being recognized.

“So I searched for solutions online,” I told him.

Where would we be without the internet, I wonder? In this case, I wouldn’t have had a broken computer. Then again, I could never have asked the internet how to fix the USB problem in the first place…Ooh! It’s like the movie “Inception”!

“One piece of advice said ‘Shut everything down, turn off your computer, and unplug it,” I huskily continued, “But I decided to follow the ‘Destroy your hard drive’ advice first.”

He laughed. I laughed. My mind wandered as to where we would honeymoon…

Sadly, I was on a Skype meeting with my brothers at the time of our phone conversation, so our romance was cut short! ‘Twas tough, especially after having gotten so close, I mean, he knows my password. You can’t get much closer than that! Then again, I know how to wreck my hard drive now, so…

For my second live Ustream event I hit the right button to record, and oh joy! I was able to duplicate the skillful repartee of my first unrecorded event! The camera LOVED me! “Turn this way! Turn that!” it said, so I DID.

But apparently, after you film you’re supposed to “Save” it somehow or other. Whoops! Once again my flawless performance shall never be seen. Let’s hope third time’s the charm.

In the meantime, I ordered a new adapter for my olde camera, because I took some “after” pictures of the doll I worked on. She turned out great! Here she is:


Note her now clean face. I used a toothpick to get in between her eyelashes. Yes, she looks funny bald, but once I re-glue her wig…

All in good time, I guess.

Never Listen to a Guy Named Yogi

Yesterday was two strokes of technical GENIUS!


This laptop has none of my own pictures, just four sample pictures of the seasons. Naturally, I chose Winter, the magical bat-free season of no bats, and I wrote with the little slider pad thingy and an “eraser.” I’m thinking of making this my new font. Ahem.

1. Turns out that when filming a practice session of live streaming video (in which I was brilliant and witty, not to mention GORGEOUS (you’ll never know)), the red light doesn’t mean you’re recording. Nope! It’s what you hit to record.

I believe the entire show consists of one second and one word: “Oh.”

2. When you’re experiencing technical problems with your USB port, don’t run to YouTube and take the advice of the first guy you see, randomly going deep into your computer’s hard drive and deleting some little thing that this Yogi person declares will help, ignoring the voice in your head – and the warning that pops up from your computer – and hitting “delete.”

With a single stroke, I did something to my computer and now it is dead. Temporarily, I hope. This here’s my laptop, ancient and slow.

Let’s hope today will go better on a technical level. There’s no way to go but UP.


First off, at my brother’s helpful and “knows me” suggestion, I’m going to use these next couple of days to simply practice with the Ustream and get the lighting and angles right. So, Monday!

Second off, there I was INNOCENTLY checking the weather on weather dot com, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a PHOTO!

“Why, what a pretty constellation!” I thought to myself. “So unusually colorful and festive…” (I am not the brightest of bulbs)

But then I saw THE ARROW. And the DREADED WORD that indicated what the arrow was pointing TO. BEHOLD!


Bats! It says BATS!! Captured on radar!

Et tu,

Because, HMPF! I won’t be checking the weather again any time soon! Besides, they say it’s cloudy and it’s POURING out.

Victims Three


“One, two, three – WHA – ?!”

Now if you’re smart, and I think you are, you will notice there are four little maids in the picture. Ultimately, I will be dressing them all, but I’ll just do two – or three – at a time. Plus, I like “The Mikado” and was originally going to use three, but this last little girl snuck in at the last minute.

The reason I chose these four is because they’re each excellent examples of things I want to show during my first live broadcast this morning at noon eastern on Ustream. Yes! The thrill is undeniable!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first girl is Effanbee’s Anne Shirley or Little Lady. Both dolls were from the same mold. Anne was named for the character in “Anne of Green Gables” and was made to resemble the young actress who played Anne in the movie series – and who I believe changed her name to Anne Shirley.

What makes this doll distinctive is that she has individual fingers rather than the usual cupped hands of most composition dolls. The problem with that is the fingers would frequently snapped off, as with this Anne. Either that or she really, really wants World Peace. I’m going to rebuild her fingers.

It won’t be the first time! I once had an Anne with her middle and ring fingers missing. I wrote in her description, “We think she’s trying to say, ‘I love you.’” Comedy GOLD!


She also needs her lips touched up.

The second girl is the one who snuck in, bald head and all. I love wig searches! I have a several shoe boxes full and it’s always fun to try different wigs on and see what would look best. She is no one special, just one of many of the unidentifiable dolls made by one of many doll manufacturers.

And on that note, we come to the third and largest. I believe she’s a “Special” doll by Madame Alexander. That’s her name! Her worst problem is terrible cracking and lifting on her shoulderplate, but I chose her because I’ve had another “Special” come through. See what difference a different wig and a slightly different paint job makes?



You will not believe the difference when she’s clean.

The fourth girl is exceptionally filthy. She is a Princess Elizabeth type. Back then, doll companies were swapping doll molds like little boys used to swap marbles!

If anyone out there has dirty composition dolls, I can show you an easy cleaning method using a common household item you may already have on hand, but that at the very least you can readily find. She also needs re-stringing, as her joints are a little loose. Good times.

So these are the victims! First the refurbishing, then the fabric choices and dress designs for each including coats, hats and shoes, and then I’ll be listing them on ebay so they can finally find good homes where they will be loved and enjoyed again! I’ll note their progress as I go here as well as on my show. Make-up! Wardrobe! Clapper! ACTION.

Fingers crossed that they turn out well. With a little magic and elbow grease, they will!



Yesterday I was trying out the nifty new camera my brothers sent, and as I watched what I recorded three things came to mind – although it took all day for them to do so.

The first is I was reminded of that old joke: A man goes to his 30th high school reunion and says to his wife, “Wow! Everybody got old but me!”



Because we never think of ourselves as old. I find myself still wondering what I’m going to do when I grow up. I still get the occasional urge to wear glitter in my hair and think that if Edward Cullen lived in Iowa instead of Washington he would have picked me instead of that silly ol’ Bella.

The second is that it turns out I rarely look in a mirror. When it comes to mirrors I’m like the muggles in the Harry Potter books when they come across a wizard building: My eyes slide right past them or any other shiny object without really seeing. Mirror? What mirror?

Therefore I was surprised when I truly saw myself for the first time in a long time. Yikes! What happened?

But the third and final thought came to me after a day of sorting through all of these old dolls of mine. None of them is perfect. Each one of them bears the signs of being well-loved and having been someone’s favorite plaything at some point in their lives. Their wigs – if they still have them – are thin or sometimes show the results of an amateur haircut. Their lip paint is chipped and worn, their bodies are scuffed and their fingers and toes are frequently missing. And I still love them, even with their flaws. In fact because of their flaws. Shouldn’t I treat myself with the same kindness?

Shouldn’t we all?

And, Edward! IOWA. Think about it!