March, 2014

now browsing by month



Pin It

“Pardon me, but there’s someone at the door!”

It’s happening more and more! Don’t cringe if you see yourself here, oh local people of Rolfe/Reliance. Because I don’t mind a bit. In fact, I find endearing humor in it! And FLATTERY!

Increasingly, people confuse my sister (aka The Mayor) Julie and I. I will answer my front door to the ballistic barks of my dear dog Teddy, only to watch a person’s standing on my doorstep’s face to fall.

“Oh,” they mumble. “I think I have the wrong sister. Did I see you the other night…?”


Or I’ll answer my phone, only to have the other person’s voice fluster a little as they recognize mine. Because Julie and I do NOT sound alike! “Oh, hi Ruth! Um, er….”


What strange photographic magic is THIS?!


Sometimes, the mistaking could all be in my head. I’ll be walking down the street and someone driving by will frantically and cheerfully wave as they pass, only to falter ever-so-slightly as they see it is NOT the cheerful and pleasant Mayor of Rolfe (and therefore Reliance), but the Other One.

I do not mind Julie’s greater popularity! She deserves it! She’s the BEST! Never cringe or falter my fellow Rolfians, I’m happy to even be compared.

And that is all I have to say about THAT.

Pin It


Sewer-at-WorkMy brothers feel very strongly that I should have a cadre of sewers sewing for me. My knee-jerk response is, “What?! Would you have Van Gogh hand over his paintbrushes and canvas to some random minion and have him say, ‘Here! Paint something with STARS!”



There are several things wrong with what I just writ. First of all, I am no Van Gogh. Second of all, there are plenty of talented Sewers out there.

The real problem is, besides Mozart I don’t think there are too many creative persons that sit down to the canvas, or piano, or computer, knowing exactly what it is they’re going to paint, or compose, or write! It evolves as you go.

But now the time has finally come. It’s time to deliver. Early next week, say Monday or Tuesday, the first Once-Loved Doll (O.L.D.) available for adoption will make her debut, strictly as my little baby. And there will be others after her, fervently toiled and feverishly mulled over with new outfits from head to toe, sometimes more than one as I change my mind on color or style.

sewerstarryI wonder: Does Van Gogh look at “Starry Night” and see its flaws? Does he wish he would have put one more star over here or added a little more teal or burgundy to that tower thingy in the foreground?  Perhaps that’s what art is: always wanting to be better.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, the time is finally here. And you and I together will see what happens.

On that note, happy Friday! And May The Odds Be EVER In Your Favor.

Meet Pinky!

Pinky is the first Once-Loved Doll that comes to the Hollyhock Hideaway in the aptly titled “Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway” book.

She is of course based on a real doll! And her new outfit that Ruth made for Pinky’s description is based on, well, the new outfit that I made for her for just this purpose:

All of the dolls and Hazel took the positions they’d sat in only the night before, and watched as Pinky opened her presents. There was a lace-trimmed romper in a deep shade of rose. A pretty dress soon followed in a crisp, pale pink organdy dotted with sprigs of periwinkle flowers. A nubby coat woven in different shades of fuchsia and cream wool with a matching bonnet soon followed. Hazel was surprised to see that despite Ruth’s unusual way of measuring, the clothes were neatly sewn and fit like a glove.

And here she is!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUnfortunately for Pinky, when it comes time to leave the Hideaway and go on her new adventure in Chapter 31 Pinky’s Farewell, things don’t go quite as planned…


Have you ever wanted to go into an abandoned house and see what treasures you could find? Well, I have! And I’ve been lucky enough to have done it. Several times!


Here is the house of which I write.

Once in a large Victorian back when I lived in St. Louis where there lived a 104-year-old woman who was going into a home. I found a wardrobe and large round table with a thick center leg that is currently in my bedroom.

But this is not about that hunt.

This is about a treasure hunt in the more modest house behind me. I was fortunate enough to purchase this when it came up for sale. Now I’ll have a huge backyard. Once I burn the house. And knock it down. And break down the fence in between. And build a new fence so my dog Teddy will have plenty of room to run. SOME DAY.


Some of the fabric from the old cardboard suitcase.

In the meantime, I’ve gotten to explore the house now and then, and I’ve found treasure. Quick note: you’re probably wondering why I would burn down a house and I’ll tell you: it’s beyond saving. Right now I jokingly refer to it as my summer home because it’s just north of me – and therefore supposedly cooler – but there are holes in the roof and I’m sure there are creatures. I smelled something dead once in one of the old tin kitchen cabinets. There’s also definitely mold. Otherwise, you can bet I would save it.


Thar’ she blows! You can practically hear Celine Dion singing!



I’d gone previously with a very reluctant future Mayor (who for some reason does NOT like mold!) and found a GLORIOUS old cardboard suitcase fill with fabric from the 30’s! Just the thing! Because that’s when the bulk of my dolls were made!

I’d also found a very vintage Valentine. It had what looked like the Titanic on it, one of my favorite things ever! I knew I’d made the right decision in buying that house. I was disappointed when in future searches I hadn’t found more Valentines from that era, but such is life.




I hadn’t been in that house for years, figuring I’d gotten everything that I could except for one thing that I hadn’t been able to remove by myself: A Singer sewing machine. I thought about that machine every now and then, wondering if it was a goner, having succumbed to the mold.

Then one day out of the blue, a neighbor called and left a message asking if she could have a door from that house as her parents had lived there long ago and she’d seen a craft on Pinterest…So she brought her VERY BRAVE husband, and we went.

Enter Woman on a Door Mission and BRAVE HUSBAND. He went into a closet I hadn’t noticed before in my hibbity-skeeredness, and I found via him ANSWERS. Such as WHY that fabric was there!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd I found The Rest Of The Valentines!

The Singer sewing machine was still intact! The falling ceiling hadn’t destroyed it, nor had the rain caused it to curl! I was able to finally retrieve it and bring it via BRAVE *STRONG* HUSBAND and now it’s in my house!


It still has thread on it. I guess you never know when your last stitch will be…

Complete with treadle.

And thus ends my recent adventure. I’ll probably never go into that house again. It’s so far gone as to be a bit dangerous. But I’ll always, always remember.

Ooh! And the drawers of the sewing machine STUFFED with MORE TREASURE too!

But that is a hunt for another day…


This is from my backyard. You can *just* see that house peeking through the trees. Kinda. It’s to the right of that large tree.


A POSER I S’pose!

I s’pose! Another favorite Iowa saying of mine. You’ll be talking in a group of people, the conversation dwindles, and one person will say, “Well, I s’pose!” and just like that, the group breaks up and goes their separate ways.

Not that that has anything to do with today’s post, except we have two new color illustrations to premiere and one of them is nicknamed “The Poser” which is *kind* of close to “I’spose!”

Hey, it’s Monday! One does what one can…

First, “The Poser” (see?!) from Chapter 24 Scotcharoo’d. Marlene is trying to make an entrance after coming into the town gas station from the constant Iowa wind. My sketch:

HT-051 The Poser NG

Nina’s, in color!


The eating area was empty. There was no one else in the station except the two clerks. And Maxwell. Marlene’s cheeks flushed, and she imagined that she looked as pretty as a picture standing there. For a moment she paused. And posed.
Ooooh. She loved the sound of his voice. “Why, hello Maxwell!”

Ah, that Marlene. She is as lovely as ever.

And from Chapter 25 The Excursion, “Woolworth’s.” On their first drive through town after decades of being dormant, Dot and Betty are recalling how Reliance used to be with the twins who were their first little humans. My sketch:

HT-052 Woolworths NGAnd Nina’s:


“WOOLWORTH’S IS GONE!” Dot and Betty shouted in unison.
“What’s a wool’s worth?” Hazel asked.
“Woolworth’s,” Dot corrected. “It was the very best store ever. They had everything! We used to search for old bottles and then turn them in for money – which we usually spent at the soda fountain. We would buy malteds and egg creams…Well, we wouldn’t get our own, but Jane and Jenny would share with us…”

I love the shadows of the passersby in the foreground and all the details our Nina adds.

Have a lovely Monday! You’re my favorite, I s’pose!

There’s a Little MONK in All of Us


Tony Shalhoub was BRILLIANT in playing Adrian Monk. I’m team SHARONA, by the way…

ONE of my favorite TV shows ever was “Monk,” the show about the “defective detective” who, while brilliant at solving crimes, has fears ranging from elevators, to crowds, to milk. I’ve sprinkled a lot of those fearish traits throughout Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway via Hazel Twigg herself.

Everybody has fears and little buggaboos, both rational and un. Have you ever rushed home from work to make sure you unplugged your iron? Are you perhaps afraid of snakes, or spiders or heights? How about unusual fears? I have a fear of chickens. There was an incident in my childhood. They are fearful creatures, with sharp talons and wicked beaks. Plus, they run really, really fast.

Hazel Twigg certainly has her share of fears. Perhaps a little more than most. Which creates an odd sort of bravery as she takes on this strange new world.

In Chapter 30 The Long & The Short of It, Hazel Twigg ventures into the scariest room in the hideaway: the Sewing Room. There are sharp pins and pointy scissors and irons that randomly hiss steam. Certain danger! But it is there that she learns a lot as she keeps Ruth talking so that she’ll stop putting pins in her mouth.


Looking out of my sewing room. I keep the door closed (no cat fur, aka “lonely people glitter” on my fabric!) but didn’t want to be shut away from the rest of the house. So I had handy Roger install a clear panel. And then I put up a curtain. Makes sense, right?

HT-057 The Death Trap NG

Still, she’s glad to escape that death trap to enjoy her day. Little does Hazel know that she’ll face a new fear that night…

On that note, happy Friday! Have a great and care-free weekend!

Guess What TODAY Is?


And of COURSE I’m happy about it! Who wouldn’t be…?

Wednesday, Lovely Wednesday

I am toiling away and working as fast as I can. How can I teach sewers to sew when I’m so very rusty myself? So I’m getting UN-rusty as quickly as possible!

It occurs to me that these first Hazel Twigg Once-Loved Dolls would be the perfect opportunity for me to use something I’ve been saving for a very long time. Look what I found in my travels!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI could not believe it when I saw them in my favorite thrift store a few years back. Of course I snatched them up!

So these first dolls that I exclusively do myself will get one of these labels sewn into their coats.  Imagine the excitement of the appraiser in “Antiques Roadshow” 2115 when he sees that YOU (or probably your descendant. Ahem.) have a doll with one of these?! There are only 20 or so.

Some composition dolls from back then are difficult to identify now because they themselves weren’t marked. The tag in their clothes identified them. Like the Vogue doll in the navy below and the Portrait doll in pink. Precedent.

When I found the “Ruth”  tags, I also found some that said “Made Especially for you by Ann” and I bought them too. Perhaps I can briefly change my name. Or find a sewer named “Ann,” with no “e” on the end of her name. Hmm…

In the meantime, here are some Once-Loved Dolls from the past:


A Vogue doll. The navy linen I used was wonderful. So crisp! It was easy and a given to form the little flowers that circled her brim.


Such a prim, sweet little girl. I loved her well.
















Redheads are very, very rare. I think I only have one or two out of all my girls waiting for adoption. I love redheads and have always had a soft spot for them. Ask my brother!


Not many girls could pull off this pale green and orange plaid wool, but she did! Oh yes, she did…
















This is a pretty and somewhat rare Portrait doll by Effanbee.


Do you see her reticule? A reticule is one of those cinched bags that sometimes have little tassels hanging from them. I learned that word when I heard it in a lyric from a song in “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” What was Joanna fretting about? What’s a reticule? I HAD to know.
And now you do too!













With each doll I try to do better than the doll before and make her as appealing as I possibly can. New dolls coming soon! With TAGS.

Dead Writer’s Society

lilyNo one knows what the future holds. When I wrote yesterday about us being near the end of the weekly chapter postings of this book, I of course found myself wondering, “What then? What do I write about then?”

It’s a natural thing to wonder about. What if this thing fizzles and withers away?

My Grandiose Mind took over. There are a lot of famous painters who only gain their fame after their deaths. During their lives they know only pain and poverty and the frequent broken heart and occasional missing ear. Surely the same thing could happen to writers!


Now, I won’t cut off my ear or anything foolish like that, but I have had my heart broken! I do walk around in increasingly tattered clothes! What if this project fades and I die early (possibly of fear should a bat EVER strike again, I kid you not) and things molder along for a decade or two…before being rediscovered.

At a time, in the distant future, when dolls are a thing of the past and childhood can be measured in months, not years, what if THEN someone stumbles across “Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway”? And it becomes the glorious success it was meant to be all along!

“Oh!” the silvery peasants will cry in their shiny clothes and floating shoes. “I heard that there were actually supposed to be SEVEN books altogether and we only have one! How sad! How tragic! What would that Ruth have wrought?! She died so young and beautiful…”

attic3And then…a few years after that, in the deep dark corners of the attic of an old house in Iowa, a discovery is made…the SYNOPSIS!! The outline for the books ahead and fragments of the history that led to the tale! And the shiny peasants with their floating shoes shall rejoice! And writers of the day shall take over writing duties! And there SHALL be seven books made into 15 movies, the last novel having been divided into three!

Or course, I’d rather have it happen now while I’m alive. I’d much prefer to write the books myself and get better and better with each installment.

lily3But no matter what happens, it’s fun to think of all the possibilities in a dark sort of way because I am a little dark. You never know! Winter is taking its last gasp and soon bats will emerge to feast, including young ones that don’t know what they’re doing and to whom a hole the size of a pencil eraser is oodles of space to fit through.

Before they do, I’d better get up to my attic and hide things…

Tonight! At midnight! Chapter 30 The Long & The Short of It.

The Four Corners of the APOCALYPSE

Why, what a pleasant house! What a lucky person that must live there!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd I am, actually. Very lucky. I’ll also be a BLESSED person if I can make it, say, FIVE more years without a bat incident. “Oh! There she goes on about those BATS again!” you’re probably muttering to yourself.

Well, yes. Because this week Chapter 30 will make its debut and there are just 36 chapters in all. We are getting near the end! The end that almost caused me to need therapy after the research and the writing of it.

It all takes place in this very attic. The attic which you are about to see. My brave mother worked up there mostly BY HERSELF and dared to take pictures!

The first:

attic1See those stairs? Remember them. A lot of the action takes place right there. The flotsam below is stuff bound for “big” garbage day in a month or so.

There are four peaks in my attic that radiate out from the center where the chimney is.

Attic2There are deep, dark corners and very high peaks. And a dinosaur.



More stuff for garbage day. ‘Cept, not the windows. Or the chandelier. Or the umbrella…

I actually love my attic. Or, I will again.

In five years.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!!!