Monday, November 28, 2011

Autumn Reverie

Sun dapples a carpet of leaves.

Autumn colors

My son is nearly lost in a sea of leaves.

Golden leaves under a threatening sky.
It occurs to me that although this blog was supposed to be about projects created daily, I am actually lucky to finish one project a week. Week before last I did manage to complete two: the Ramona doll and a series of photos of my youngest son. I just didn't get around to writing about the photos. In the past week we have had our house power-washed, put in a new closet, attended two hockey games, visited with my sister's family who came for Thanksgiving, had Thanksgiving itself, and done some Christmas shopping! I also re-worked my felt doll pattern to smooth out some issues with the finished dolls and make them a bit larger. I want to get them to the size where they could wear the 18 inch clothes, since that is the popular size now for doll clothing.

The series of photos above are excerpts from my son's 3rd birthday photo-shoot. He won't actually turn 3 until next week, but I wanted to get the pictures while the leaves still looked good. The site is the Jaycee Park here in town. Normally this is a somewhat seedy-looking park, with run-down equipment. I always have liked it though. For one thing it is behind the elementary school I attended and where my children now go, so I have been familiar with it from childhood. Also, it has a huge field kids love to run in and a stream which is occasionally full and bubbling. No one else is ever there, either, so it's sort of like our own private park.

This time of year, for nearly the entire month of November, the park sheds its dowdy garb and cloaks itself in stunning beauty. The stream becomes deep and black and mysterious. A thick carpet of leaves cover the ground, and the varied trees, oak, sweet gum, maple, and more, just burst into color like fireworks.

We go every day to this park, because I sign my kids up as walkers so we get some exercise. We walk through the park to school. In the fall we stroll under this cathedral of color, with leaves raining down like flakes of gold, and I feel like I can finally be at peace in my skin. It's very seldom I can turn off my brain, my longings for something more, the to-do list always running in my head and just take in the beauty of a place.

Another reason I come to this park is that we used to live over near it and I took my first baby there for his outing every single day from when he was only about a week old. I can remember sitting in the deep cushion of leaves with more falling silently all around us, my baby just learning to sit up himself. In this time of year I can see him as a new crawler and walker, practicing on the soft ground, and learning to climb the steps to the slide. That baby of mine will become a teenager in a few months. He will have to start shaving soon. To be honest, it's a hard time for us. He is becoming truculent and secretive. His grades are a disappointment. It is nice to go back in time for a bit and remember how wonderful and amazing he seemed when he was new to us.

It is always good to cultivate an appreciation for the transformation of the everyday into the extraordinary.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Ramona Forever: My Friend Jenny as Ramona Quimby

My Friend Jenny #217 as Ramona

Jenny's original outfit looks like the bridesmaid dress described in the book.
Recently my daughter and I have been reading the Ramona books together. Ramona Quimby was a great friend of my childhood, nearly as real to me as my school friends. I read all the books myself, my parents and teachers read them to me, and I always understood Ramona and sympathized with her in her plights.

I was excited when I got a large box of dolls and saw this Jenny wearing her original yellow dress. We were just at the part of the book, Ramona Forever, where Willa Jean picks yellow dresses for the girls to wear in Aunt Beatrice and Uncle Hobart's wedding, and I thought how the yellow dress looked like the one in the book. Then I went to the store and found a copy of Ramona Forever marked down! So then I knew this doll was meant to be Ramona! It seems a little crazy, but the dolls do almost kind of tell me who they are meant to be.

This Jenny didn't need a lot of work. I cleaned her thoroughly and styled and conditioned her hair. I sewed a linen jumper and striped voile blouse for her and found a pair of Horsman shoes that fit. I find that the vintage Horsman shoes advertised for Terri Lee fit the My Friend dolls as long as they aren't wearing socks. These shoes are often available new in lots on eBay.

I am pleased with how cute this little doll turned out, and I enjoyed revisiting Ramona with my daughter. I really think sharing your childhood favorites with your own kids is one of the greatest blessings you have!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Alpine Girl: Mandy as Heidi

Mandy as Heidi, with her goat and wardrobe.

My Friend Mandy with her original outfit.

Mandy as Heidi in her original flannel nightgown.

Heidi in her new dress and pinafore with her goat.

Heidi's embroidered dress without the pinafore.

Heidi, wearing her pinafore over the pink dress, packs her trunk to visit Klara.

For about a week now I've been working on a Mandy as Heidi set. I could have finished it sooner, but my wonderful hubby took me to the beach for the weekend without the kids, and I wasn't about to refuse in order to finish a doll!
I had to buy this Mandy set because it is the complete original set I got  as a gift from my mother when I was about 3 or 4. I can still see Mandy in her box. I think I remember it particularly because I would not normally have gotten a large gift for the occasion; I think maybe it was Valentine's Day. This is also the first "girl" doll, not baby doll, I can remember having. We were still living with my grandparents after my dad died, so this would have been 1977 or 78. My mom had gotten the doll because she was so excited to find a doll named Mandy, like me, with the same two-tone blond hair. The only difference was that I had brown eyes that later turned green-hazel like everyone else on my Mom's side of the family. It's too bad. My dad's mother had the bluest eyes, "China blue", my mom would say. I wish I'd gotten those. My mother's own eyes have lightened so much now they're sort of yellow, so I guess I know what I have to look forward to!

I eventually owned all these dolls, or shared them with my sisters. Gosh, how we played with these...but I know I've recounted that in previous posts and I don't want to bore you to death! Besides playing with dolls, I spent my childhood reading. I had certain books I would read again and again, usually at least once a year. The Secret Garden, The Little Princess, and Heidi were all big favorites. I loved the beginning of Heidi best, when she lives on the mountain with her grandfather.

Crazily enough, it was somewhat similar to my own childhood. After my father died, my mother and I moved from California to Ohio to live with her parents. Her father was Norwegian, and her mother is Swiss and Norwegian. My father was nearly all Swiss, so I am half Swiss and a bit less than half Norwegian, with a slew of other nationalities mixed in. My grandfather often served what he called "cheese toastie" for breakfast, which was toasted cheese on bread. In the summer he would also give me a bowl of raspberries from the garden with milk, like cereal, only with raspberries. My grandparents' house is on a lake, and I spent a lot of time roaming the lake shore unattended. Later we moved to the countryside and I was allowed to ramble around in the cornfields as I wished. We didn't have mountains, of course. I often wished we did, and I also wished for some goats like Heidi has, or maybe a pony.

My grandmother had a Swiss pen pal when she was a pre-teen. Even though she's over 90 now, she still has all the letters and photos her friend, who lived in the Alps, sent her back in the 20s and 30s. We used to pour over them. It is just a stunning landscape. I have been to the Italian Alps, and they are also just amazingly lovely.

I really enjoyed re-visiting this book in order to make the doll. In fact, I was craving cheese so much my husband said he may have to take the book away, as it is causing dangerous cheese fantasies for me. Okay, that may be true, but I have been on a diet...I've lost 18 pounds, so I haven't been eating as much cheese and bread as I'd like! I also enjoyed taking the photos of the doll...a bit too much perhaps! It was so much fun to illustrate the story with the doll, though! I am really proud of how well the pinafore and ribbons go with the original Mandy outfit. I am also impressed with the toy goat. This is by Dakin, and I had to go to eBay to find it. There were no goats available locally, although I did see some yaks made of actual fur in the Ping Tibetan shop in Wilmington! I didn't realize until I got it that the goat actually makes a bleating goat sound when you squeeze its sides! It was a plus, but it has made it hard to keep it from being stolen by the children.

All in all, it's been a great week! I went to the beach, spent alone time with my husband, and revisited a favorite childhood story! If only they could all be so good!