Monday, December 9, 2013

Babies of Mine

Restored Gerber Baby doll

This time of year I always love to restore at least one baby doll. I guess since I always got a doll at Christmastime and I always give my daughter one it seems like the proper thing. My daughter has moved beyond baby dolls now and is losing interest in all dolls, so I feel rather sad. Why can't babies last just a little bit longer? I hope someone else finds this baby the perfect gift for their own little one.

"Flirty" eyes move from side to side.

This is the Gerber baby, famously modeled after the infant Brooke Shields, from 1979. She has weighted "flirty" eyes which move from side to side when you turn her head. Sometimes one sticks and she gets a cross-eyed look, just like a real newborn. She's a cute little thing. Actually, as baby dolls go she's not really "little". At 17 inches she's almost life size. I got Baby in a big lot of dolls from the 1930s to the 1970s. She needed cleaning and her hair needed a little painting due to a rub in the paint.

I got this baby in a big lot of dolls.

To re-paint the hair I just sponged on a little acrylic artist's paint in thin layers, allowing each layer to dry before applying the new one. This is how I would recommend painting any acrylic baby doll's hair, such as Bitty Baby. In this case, the almost-flesh-colored, almost-blond translucent hair was a bit hard to match. I had to paint mine on darker to hide the rub. Mine is slightly more yellow than the original, but it isn't as noticeable as the camera makes it appear.

I had to re-paint a little of the hair. There is a bubble at the tip of one lock, a factory flaw.

After cleaning and painting I made a little lace skirt for Baby and gave her a matching headband. I gave her vintage faux leather shoes, just like the ones I remember my sisters wearing as infants, and a new plastic bottle. The bottle can really be filled with liquid and can dispense it, but I would not recommend that in this case since the baby is not a drink and wet doll.


Baby can "drink" with her open mouth.

I think Baby turned out well and looks adorable. You can find her in my store: http://stores.ebay.com/atelier-mandaline.

Christmas tree-decorating treats

I suppose another reason I like to work on a baby doll this time of year is this is the month for children, more than any other in our culture. At least in our home, the focus of the season is on creating joyful traditions for the kids. When we first got married Jerry was very against Christmas carols and didn't enjoy decorating. He would always turn the football game up so loud you could barely hear the songs. I myself was never into over-the-top décor. I did always try to play the Christmas records my grandparents played while we decorated the tree. My mother would always serve cocoa and special chocolate or treats for tree decorating, so I do the same. Our first child was so enamored of the Fred Waring Orchestra Christmas album and Christmas villages and lights, however, we both made extra efforts in our Christmas preparations, and by now we have it down pat.

The decorated tree with train running underneath

This year I served spekulatius (spiced almond cookies), pepparkakor, and Belgian truffles with homemade cocoa. We bought colored lights for the front porch and a little potted Leyland Cypress for the upper hall. This way we will have lighted trees in windows on both floors and we can plant the cypress in the yard after the holiday. We set up an electric train to circle under the tree. A gift from my sister years ago, it lights up and the smokestack puffs real smoke! I find it funny our son likes the same Christmas album preferred by my own father, who he never met. And at 14 he still turns the tree lights on the minute he wakes up in the morning, so I guess we've done a good job making the season magical!


Lemon cake

All this magic is a little hard on the figure, however. Besides the Christmas treats, we have a birthday this month. I slaved over a lavish lemon cake for our youngest son. Since I already made him a cookie cake while we were home for Thanksgiving, I thought a more sophisticated taste was in order. I squeezed the lemon juice by hand from fresh lemons, grated fresh zest with a microplane, whipped up my best frosting, and baked a dense, moist, lemony cake with organic coconut sugar for a caramelized citrusy flavor...and neither of our younger kids will eat it, so it's just sitting in the fridge, calling my name! I used a cake recipe from Pinterest, which you can find on my recipes board or here: http://www.lifeloveandsugar.com/2012/08/31/triple-lemon-cake/. I used purchased lemon curd for the filling and used my heirloom lemon frosting recipe. The frosting recipe is here: http://mandalineartfulliving.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-companion-and-other-tales.html.

To ice this cake I doubled the frosting recipe. To change the frosting flavor to lemon, reduce the cream to 1TBSP, add 1 TBSP lemon juice, omit vanilla, and add 1 TSP pure lemon extract per batch of frosting. I usually need to add more powdered sugar when I do the lemon flavor. Just add the recommended amount and increase by tablespoons until the frosting is as dense as you prefer.


Pork and Apple Pie with cheddar-sage crust

It is so wet and misty here our own Little Mountain, which usually looms over town, is invisible. The cold, rainy weather has me craving savory food, so last night I looked up a recipe I used to fix often: Pork and Apple Pie. This delectable creation features spiced pork with sweet apple filling in a flaky cheddar and sage crust. I used to make it a lot when we had only one child, but now I rarely do because it takes forever. I bake this in a ceramic soufflé pan handmade by my aunt, but you can use a deep dish pie pan.You can find this on my recipes board or here: http://www.beingabear.com/2013/11/bear-essentials-apples-pork-and-apple.html. I used white whole wheat flour, so the crust took about twice as much water. Just knead the water in a tablespoon at a time until you can roll the dough without it sticking. I also used finely chopped fresh sage from our garden. After applying the egg wash I grated sea salt over the crust for extra glitter and crunch. The crust is divine. It tastes like the Southern classic, cheese straws; a great favorite of mine. Now we have leftover pork pie as well. It's not looking good for the low carb diet! I don't know if it matters; I'm not losing weight on that at all, even though Jerry has dropped several pounds. It's so unfair! Weight loss may have to wait until after the holiday.

Now that the tree's all finished it's time to work on setting up the village. I'm really excited to have a mantle to decorate this year. I'll keep you posted on that!

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