Monday, September 30, 2013

The Art of the Landscape: NOLA Style

A beautiful fountain in Audubon Park.

As my New Orleans landscaping series continues, I am sharing some of the beautiful statues and garden art I saw there. I always think it's hard to try to incorporate statuary into the typical yard. So often I see suburban yards with huge formal statues placed awkwardly here and  there. One of our neighbors once erected a curious piece: a circle of cinder blocks topped on four sides with small cement squirrels. A giant cement swordfish leaped out of the center. It was quite a sight placed in front of the tiny midcentury ranch house! It did serve as a useful landmark when we were giving visitors directions to our house, though.

Old hitching posts adorn modern French Quarter streets.

I felt NOLA gardeners did a better job including statuary and other garden art pieces into their yards. They do have it easier; all houses in the French Quarter have been required for 200 years to have a courtyard with a fresh water fountain, so most have beautiful old fountains and statues existing. New Orleans also has a plethora of grand municipal statues dating back to the 1700s, so yard art blends in a bit better with the rest of the environment.

This statue is tucked against the wall in the Courtyard of the Two Sisters.

I did find the NOLA landscapers showed a great deal of creativity. The city has stepped up as well, commissioning lovely modern art to grace its many squares and walkways. I especially enjoyed a life-sized sculpture series depicting residents of the city from many different time periods behind the French Market.

Mural, statue, and fountain behind the French Market.

I hope you will gain some ideas from my photos. I was inspired by many small art pieces tucked away here and there. It was easy to imagine working art like this into my own yard. This is my last post about NOLA gardens. My next will focus on home exterior design.

I spent the weekend collecting more blog material from our road trip up to the mountains. We had to drive up to the High Country for our son's band competition. They won Grand Champions (thank you very much!), so that was fun to watch. On the way we stopped in West Jefferson, a favorite NC town of ours in Ashe County. They were having an antique fair, art show, and music festival. I picked up some great pieces for me and to sell in my store, so I will tell you all about those when I get them ready.

A mysterious vine-covered window in the Court of the Two Sisters.

Though we had a great time, I'm exhausted. We didn't even eat supper until 8:30 Saturday night, and we waited up for our son to return until 1AM. Sunday was devoted to housework, since we've been away so much lately. I washed laundry all day. Our towels were smelling musty, so I washed them in detergent with 3/4 cup of Borax added. I used a cup of white vinegar as a fabric softener as well. Then I hung them out on the clothesline to dry in the sun. At night I brought them in, about three quarters of the way dry, and finished drying them in the clothes dryer. This method kills any stubborn bacteria holding on in the terry cloth and makes the towels smell great! I also aired out the house with open doors and windows since the weather is cool and mopped all the floors. I got started on the bathrooms. Then I lined the turquoise antique trunk at the foot of my bed with contact paper to convert it to a linen trunk for sheets. I used bars of lemon soap in between the sheets as a scent sachet. I still have a long way to go, but it does feel good to have about the half the house deep-cleaned and fresh-smelling.

This pretty square opens into the French Market.

Because I had the band carpool last week we ate mostly frozen, pre-made food. I didn't have time to cook and cursed Aldi chose that week to stock all the German foods I grew up with and love. Strudel, braunschweiger, schnitzel... I'm going to have to clean up the diet this week or I'll weigh 400 pounds! I try to buy all these whenever they get them, though, so they know people want them. I was recounting this menu to my friend who grew up here today and she looked at me like I was a lunatic and said, "I don't ever fix anything like THAT"! Since I hadn't really cooked all week I made a big Ohio supper last night: pork schnitzel with homemade pretzels and beer cheese. We dip the pretzels and schnitzel in the beer cheese and pour it over vegetables like broccoli. The kids love making pretzels. They like to roll them out and twist the dough and they love to sprinkle the salt on top. You can find the recipe I use for beer cheese in my Pinterest recipes folder. I use the entire can of beer and increase the flour and cornstarch to 3 TBSP each. I also add about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of nutmeg. Otherwise, I follow the recipe.

The colorful Two Sisters fountain.

This morning in the garden I saw a big eggplant almost ready and some peppers, as well as a ton of basil. I think tonight I will make pasta with pesto sauce and later in the week I will make caponata to top either bruschetta or pasta. I want to give the eggplant a few more days. I think I will also serve marzipan pound cake topped with pineapple for dessert.

This beautiful sundial is located in a Garden District median.

My neck is killing me, though, so I think right now I'm going to go do some yoga. All the recent hours spent sitting in cars and planes has been wreaking havoc on my back!

A gorgeous statue on the River Walk.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

On The Side: Side Yard Landscapes from NOLA

A manicured side yard walkway leads visitors to the porch.

This apartment building walkway has been turned into a lovely shared garden.

I really have a ridiculous amount of work to do in the yard and house right now, as well as in my office. The house is trashed, the yard's a mess, the laundry hampers are overflowing, my office is piled with half-finished projects. So, I'm working hard on all these things, right? Wrong! I dressed in workout clothes today, trying to motivate myself to get some exercise in while my little one was at school, but all I managed was a walk down to the lake. Then I sat on our dock for a long while enjoying the clear water and cool breeze. Other than that, I did get out to the garden for some weeding and cabbage worm pest patrol and that's pretty much it. I could go lift some weights or clean a bathroom or two, or mop the floors, but I decided my blog needs me far more!

The formality of this yard is accentuated by the Harlequin paver pattern of this side patio.

I am just tired beyond belief. Last night we took the kids to our little town carnival and we all got to bed late. My stomach is really protesting the pizza and funnel cake I ate there, too. Once you're out of the practice of eating processed food your body rebels when you re-introduce it. With good reason, too, once you understand what that stuff is doing to you! Every so often it's a good idea to remind yourself how bad that kind of food makes you feel so you're less tempted to relapse. I did read some great articles on nutrition and the endocrine system this morning. Here's the link: Follow this post to the Leptin post and watch the video at the end. It's great stuff! You can also find more like this in my Health folder on Pinterest.

Plants, pretty chairs, and garden art turn this side entrance into a relaxing retreat.

I shipped some things and worked on the financials for my store, as well, so I guess it wasn't a totally wasted morning. Tonight I have to cook, drive the band carpool, and I'm supposed to be at two parent meetings at two different schools, but at the same time! I tried to get Jerry to go to one for me but couldn't talk him into it. I'm tempted to skip both. I've already signed up as a volunteer for both events the meetings concern, so why do we need to meet again? I am so tired of these endless and so often superfluous meetings. Maybe I will take a nap instead!

Tropical plants become part of the structure of this courtyard, forming a side wall.

But enough of all that. This is turning into one of my "Seinfeld" posts, as Jerry calls them: all about nothing! As you know if you're a regular reader, we just returned from New Orleans and I collected many ideas for landscaping there. I was especially impressed with the NOLA gardeners' use of all their landscaping space. Every single bit of most yards is landscaped there, and it's wonderful to see the lovely spaces claimed from a scrap of side yard, utilitarian walkway, even garage rooftops! I already showed you some lovely hidden courtyards and gardens. Most of today's spaces are also tucked away. I had to snoop a little aggressively to photograph some of these. Jerry had to wander off and pretend he didn't know me!

A simple bench and some shrubbery under a live oak creates a side garden room.

Most of these were taken during our accidental Garden District Boot Camp walk. We bought a street car day pass, thinking we would ride the car to the Garden District, look around a bit, and get back on the car to go to The Camellia Grill, a restaurant my sister recommended. Well, after an hour or so of walking in the Garden District we realized we hadn't seen a street car for a while. Turns out, the tracks are being renovated and the cars aren't running their full route. No one bothers to mention this to tourists, however! We had a map in a guide book that made it seem as though the restaurant was only a few blocks away. We didn't realize the map only showed major roads, not the small ones. So, we kept thinking we were almost there. Jerry developed an obsession after a while and decided we were going to eat at The Camellia Grill if it killed us. It took five hours to walk there, eat, and walk back! The food was very good, but I recommend taking the bus!

Placement of the rounded loggia under the live oaks makes this porch even more private.

While we walked endlessly through the soupy heat I amused myself by taking idea photos I might be able to use in our yard. Right now we have lovely mature shrubs that were planted too close together, so they are on top of each other. In the back we've cut down a seemingly infinite number of small trees and they are piled all over the place waiting for Jerry to rent a chipper/shredder so we can mulch them. Our side yard is a hill topped with red mud that drops off in a sort of little cliff into the neighbor's driveway. We have a patio I've been transforming into a courtyard on the other side. Somehow, while we were away our son managed to water the herb tower in the center of the courtyard, while failing to notice the bone-dry potted citrus trees next to it, or the fence boxes behind it. So, my beloved lemon tree and fence boxes are half dead now. It's safe to say, the yard needs help!

An enormous vine over this driveway gate creates an oasis in a concrete jungle.

As you can see from these photos, New Orleans has a talent for using spaces usually unclaimed. Almost all the gardens I'm sharing are in side yards or back yards. I love the creative use of plants as hardscaping you see in so many different gardens. Tall trees and shrubs, even flowers, form walls, screens, pathways, and bowers. One yard features an evergreen vine used almost like black eyeliner to pick out interesting architectural details, like rounded steps. The same vine is formed into an arbor over the side yard gate. I have some privets in the back which I think are tall enough to prune into an arch over the path to the vegetable garden. Sometime tomorrow I'm going to try to get out there and see if I can do it.

Evergreen vines form a side gate arbor and highlight curved stairs.

I hope you enjoy these NOLA inspirations as much as I do! I still have hundreds more photos of exterior home d├ęcor ideas and garden art to share.

This statue tucked in a corner of Jackson Square Park transforms the
maintenance shed behind it into a focal point.
A very simple garden: just one lovely container on a pedestal between two driveways.
More plants as structure: living walls direct visitors to this side-entrance apartment.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Haunted Beauty: New Orleans

This overgrown garden reminded me of Miss Havisham's house.

Finally, I have a minute to write again. The past couple weeks have been insane. I traveled to New Orleans, tagging along on a business trip with Jerry while his mother watched the kids. He had the weekend off and then I was on my own in the city for three more days. Then we returned home for a day, just long enough to wash the laundry, and left again for a wedding in Raleigh. It was all I could do to drag myself out of bed this morning, and unfortunately, it's my week to drive the band carpool! This weekend we have to drive up to the mountains for a band competition, so I guess I probably won't be finishing much work other than laundry and the general chores.

In New Orleans, we did all the usual sight-seeing and I spent a great deal of time walking around the city looking for courtyard and garden ideas, and just enjoying being alone and exploring a new place. You might remember some of my last gardening posts concerned our slate patio, which I'm trying to landscape as a courtyard. The patio is bordered by a fence and gate in front, a deck and shrubs on one side, a fence on one side, and a border or tall shrubs and trees on the back. All this enclosure gives it the feeling of a courtyard, which I'm trying to accentuate. I hoped to find some inspiration from New Orleans' famous courtyards.

A beautifully-decayed stucco wall

My hope was not in vain. New Orleans is replete with, not only courtyards, but hidden alleys full of plants, stunning jewel-box side yards, intriguing home exterior color schemes, and signs of graceful age. You do, of course, see the not-so-graceful aging as well. Grime, crime, and decay are everywhere, but the decay is of such beauty you can forgive it and even revel in it. In this way, I was reminded forcibly of Italy and old European locales and even of some parts of China.

Colonial Spanish wall, Victorian statue, and modern barbed wire

I took so many photos I can't possibly show them all in this post, so I am concentrating here on a few of the more mysterious and romantic places I saw. Everywhere you come across these neglected and forgotten relics of once-proud gardens and homes, now overgrown and forgotten as Miss Havisham's. You also see incongruous beauty. Victorian statuary adorns industrial squalor; lush ferns sprout from the walls of modern shops. It's my favorite sort of place. I want to incorporate this sense of mystery and faded grandeur into my own false courtyard. Later I will share some of the clean and tidy gardens I saw and some other ideas for the rest of the house and yard.

I think the thing about New Orleans I find most appealing is the sense you get of the striations of time there. It seems as if you're walking through several layers of experience at once, or as if you're inhabiting many different centuries simultaneously. I get this feeling in many old places, but in New Orleans it was particularly strong. This burned city, this drowned city, decimated and yet thriving, doesn't feel as though it is solidly anchored in the present.

A gated Garden District fountain: this is exactly what I want to do with our gate.

We found this first hand at our hotel, Hotel Monteleone. The hotel is very historic and storied. Truman Capote was nearly born there, but his mother barely made it to the hospital. We were not aware it is supposed to be haunted. The first night, around 10:30 or so, we heard hammering above our heads as if construction was going on. We wondered why on earth the staff would wait until so late at night to commence work. Not long past midnight I was awoken by the sound of the door lock turning and footsteps walking into the room. I was wearing earplugs, but the sound was loud enough to pull me from a deep sleep. No one was in our room, and the next morning I asked Jerry if he heard how loud our neighbors were coming in. I didn't really think to much about it for a while, but then I remembered the doors are locked with key cards, not turning locks, and yet I had distinctly heard a lock turning.

The next night we heard the construction, again after 10 PM, and I was awoken around 1 AM by the sound of a man speaking in a garbled manner, as if through a static phone connection. I shoved my earplugs in more tightly and decided I might complain about our loud neighbors to the staff. That same night, someone knocked on our door at 2 AM. Jerry got up to check, but no one was in the hallway. After Jerry went back to bed he woke up later and saw by the bathroom night light that the clothes in the closet were all moving around on their hangers.
On the second day, we heard a couple in the elevator talking about the hotel's reputation of having a haunted floor, but we just couldn't believe it. I did buy a book about the ghosts of New Orleans and found the haunted floor was the 14th: our floor! We still thought it was the neighbors and the hotel maintenance staff, not ghosts, making the noise. I even wrote something on my Facebook about how we hadn't noticed any ghostly activity! However, I went up to the 15th and 16th floors that day and saw no evidence of construction going on. Finally on the third night we had to concede that perhaps the hotel did have something paranormal going on. The hangers in the closet were banging together so loudly they woke Jerry up; it definitely wasn't something a mere air current from the HVAC could accomplish! Also, our neighbors had checked out, but we were still hearing footsteps and locks and talking all night. Then we attended a reception and dinner in the hotel conference room, on the first floor and the lights all began going crazy. One would flicker on and off and then the next, all across the ceiling like dominoes falling and then in random patterns. Then they would all turn on and off. This was so distracting it was hard to carry on a conversation. A waiter who had worked in the hotel for seven years told us, "Don't worry; it's just the ghost." So, evidently the haunting isn't confined to the 14th floor!
Boughs shelter picnickers in Audubon Park.
I'm still not sure about ghosts, despite our experiences. I wonder a lot about time and its structure. In 1991, I went to Governor's School, a North Carolina program in which exceptional students are nominated to attend college for a summer and are able to go for free. I went to Salem College and absolutely loved it. The school's intent is to expose students to as many concepts and points of view as possible. I remember one day we watched an art film by Salvador Dali, Andalusian Dog, I believe, and then we were given a lecture on Einstein's Theory of Relativity. I still don't understand what those two things have to do with one another. We also talked about time travel and Einstein's views on the subject, but I never have been able to understand Einstein very well.
I was afraid to take physics in school because I just didn't feel like I have the intelligence to understand it. The math, especially, defeats me. Dyslexia runs in my mother's family; many of the boys and men inherit that trouble with reading. I suspect I may have a similar problem with numbers. I flip them around all the time. The other day, reading a number for Jerry to put in the GPS, I read 318 instead of 813, the correct number. I also interchange similar-looking numbers, like 2s and 5s or 9s and 6s a lot unless I'm really careful. Numbers appear as visual images, not concepts, to me. I remember doodling in first grade, turning all the 11s on my math paper into little garden gates with tiny landscapes behind them, and all the 2s into horses, and so forth. When I got my paper back it was graded F but my teacher had written "Great pictures!"  across the top. My mother was infuriated!
A beautifully-forbidden fountain
At any rate, although I'm not good at math or physics I find listening to people who are fascinating. I think the best simplification of Einstein's time theories is Rebecca Stead's description, in When You Reach Me, of time as a drawer full of photos. She says, it's as if you have a drawer full of photos, one photo for each moment of time. Everything that ever happened is still there, still happening and existing in that precise moment. We see time as though the photos are stacked, one on top of each other and we can't get back inside the earlier moments, but really they're all shuffled in drawer, still happening all at once. If we could move from one to another, we would find the moment is still there. And if we could, that would be time travel. So every thing I've ever experienced is still out there somewhere. Somewhere I'm still three years old, sitting on my father's shoulders, looking down at the ocean from a cliff near San Francisco, and somewhere I'm still 16, walking in the woods with my friend after school, still 23, getting married, and somewhere I'm still 24, scared and exhilarated, rushing to the hospital to bring my first son into the world, still 38, washing laundry, and so on. All my significant moments and all the mundane as well. What I wonder is, if Einstein was correct, and these moments are all still existing, what would happen if they were to bleed into one another? What if you were somewhere where time's atmosphere is very thin or porous or something, and you could catch echoes of some of the earlier moments still occurring in that spot? Would you perceive it as a haunting? Would you think it was a ghost?
My aunt and uncle, living in my grandparents' house now, might disagree. They feel my grandmother is haunting the house. A few times, on her birthday or a family member's birthday or some other significant date, her light has been turned on in the night while they slept. They also have lost things, despite thorough searching, only to have the object appear later on the edge of her bed, where it certainly wasn't before, out where it can be easily spotted. My mother is upset about this. At the end of her life my grandmother wanted very much to die and move on. Her body was betraying her, her friends and husband and son had all gone on without her, so why would she want to stay in the house finding things for people? Personally, I think if anyone were to haunt that house it would be my grandfather. He designed that house himself, using Architectural Digest for ideas. It was the great project of his life. He made sure the masonry had a true dead space in between the layers of brick, for insulation, and put in a fireplace designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. He built the stairs by hand, hung the paneling, installed the floors, all himself. He was also a huge prankster. Maybe he's hiding things and Grandma is having to come behind him and put them back out where people can see them!
French Quarter front yard. All French Quarter houses were required to have a
fresh water fountain after a devastating 18th Century fire.
It's already almost time to go and pick up my pre-schooler, and I've hardly done anything besides laundry! There's so much to do, and so much more we'd like to do. Somewhere between here and Raleigh there is an art exhibit of statues all made of Legos, but really amazing and done by real artists. I saw a billboard advertising it Sunday afternoon as we drove home from the wedding and almost asked to stop, because I thought the kids would love it. But then I considered how tired everyone was going to be waking up before dawn on Monday, and how much washing there was to do, and I didn't say anything. We missed the Beer Festival as well as the Holy Smokes BBQ and Gospel festival while we were away. It's amazing how many events there are around here. You could go do something different every day! I think the trip to New Orleans was worth missing a few things around here, though. I really had a fantastic time and gained a lot of inspiration. As soon as I can I will share the manicured garden ideas I found on our trip, as well a whole series of exterior design photos I took.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Wishing Wendy Well: How to Repair Crazed Composition Dolls

Pretty Wendy Ann from 1936
A couple weeks ago I was lucky enough to come across one of the nicest dolls I've seen for a while. The original owner, liquidating her mother's estate, believed this to be a Madame Alexander Wendy Ann. The doll is not marked, but I am inclined to believe it is a Madame Alexander. My Madame Alexander doll book shows what appears to be the same 11-inch unmarked Wendy Ann, this time with a hairstyle of big curls, "tied at the ends", whatever that means. Even if this isn't the exact Wendy Ann variation, now I have proof Madame Alexander did indeed make an unmarked 11 inch Wendy Ann in 1936.

Here is a photo of Madame Alexander's unmarked 11-inch doll.
This doll has what I believe is a human hair wig which was mostly brushed out of its set, but around her hairline a couple big curls remained from her original style.

The doll's wig retained part of the original set.

I curled the rest of the wig into big curls, but I didn't attempt to "tie" the ends, since I don't know what that means and I couldn't tell from the photo. The wig had come unglued slightly in the back and had some hair loss, but I was able, with the help of a great deal of hairspray and a few tiny hairpins, to set it in a sweet stacked curly bob. The stitching on this wig is different than a Saran wig, and it doesn't style with heat as firmly. It certainly isn't mohair, so based on the age I determined it is probably human hair.

The wig stitching is different than Saran or floss wigs.
Besides needing a hair style, Wendy Ann had to visit my doll "spa" for some crazed composition repair. Her body and face were crazed overall with a serious chip on her foot.

A serious chip, exposing the wood pulp.

Crazed composition isn't really a terrible thing as far as value, but if you don't repair it the finish will start to chip away. This exposes the composition medium, sawdust mixed with glue, and makes the doll vulnerable to decay. Moisture and mold can get in there and expand the wood, causing the doll to break apart. So, if the crazing hasn't widened too much you can go ahead and seal it.

The doll had all-over crazing.
I am not talking about hiding the crazing with the commercial polishes you can purchase, but actually fixing it. First, repair any chips which expose the composition medium or any places where a piece has broken off, like where a finger has come off. I used hard plastic epoxy for this.

The foot, repaired with epoxy.

The foot after re-painting

When the epoxy is dry, sand it down. Now you can repair the crazing. Using a makeup sponge or your fingers, rub a very light layer of flesh-colored oil-based paint over the body. Do one section at a time, like the torso, or a leg. Don't let the paint dry like this. Rub it in well so it fills the composition cracks and then buff the surface with a clean white paper towel. This will remove the paint from the surface, leaving it in the cracks. When you have finished, the crazing will still be slightly visible, but much less than previously.

Rub on a thin layer of oil paint

Buff with paper towels.
When you are working over the face, take care to keep the layer thin so you won't cover the face paint. Buff lightly so you don't remove the original paint. This doll's eyebrows had mostly rubbed away before the treatment, so I painted them back on, following the very faint original brow line, after the crazing treatment had dried. After the crazing layer dries, go back and paint a thicker layer over any larger white spots or chips.

Paint rubs can be fixed after the crazing is repaired.
Re-painted rubs
When this has dried, seal the paint, if desired, with a gloss sealant. The original composition is very shiny, so I like to use a gloss varnish to return the doll to its original glory.

Afterward, the crazing is much less visible.

Wendy had some broken eyelashes on one eye when she arrived. I replaced these, by gluing a small section of lashes over the break. This is slightly visible. I had black or blond lashes, not the light brown to match exactly, and I wasn't able to get the original lash stumps out of the channel to insert new lashes, so I had to go on top of the originals. To match the color more exactly I colored the lashes with a bronze Sharpie. If you look close you can see the new lashes, but on general inspection they aren't noticeable, and it looks better than having a big chunk of lash missing!

The doll with repainted eyebrows and partially replaced lashes.

Wendy needed re-stringing, and then she was finished. I strung her as tight as I dared. The composition around her hip sockets had some rubbing and a little place where it was starting to chip. so I was scared to get her too tight and chip the finish even more, or break the old limbs. She is tight enough to stand alone and poses well.

Wendy Ann after repairs


Wendy Ann came to me in her birthday suit. I was hoping the clothes from some other 11 to 12 inch Madames I have in the store might fit her, but the later dolls are a lot chubbier than this doll. I was thinking I'd probably have to draw a custom pattern up for her, because nothing was working. Then, a 1950s Cissette I ordered came wearing a very old dress that was too large for her. On a whim I tried it on Wendy Ann and it's a perfect fit! I think this dress was certainly made to fit this doll. I don't know whether it was seamstress made or commercial, but the workmanship is exquisite. The dress is satin with a lace overlay. It has a bloused bodice that drapes beautifully over the attached satin ribbon sash and has an attached glass pearl necklace. All the seams are finished with hand stitching. The slip is stiff buckram trimmed with lace, again, all hand finished. The lace and satin on the dress are very fragile and the lace had several large tears. I repaired these the best I could. This is not noticeable when the doll is on display, but you will see it upon close inspection.

The dress needed some repairs.
The Cissette also came in a cotton or linen chemise teddy, but it was too deteriorated to save. Instead, I gave Wendy a pair of satin panties from my vintage doll clothing stash. These are commercially-made, probably 1950s. I also had a pair of old rayon socks and new-old-stock vintage faux leather side-snap shoes that fit her perfectly. The Cissette had a long ribbon just thrown in the box with her, and I think it makes an adorable oversized hair ribbon for Wendy Ann. I pinned it in with a doll bobby pin.

In the end, this doll turned out very well. She looks lovely in my cabinet. Her head has a tendency to tilt forward and to the side, which gives her an adorable, and very lifelike expression. She is typical of the 1930s style dolls as popularized by Lenci, with a pouty toddler demeanor. She even has the rosebud mouth with two red dots for nostrils like the Lencis, but recreated in composition. I have to say, I have had an affair with the 1950s dolls for about a year now, but the 1920s and 1930s are my true love. Their darling little faces, their mohair or human hair wigs, the soft felt or shiny composition complexions, all tug at my heart and they look to me like the dolls in old story books and movies, the way a doll should look!

I don't really want to sell Wendy Ann, but I probably will end up listing her. Sometimes I have to be strict with myself and remind myself we don't really have room for a permanent doll collection. You can find my store here:

Besides, there are so many more dolls to work on, and I tend to lose interest once a doll is finished. If my daughter could play with her it would be one thing, but while this doll might stand up to some play, the dress certainly won't. My daughter is really interested in Wendy Ann, though. She makes every excuse to pick her up and look at her and tell me how pretty she is. I had some trouble getting her finished with all the coddling she was receiving!

In other news, I promised to keep posting photos of the dining room re-do. Here is the sideboard moved into the house with some of the chairs. We are halfway finished now. Work is going to stop for a while, however, because we have to get the house ready for my mother in law to visit.

The dining room suite is halfway done.
One becomes very popular when living at the lake, it seems. We barely have time to clean up from one set of visitors before the next arrives. It's good to see everyone, though, since the kids' schedules make it hard to get back home very often. And in this case I'm not complaining, since my mother in law will be watching our kids for almost a week while Jerry and I go to New Orleans. We haven't been on a vacation longer than a day or two without kids since 2009, so I'm looking forward to it! Technically, Jerry will be at work during the day since I am tagging along on a business trip, but we will have fun at night. We are going to a dinner party as well, so I get to dress up!

In the garden I'm trying a new idea. The peat pot tops were doing well to protect the plants that got one. Those plants are larger than the others. They were still getting some nibbles, though, and some of the plants that didn't get one, since I didn't have enough, were almost entirely eaten. I sprayed bug spray, but it only works for a short time. I was going to order floating row covers, but I decided to try cheaper shower caps. These have elastic to draw the cap in around the stem and can expand as the plant grows. You can also use the elastic to pull the cap partially aside if you want to give the plant some air. This will not work for plants that need pollination, like tomatoes, or plants that grow really large like rhubarb, but I'm hoping they will protect my cabbages and cauliflower and such. It is still rather hot and dry, so I will probably have to take these off at noon so the plants aren't fried. We will see if this is a good solution. They are so much cheaper and easier to apply than row covers!

We are trying plastic shower caps as row covers.

Cabbages with shower caps.