Life in Iowa

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While You Were Sleeping…

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It has been my observation that as a rule, Kewpies are not very talkative. In fact, they make very little noise at all. Perhaps it’s the way their mouths are painted. But THIS Kewpie was an exception.

Before, with the kissy lips.

In our entryway we have a large mirror. When the lost dolls first enter the hideaway they are of course very curious to see themselves. Wouldn’t you be after decades spent asleep? Well! The minute this fellow looked in the mirror he shrieked and started vigorously rubbing his starfish hands across his mouth. He then quickly removed the cute crochet outfit with the pink pow he’d arrived in and kicked it off to one side, grabbing a stray sock on the floor and hastily tying it around his chubby waist.

“What on earth is wrong?!” I asked.

“I’m not a girl!” he said. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” he added sheepishly, upon viewing all the solely female faces around him. 

I laughed and said, “Don’t worry, we’ll soon have you put to rights. I’ve been waiting for you…”

Thus begins the description for Hazel Twigg O.L.D. (Once-Loved Doll) No. 125 Eddy, also known as “Mr. C.” to his students. You can see his adoption page HERE. Eddy is a composition Kewpie doll.

There’s no telling what can happen to a doll once it’s little human has outgrown childhood and the doll falls into a deep sleep. Some well-meaning grandmother might take it upon herself to redo said doll’s face and crochet a little outfit for them. Well, he’s awake now and back to “himself.”

Eddy is based on one of the best men I know. He’s married to my sister Carol’s daughter Rhiannon. My Nephew-in-law…? And definitely a welcome addition to our family. It’s one thing to excel when your childhood is perfect. Quite another to become an exceptional funny, kind and hard-working human being when you face challenges early in life, as our Eddy did. He’s a great dad, husband, nephew, teacher, and friend. And now he’s a great principal. Who better to dedicate an O.L.D. to?

Eddy is No. 4 in the “Daily Heroes” series.

It occurs to me that it takes a village sometimes to put these O.L.D. dolls together. I wish I could remember who gave me the little baggie of teacher pins that inspired me to one day do a teacher. Because basically there’s no real “costume” for a teacher, a teacher is pretty much a neatly dressed human being that does great things. The pins would be just the thing to define this particular doll as a Teacher.

Thank you to whoever gave me these pins! Whomever? Perhaps I need to go back to school.

For the books I used little old savings account booklets from our local bank after it was sold and they became obsolete. Old stock was brought up from the basement. Savings books, pens, pencils…

The pencils were made from dowels that my wee sister Julie gave me when I didn’t have any in just the right size.

I grabbed some of each, but thought, “Well, I guess I could do a banker maybe?” Never realizing that these nifty little old books were the perfect size for dolls! And that if you find images you like and have a great friend named Jennifer T. with an fancy printer, you could paint said books, decoupage the little nifty prints on them, and voila! You have a doll-sized book of any kind that you can imagine. Why, oh WHY didn’t I grab more?!

The Hideaway. Where clothes come to DIE. Mwahaha!

My neighbor CC gives me old clothes she no longer wants that are made up of great fabric. A faux suede jacket she recently gave me made up the buttons and collar of Eddy’s jacket.

Not knowing exactly where to put those pins on our dear teacher, I was going to make some kind of sash. It was my mother that suggested I put them on the strap of the satchel when I told her I was planning on making one. I was going to base the satchel on my dad’s old briefcase, the one with a hard front and back and curved top and the accordion sides and bottom.

Principal Eddy C. Good guy!

“Why don’t you just put the pins on the strap?” my mom suggested helpfully.

Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? I made the strap a little wider to accommodate said pins. Thanks, Mom!

And a big “Thank You” to all the teachers and principals out there, especially at this time of year!

Recently a dear friend-I’ve-never-met (yet!) sent me a picture of all her Hazel Twigg dolls standing side by side together.

So fun to see O.L.D. faces again. Feel free to send pictures of your Hazel Twigg doll in her new natural habitat, whether it’s one or many!

That same friend, we shall call her Janey J. of Oakland, California for that is her name, now has another Hazel Twigg joining her. Flossie the Summer Drummer is already there and has been welcomed by many open arms. Thank you, dear Janey!

And with that, I leave you! Happy Back-to-School season, you’re my favorite! You are my village.

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The Face-in-the-Hole Gang

Painted a year or two after I moved here in 2006.

This morning there was a whiff of coolness in the air. MAGIC!! I woke up with a spring in my step, finally ready to get back into that sewing room that I love so much. Especially since wee Julie tells me that school in Iowa starts August 23. THAT’S EXACTLY ONE MONTH FROM TODAY. Yikes! If I’m going to have a “Patriotic Summer Drummer,” then I’d better hurry!

In the meantime, here’s one of the projects I was busy with this summer. Years ago, possibly over a decade, I painted a face-in-the-hole board with a pirate and a mermaid for some sort of town function.

The Official Poster

Then a few weeks ago I was asked if I’d do a new one for the Rolfe Library’s Summer Reading Program. The theme was “A Universe of Stories.” You betcha!

But they decided that they didn’t want me to paint over the pirate and the mermaid (which I was totally prepared to do), they wanted me to paint the other side. Absolutely!

The problem was, I would need to work with the existing holes which were somewhat close together. I came up with a few different sketches.

I traced the two face openings as they existed onto different sheets of paper to see which one I liked best. Which one would YOU have picked?

For me the one where both kids would get to be driving space ships would be the best! It was tricky getting two spaceships to fit into such a confined space, but with a little work I was able to do it, using the poster from the program for inspiration. Voila!

Still, not that exciting, right? GUESS WHAT? Cute little faces in it make ALL the difference:

SO MUCH BETTER. My cute neighbor Sarah M. sent this of two of her grandkids. NOW I can see the magic of it! Thanks, neighbor Sarah!

Hope your summer’s going well! You’re my favorite.

If Ever I Would *LEAF You

I don’t see it, the scariness. Oh sure, her hair’s a little messy, but so’s mine, and I’M not a Halloween prop! Or am I? Oh dear…

A lot of dolls have come to my house over the years, to the point where I can tell a LOT about a doll simply by her knock. Most knocks express excitement by these little girls, knowing that they’ll soon have a chance to be loved again. 

This knock however was different. It was sad. I couldn’t get the door open fast enough. There stood this little doll, and she was weeping. I asked her what was wrong.

Nothing lifts a girls spirit more than some wings and a wand! And a few little curls.

“I found myself at a table surrounded by lots of other things, and I overheard an adult human talking…”

At this point, she stopped and blew her nose and bowed her head.

“What did the adult human say?” I asked, my heart breaking just a little bit for this little girl.

“They said I was creepy and scary, and that I’d be a good prop for Halloween!” 

WELL. There was certainly something I could do about THAT…

Thus begins the description for Hazel Twigg O.L.D. (Once-Loved Doll) No. 94. You can see her adoption page HERE.

I had so much fun working on our Aubrey, because she was so grateful for each little thing! She didn’t need *too* much in the way of work. The toes on her right foot had been nibbled off by mice. Her arm had been exposed to water and had “melted” a little bit. That doesn’t make her a witch!

INSPIRATION PHOTO

I think the main reason she was perceived as scary was because of her hair the the dirt that had formed in her eyes. Her wig was so firmly glued on that it would have been nearly impossible to remove without destroying it. Turns out, it was filthy in addition to being messy, so I used the Windex method to clean it. Namely, you spritz a wig with Windex avoiding a doll’s skin, and you blot it with paper towels.

Sometimes you can’t tell how much dirt you’re getting off because the towel is wet with Windex so it doesn’t show. For my own satisfaction, I took that damp paper towel and IRONED it so I could better see the dirt. YESS. Satisfying.

I then curled her wig with Spoolies and a little small barrel curling iron touch up.

Aubrey has a crown and an acorn sceptre-wand for granting wishes, but my favorite thing that led me to wanting to make her into an Autumn Fairy was the idea of LEAFS as WINGS. How clever is that? Now the trick was to find some good leaves. My kind neighbor gave me some, but I needed a few more. What to do…?

I’ve asked if I could buy one of their baskets, which look very similar to this one with the fabric sides that collapse and the metal handle. Alas, no dice.

ENTER the V&S Variety Store. I LOVE that place! It’s in Humboldt, Iowa which has a population of about 4,800. So pretty big in comparison to Rolfe. It’s not too far away, about 30 minutes, and there you can find all sorts of things that you wouldn’t find anyplace else. It’s like stepping back in time! Possibly not on purpose, even. More like good old fashioned Iowa thriftiness. If it’s not worn out, why throw it away? Even the shopping baskets are treasures!

They have candies I haven’t seen in years, and little toys, and cookie cutters of all shapes and sizes, and fabrics! A very nice couple run it, and I get a lot of joy in my heart anytime I can sneak over to Humboldt and see what’s new there. Come to think of it, the fabric for Aubrey’s dress came from V&S!

There’s the coat from my YouTube video tutorial, there’s the dress with the fabric from V&S, and there’s a better view of the leaf wings.

So with a little vintage magic – and a little help from my friends, our girl Aubrey is ready to conquer the world. Perhaps more importantly, she’s ready to conquer HALLOWEEN. Not creepy, not scary, certainly not a prop! Just a little girl who wants to be loved…

Here’s a “living” before and “after.”

A hearty thank you to those who gave my three dolls last week good homes. Agnes A. of Carrollton, PA, Corinne S. of Lexington, MA, and Dennis Z. of Kirksville, MO. Much appreciated!

With that, I leaf you! And even if your hair is a fright, you’re STILL my favorite.

*The title of this blog post came to me as I was working on Aubrey. “If Ever I Would LEAF You” – get it? From that song in ‘Camelot’ with “leaf” instead of “leave”?! Comedy GOLD!

It takes very little to entertain me. I even called my beloved mother and cackled to her about it. Yep.

It Had To Be You. Her. IT.

DEJA VU:

Several years ago I came across a photo from the 1920’s or thereabouts that so entranced me that I not only purchased it, which is unusual for me as I am a thrifty soul, I also became a fan of the photographer. His name was Mack Sennett, and he was an actor and director of silent films. He also rounded up various beautiful women and they became “Mack Sennett’s Bathing Beauties.”

Thus began the description for HazelTwigg No. 91. Sharp-eyed readers may notice that THIS particular girl is 93! When I did a bathing beauty two dolls and many moons ago, I picked one that I liked, but as my sister asked, “Why didn’t you just do your favorite?”

The ORIGINAL Marvel Rea. She looks a little wistful here, doesn’t she?

Well, it’s never too late, even as the Summer of 2017, around 100 years after the black and white photo you see was taken, has come to an end…

THUS begins the description for Hazel Twigg O.L.D. No. 93, Marvel Rea. You can see her adoption page HERE.

As mentioned in my previous post, a lot of these Mack Sennett Bathing Beauties were nameless. However! If you want to find anything, simply check out the internet. There’s even a Facebook page devoted to these particular beauties.

I learned that my particular girl has been identified. She’s Marvel Rae. I love the name Marvel!

Unfortunately, bathing beauty Marvel had a tragic life and died at a young age. I debated not making her and moving onto something else, but I’d been thinking about her all summer. IT HAD TO BE HER.

See those diamonds and circles? Figuring out how to do that was a time-consuming ponder.

To portray Marvel I needed a special doll. A unique mold I don’t think I’ve used before. One girl in the crowd kept calling out to me.

It may not look like much, but when you remove the rest of the lifted skin, the space you have to repair becomes that much larger.

But she had one of my least favorite things to fix: lifting and chipping around her eyes. In the past I’ve even started on a doll with this problem, gotten frustrated, and moved onto someone else with you being nary the wiser.

This took hours. The first time I did it, I was working on her and it kept bothering me because I wasn’t happy with the results. The second time? BETTER. I could focus on HER.

I looked and looked, but no other doll would do. She simply captured the uniqueness that was Marvel. IT HAD TO BE HER.

Our Marvel was a redhead, so I wanted something extra special for her alternative outfit because redheads are rare.

“The bathing suit’s enough!” my sister Julie cried, waving her tiny fists. She only wants what’s best for me. She knows how slow I am at sewing – and how productive I need to be. But I had some recently received fabric that came to me by way of angels including one piece of pink woven fabric. I love pink on redheads. IT HAD TO DO IT.

A few months ago my friend Cindy D.K. saw a post from a friend of hers who was clearing out her studio and generously put the word out on Facebook asking if anyone wanted some of the studio’s contents.

GUESS WHAT THAT STUDIO CONTAINED? Fabric. This woman’s name is Peggy Estridge Latta, and she creates the most exquisite and beautiful miniature gowns I have ever seen. You can see them at her site, Heirloom Textile Art.

Peggy had several people clamoring politely for different things, and bless friend Cindy’s heart, she kindly clamored on my behalf. When  Peggy asked, “What kind of fabric does she use?” Cindy directed her to this here site to see some of my work.

The beautiful velvet used for the hat and scarf were from Peggy too.

You can tell a lot about an artist’s talent by their instincts. Peggy got me to a T, as if she’d known me for years.

Peggy lives in Indiana. So does Cindy’s mom, Waneta. Peggy gave the fabric to Waneta who brought the fabric to Cindy who brought it to me. GORGEOUS silks and wools and velvets in all kinds of colors, including the pink weave I used for Marvel’s coat, which Peggy found it at a thrift store in the form of a jacket. She’s a kindred spirit!

I had been worried that I would have a hard time coming up with new themes each week. Now I have themes GALORE. I know what I’m doing for the next several dolls. THANK YOU, lovely ladies.

Speaking of the coat, I have a new video up on YouTube. It’s called, “Hazel Twigg Says Let’s Make a Vintage Doll Coat!” It’s been awhile since I’ve done one, as you can see…

And with that, I leave you! Happy Fall and new beginnings! You’re my favorite.

The LEAKERS

If you live anywhere on planet earth then I’m sure you are well aware that last weekend was Greater Rolfe Days here in  the crown jewel of America: Rolfe, Iowa.

For two and a half days our little family of 540 or so will get together and celebrate all that is Rolfe. There are tractor rides, the Lutheran Women’s Pie and Ice Cream Social, the rodeo…there are also the kids’ games.

Julie and I have done the kids’ games for most of the 11 years that we’ve lived here. Wanna know how it went? Here’s an excerpt I wrote in a letter to a friend:

So easy!

Yesterday the kids’ games went great. There were of course several fiascos, but I’ve learned not to worry as no matter what, the kids just have fun. The main fiasco was the water balloons we bought. For years Julie and I have sat at the outside spigots at our various houses because those were the only faucets that would take our water balloons. There we would sit, sweating and swearing in the hot, hot sun trying to fill a hundred plus water balloons, missing the parade and other festivities. We were so happy to see a new invention that fills up 20 balloons at once! Not only that, they seal themselves when filled! BRILLIANT.

I got to Julie’s house 45 minutes before the games to help set up as planned, only to find Julie and Scott frantically trying to get the water balloons filled. They weren’t sealing themselves, as advertised!

Here’s how they’re supposed to work: Each balloon has an incredibly tiny rubber band, and when the balloon is filled it comes off this little tube, and the rubber band is supposed to close the neck of the balloon enough that the water doesn’t come back out. Apparently, the tiny rubber bands weren’t tiny enough. So there we were, sitting at this big tub attached to the back of Julie and Scott’s lawn mower, Scott was working the hose and Julie and I were working like Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory trying to shove those little rubber bands down far enough so that the balloons wouldn’t leak. That *mostly* did the trick.

We tried taking the worst of them and tying knots instead. These balloons are made to be thin-skinned and are also biodegradable. Great for our planet, but tying? Not so much. I pride myself on the nimbleness of my fingers. I felt like Shrek with those little things.

Julie asked Scott what time it was amidst our frantic fumbling and when she heard she swore. Five minutes before game time and there were still dozens to go! I gathered up what we would need for the first game and took off to the park, leaving Julie and Scott to finish the balloons and follow. When I got there, there were several kids waiting.

“Not to worry, kids! We’ve had a slight water balloon emergency, but everything will be just fine!” I said cheerily.

I then started the first game which involved colanders and water and a relay to fill a empty ice cream bucket. As I was demonstrating, I dipped the colander into the trough and was going to put it over my own head for entertainment purposes. Plus, I was hot. But the thing was empty before I got it two feet out of the trough! This wasn’t going to work. Thinking fast, I doubled the colanders. Not much better. 

Thinking even faster, I ran to my car and found…shopping bags! PHEW. If you put shopping bags into colanders, yes, it’s not tidy looking, but it stopped the water leaking enough…In my mind, the parents were thinking, “Why don’t they test these things out first?” although I’m sure they were far more charitable than that.

Then Julie arrived, absolutely mortified. Against Scott’s advice she had attempted to dump some of the water out of the tub. Half of those hard-gotten balloons had fallen out, just as Scott had warned. He was right! THIS TIME.

We are SAVED!

Even though we’d planned to finish with a water balloon fight, such was the fragility of these fiddly balloons that we had to have it right there and then. There were so few that had survived the leaking and dumping that the fight lasted less than two minutes and the kids were still raring to carry on. This time it was Julie’s turn to think fast. “Scott, go to the grocery store and get some cups!” 

When Scott arrived with the cups…HUGE SUCCESS. This is Julie and my’s something like 10th time doing these kids games. All those years! ALL THOSE YEARS spent messing with those frustrating water balloons! And we weren’t saved with a new and handy invention, we were saved by plastic CUPS. Well, now we know.

We’re going to hot glue some of those colander holes for next year. Yessirree, next year will be PERFECT for sure…
Another Greater Rolfe Days Kids’ Games is in the history books.

Independence was adopted by…Deanna W. of Fredericksburg, Virginia. A new face! And she wrote me one of the nicest letters I’ve ever received. Thank you so much, Deanna!

I shall be going on a brief hiatus from Hazel Twigg, but do not forget me! I’ll be back!

And with that, I leave you! Happy hot days of summer! You’re my favorite.

Hazel Twigg NOT DEAD!

Honestly, Reader. It’s not you, it’s ME.

As I mentioned in my last post, “Hazel Twigg LIVE!” I was going to do a series of videos and post them on Facebook and YouTube, and I did! I did my level best. This was all very new to me and really rather tricky. My brothers had grown somewhat impatient, wondering why I wasn’t also on Instagram and Snapchat, and why I wasn’t posting things several times a day. They had nothing but great and loving intentions. Nevertheless, I have since had an ever-so-genteel meltdown, with tears flowing down my face like the sparkliest of diamonds and hardly any snot at all.

I think of it as sort of a Stockholm syndrome thing going on here.

When I first moved to this small town of a scant square mile in the middle of nowhere ten and a half years ago, I had a hard time not going insane if I didn’t get out of town at least – at least – once a week.

Can you tell the deer guard is bent? It goes with my garage! I bought the car back when I was able.

Enter the winters. Sometimes there’s no traveling, even if you have the will. I learned this lesson my first winter here, where I had the worst case of cabin fever ever known to this woman. I HAD TO GET OUT OF TOWN. So I called a friend with a truck, and bless his heart, he hooked up my Durango, and he drrraaaagggggged me out of that last deep bank of snow in my driveway, bending my deer guard. I didn’t care! I was free! I WAS FREE!

When I finally got to Target an hour or so later by the skin of my teeth I was tempted to kiss the ground. Not because I was glad to see civilization in the form of retail, but because I was still alive. And desperately dreading the drive back home. I vowed never to drive when the weather was bad again.

Soon I was working from home on the dolls that I love so much, although my income was not a guarantee. If I was able to make it out of town once a month during the times when the weather was good I was grateful. Then came the year of operations with months of recovery time, which prompted me to give up my car altogether. For two years I bummed rides when I could. If I got a wild hair, which I frequently did, and longed to go somewhere, anywhere! I walked to the cemetery or grocery store instead.

To keep from going insane, I embraced the trap. I embraced it hard. A Stockholm vacuum as it were. A cozy cave were I could write and create and not comb my hair or wear a bra and I go for days where the only face I see is my dog Teddy’s. I often don’t set foot outside my own yard, let alone this little town in the middle of nowhere.

So going from that to opening myself up to the world just wasn’t going to happen. I love you madly and you ARE my favorite, we’re just going to have to take this thing a little bit slow.

But Hazel Twigg is NOT dead. Far from it! I’ve gone back to working on dolls in my cozy cave alone with no one watching and I’m feverishly working on the rewrite every chance I get. I’m excited about the book’s whole new direction and still believe in its upcoming success.  And 20 years from now I shall be the token old lady celebrity on season 57 of “Dancing With The Stars.” People shall watch in dreadful anticipation to see a legend author/doll restorer prance, and I shall surprise and amaze them with my nimble fluidity and my ability to kick high, for an old lady…

I’ll be doing a post on my current O.L.D. 88 Cinnamon Drop in a day or two.

And with that, I leave you! Never, ever forget YOU ARE MY FAVORITE and I adore you!

LISTEN! Do You Want To Know The Secrets…?

Here’s what’s going on with Hazel Twigg: in a nutshell, a LOT.

Last July I received the following rejection letter:

July 20, 2016 

Dear Ruth,

Thank you for submitting your manuscript, Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway, to __________ Publishing.

Unfortunately, this submission isn’t quite what we’re looking for. However, we enjoyed your story so much that we’d like to offer some feedback.

I’ll begin with the positives. First, I adored your well-developed characters. Every character I met (save for Hazel at times—see below) had a distinct personality, a memorable appearance, an interesting backstory, and clear goal. Your cast was so well-developed, in fact, that I can remember each member by name. Excellent work.

Second, I loved your whimsical voice. Your long, thoughtful sentences and cheeky tone remind me of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I found myself smiling every few sentences. Beautifully done. We very rarely find authors with such strong voices.

As for the negatives, there are three major reasons why __________ can’t accept your novel.

The first involves your point-of-view characters. __________ prefers stories told mainly from the perspective of a single character—in your case, Hazel. Your story is told from the perspectives of many characters. We (your readers) are often in the heads of characters we’re interested in but don’t necessarily want to spend a lot of time with, e.g. the mad toymakers, the batty real-estate agent, the handsome bad guy. We’re much more interested in Hazel’s thoughts and actions.

Second, __________ prefers main characters who are active decision makers. We like characters with clear goals and a strong drive to meet those goals. While Hazel does make some decisions in the first half of the book, she often feels like she’s being dragged through her adventure against her will. Try making her a more active participant in the story.

Finally, the whole thing was a bit slow. I suggest reading Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat to learn how many successful authors and screenplay writers pace their books and movies.

Again, I’d like to stress how much I enjoyed your book. It has great publication potential. Should you choose to submit another manuscript to us in the future, we look forward to reading it.

All the best,

K.W.
Acquisitions Editor

*****

I agree with her criticisms (I bet you do too) and while the letter is brutally honest, being compared to Harry Potter is nothing to sneeze at! My thought is that if I can make these changes, and do them well, there’s an excellent chance this company will publish my book. I desperately wanted to tackle this rewrite, but real life abounds. There were bills to pay; if I could just catch up first…

Tom Hanks in Castaway

I’ve been living by the skin of my teeth for quite some time. Taking rather common old dolls and fixing them and dressing them and putting them up for adoption starting at $9.99 for a living isn’t for sissies; you miss a week here for a family reunion, a few days there for the flu, a doll or two or three don’t do as well as you’d hoped, and…how do you stop bailing long enough to reach out for a lifeline that could save everything? That lifeline being the possibility of future success and a much better boat if you just have the faith? I’m here to tell you, it’s very hard to do.

Enter my brothers! They’ve temporarily plugged the ship and put the lifeline within reach. All I have to do is learn to swim. Fast. They sent me a smart phone so that I could do live things via Facebook and Instagram and YouTube and the like. THIS is my chance for that final push to make Hazel Twigg all that it can be.

Jennifer is the BEST. And her hands are really quite pretty. Ahem.

The struggle is it’s as if I’ve been on a deserted island and have no idea how to do any of these things. Until two weeks ago, I’d never even texted! My dear friend, Jennifer Trenary, sat down with me and my new phone for nearly THREE HOURS to get me up to speed. Thank you, Jennifer!

The Rewrite

The premise of the book Save the Cat the publisher mentions in her letter is this: If your heroine does something in the beginning of the book such as saving a cat, your reader will like and trust her and want to spend time in her head. I promptly ordered the book and read it.

Over the months as I contemplated changes while still clinging stubbornly to my barely floating boat, I’ve giggled madly to myself with different scenarios for “cat saving”:

Hazel: “Hey mom, your tag is out. Let me fix that for you…”

Or here’s my sister Julie’s helpful suggestion: “Mithter! Mithter! You dropped your wallet!”

We cackled together over that one. I’m still working on it, of course…

That is just ONE of the challenges. I’ve removed all the non-Hazel-centric chapters and they totaled 26,500 words in all. Maxwell has been reduced to a car driving by. Smith and Jones have completely disappeared. POOF! It’s daunting, to say the least, but it needed to be done and I’m grateful to actually have the chance to sit down and DO IT.

The Future

Here is the plan: I’ll be doing one or two dolls a month, and I’ll be taking doll people and anyone else who wants to watch on the journey with me step-by-step, as a doll person, a writer, and a liver of life in the middle of nowhere in Iowa. I’ll be doing so via several new fronts that I’m just now learning, and I’ll be letting people into my sewing room, a place that I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve allowed in since I turned it into a sewing room a decade ago. I’ll be showing everyone how to do what I do. It’s a gamble. At the same time I’m going to do a complete overhaul of my book. AND there’s a deadline.

No pressure. No pressure at all…

But, hey! One of the perks of that is if I’m successful, it’ll make the current copies of the book as it is, 300 copies in all, worth MORE in the future!

You wouldn’t think it to look at it, but for some reason when my garage door is closed, there’s an eight inch gap on one side. Hmm…

I was all set to go starting today, but over the weekend there was a cat I couldn’t save: my own. Lilly was absolutely fine, then Saturday morning I could tell she wasn’t feeling well. I made her as comfortable as I could, checked on and fretted over her throughout the day, hoping it was something that would pass. By Saturday evening she was gone, just like that. It was very sudden.

I’m going to miss you, Lilly.

My sweet neighbor Tom M. was kind enough to gather her for me and put her in my neighbor Brandi’s garage for the night as my garage is not sound. On Sunday morning Julie and my brother-in-law Scott and I had a burial after much digging in slightly frozen ground. We put Lilly next to Elsie. We are down to two heartbeats in this house and it’s an adjustment, that’s all there is to it.

So starting tomorrow! Live, live, live! Swim, swim, SWIM.

Wish me luck and send me your prayers, please.

With that, I leave you! Happy Monday, you’re my favorite.

Clean Up Days to the Rescue!

taygal3aIt was obvious that the little girl standing in front of me had been subjected to a composition doll’s worst enemy next to water: FIRE. I immediately got to work on her, only remembering to take her “before” pictures halfway through. Her poor sooty skin was flaking off into my hands.

The fire, the fact that Iowa’s spring has seen a lot of rain, and the additional fact that this little girl’s name was Taylor all led me into the direction of O.L.D. No. 71 Taylor’s theme: Fire & Rain, based on that wistful James Taylor tune. It’s all well and fine to have a vision, but getting that vision to actually work is a different story altogether…

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Befores and Afters

It’s a good thing I have a sense of humor! And a very good imagination. I was cackling to myself these past two days as I tried and tried over and over to Get The Umbrella To Stand By Itself. 

“She makes everything look so easy!” the voices in my head from the constantly present audience teased, as I failed for the umpteenth time and the umbrella collapsed. But that’s the way it has to be: when I look at a Once-Loved Doll, the first words that come to mind HAVE to be, “She looks so cute!” and not, “Hm….I don’t like the shape of that umbrella…..”

Hence the delay. I destroyed the head massager that my sister had given me (there’s a dollar she’ll never see again!) and instead had to resort to one of my favorite things, wire hangers…

Thus begins the second half of my description for “Fire & Rain” Taylor, O.L.D. (Once-Loved Doll) No. 71, added two days – TWO DAYS! – after I first put her up for adoption.

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The vase looked kind of like this.

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Aren’t glass garden sculptures pretty? The green will add a touch of color.

Once I got the shape better with those wire hangers, the problem became the weight of the umbrella head contraption. Fortunately, it had been Rolfe Clean Up Days a few days before. The one and only thing I snagged was a retro Regency-style vase. I had planned on using the green glass part to make a garden sculpture.

“Just keep the green glass part and throw the rest away!” my wee sister cried in her tiny, tinkly voice.

“Peanut gallery, HUSH!” I decreed.

She’s the peanut gallery, unless she’s spouting something brilliant, which happens more frequently than you’d think. Secretly, I would have gotten rid of the rest of the lamp right then and there, but I couldn’t figure out how to take it apart, so…

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VERSION 1: I wasn’t happy with the shape of the umbrella, and it couldn’t stand on its own. It was resting on the wall behind it.

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VERSION 2: Here’s our happy Taylor, dancing around a common street vase.

The metal parts were of a heavy pot metal. Finally! Something weighty enough to support that top-heavy umbrella!

“That’s going to cost extra shipping…” my wee sister, who in addition to being The Mayor, also just so happens to work at the post office, so she knows such things.

“I don’t care!” I cried, almost hysterical at this point.

I desperately needed to get on to the next doll, whose cries to be remembered (< a CLUE!) were growing louder by the day. But first, I had to make sure I got Taylor to a point where I could be happy with her.

1Taydress1“What’s with the vase?” my wee-voiced sister inquired, upon finally seeing the finished listing.

“That’s a street vase. All the best cities have them,” I sniffed.

One last note, the way the raincoat and hat came about is somewhat of a miracle. I happened to see all three of the fabrics I used for the umbrella, raincoat, and dress sitting side by side in the fabric section of a Walmart and thought, “Perfect for an umbrella, raincoat, and dress!” I considered buying some plastic sheeting, and sewing it to each piece. The thought made me not want to do it. But I couldn’t resist that fabric…

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Note the ladybug boots. They were a hoot to make.

I was patiently waiting for the nice woman to cut that fabric and give me my fix, when on a whim I asked, “Is there such a thing as plastic that you can some how fuse to fabric, to make it….”

Before I even finished my question and without uttering a word, this glorious woman went to a shelf and pulled a magical bolt from within its depths.

“This is iron on plastic,” she sang with a chorus of angels accompanying her words. As if it couldn’t get better, she continued, “It’s on close-out, and is a dollar a yard.” Trumpets! A full choir! And FLUTES! Lots and lots of flutes. I bought all that remained, which was about four yards, which means there will be more rain-coated O.L.D.’s to come. Taylor is the second, HERE is the first.

1TayallWhen I was in the thick of sewing, I had some doubts about some things.

“With the plasticized raincoat and hat, having a plasticized umbrella would be too much shininess,” I fretted aloud to my sister.

“Umbrella’s are usually just fabric anyway,” she replied.

Yessirree, sometimes that sister of mine is pretty brilliant. Phew.

Speaking of brilliant, the always treasured Michelle E. of Hudson, Colorado adopted Clare II. Which means, both Clare’s are united! Thank you, Michelle!

And with that, I leave you! Happy Sunday, you’re my favorite!

The Burn Circle

burnpThe other day, I decided to have pizza for supper. I turned on my trusty old stove and went about my business while I waited for it to warm up. A flash caught my eye. POOF! The oven was on fire! I could see flames through the window. Perhaps some previously dropped food was burning. I opened the door to see. Gasp! The heating element was sparking and spitting away like the wick to a bomb. I watched in dismay and fascination as it made it’s way aaaallllll around the element. When it finished, the floor of the oven caught fire. Not wanting to see what would happen next, I threw some flour over the flames.

Fast forward. I’d found a reasonably priced stove at a local store in Poky (aka “Pocahontas,”). Delivery would be in the early afternoon two days later. Excellent! I could do a little straightening in preparation, but spend the bulk of my time doing outside chores. I’d still have plenty of time to finish cleaning the morning of delivery…

burn1NOPE. I got a call the late in the afternoon. I’d been mowing and raking and pulling weeds.

“Would it be okay if the stove was delivered between 8:30 and 9:00 tomorrow morning?”

Um. “Of course! (my house is always neat as a pin. This will be no sweat at all!)

Every year when the cold weather starts and you live surrounded by cornfields that have been freshly harvested, you get mice. There’s just no two ways around it. It’s disheartening to see those little poops appear in your drawers and cupboards. You have to thoroughly clean not only the cupboards, but the contents, as well. You put out a little poison and wait a few days. If you don’t see any fresh poops, you put the contents back in their places and hope for the best. This year the mice would just not take the hint. A few days later, more poop would appear and the whole process would begin again. Such is the glamour of living out in the country in the middle of nowhere.

After the third or fourth time I gave up. I knew when the warmer weather hit and the fields were planted again, the little varmints would disappear. I decided to wait them out. For the past several weeks my pots and pans have been conveniently and pooplessly on my countertop. My silverware tucked into cupboards above, where mice don’t seem to go. All well and good when it’s just you there. Now I had company coming. Delivery men, to be sure, but company nonetheless.

burnwThe morning of the delivery, I bit that bullet, donned rubber gloves, and went for it. Plenty of time! I said to myself.

Hmm. All this cleaning was taking longer than I thought. Maybe the truck will be delayed. I called to check, only to be kindly reassured, “They’re loading up the truck now, they’ll be there very soon.”

GONE were the visions of my entire downstairs sparkling clean. GONE was the vision of a freshly mopped and gleaming floor. GONE was the vision of my washing machine in the basement merrily washing, the huge mountain of dirty laundry spitting out of my bathroom finally transferred downstairs to be washed, folded, and neatly put away. Perhaps I could paint my nails whilst I waited for their arrival, I had naively thought a mere two hours earlier.

Instead I SHOVED that pile of laundry further into the bathroom and slammed the door. I didn’t mop, instead settling for a quick sweeping. It was a decent enough job. One of the smartest things I did was to change the Scentsy.

“This house smells good,” I heard one of the appliance guys say as they left to go get the stove after surveying the kitchen. “Yeah, and look at that beautiful woodwork,” the other responded. I felt a glow.  They were far nicer than the Batman had been.

burnmburnhwWhen the stove guys removed the back of the old stove to get the cord (new stoves don’t come with cords nowadays, which seems odd and somewhat stingy), they discovered…an electrocuted mouse.

It’s rather ironic: my counters were cluttered for fear of a mouse. A nibbling mouse caused the death of my stove. The death of my stove caused the de-cluttering of my counters. Full circle! Now all is right in the world.

Until next year, of course.

There are many things afoot in the world of Hazel Twigg, thus leading to the brief hiatus when it comes to O.L.D.s. Updates coming soon, and a new doll coming this Sunday!

AT LAST.

marching-bandPROOF-First-Release DAmarching band

I have done it. I have finally held in my own two hands the culmination of a journey that began four years, one month, and nine days ago. Or thereabouts. The Proof copy of Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway! Once this copy is approved (and *Mayor Julie is going over it right now. I’m a little too close to it), then whoosh! The order for the limited First Release printing will be made!

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Pinky becomes lost when a cat chasing a mouse knocks her out of a barn loft and she gets buried in the hay. She’s the first O.L.D. to come to Hollyhock Hideaway.

I’ll give more details later, but for now we’re planning on November 18 – also my brother Kenny’s birthday AND the date of my local library presentation, where there’s a good chance I’ll have actual books there for sale – as our official release date, including on Amazon.com.

I was looking over past emails from back in the day trying to find the exact date of when this all started. I wasn’t able to find it, but what I did find was somewhat amazing. This book has gone through so many changes. So many towns and characters and settings. But here’s an excerpt from an email to a friend I wrote less than a month after this all began back in 2011:

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Ruth makes new clothes for Pinky.

I was thinking that since dolls come and go here, my house could be the place that dolls who are no longer played with or who have been forgotten and neglected by their little girls escape to in the hopes of some day being loved again.  An orphanage of sorts, and in the meantime we have adventures!

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The bat finale in the attic.

Whether it’s bats in the attic, or a creature in the basement, or we explore an abandoned house looking for treasure or even just take our dog for a walk and the people that we meet.  In the meantime, I clean them up and make dresses for them and one by one they’re adopted out to happy houses.  Before you know it, ANOTHER lost little girl appears needing attention!  Wouldn’t that be fun?

After all the changes, this beginning kernel of an idea is what the book ended up being about. So many things have come together in its creation. But the most important thing to remember is that this isn’t just a book. To me it’s a movement to a new O.L.D. way of life. A back to the future in reverse. A return to the imagination that you create yourself, free of gadgetry. I’ve seen several memes along the lines of, “I’m so grateful I had my childhood before technology took over.” That’s the gist of the Hazel Twigg world in a (hazel)nutshell. More to come soon.

*In the meantime!

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DO NOT ASSUME.

If you’re lucky enough to live in Reliance, aka Rolfe, Iowa, don’t forget to VOTE FOR JULIE FOR MAYOR TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3, at the ROLFE COMMUNITY CENTER. Don’t assume! She loves this town as much as I do and has its best interests at heart and has worked so hard and been so involved with everything, and not just these past two years. She truly cares. PLEASE VOTE!

Thank you! You’re my favorite!