Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Viking Visit

You can just make out the wake next to the green-roofed dock.
I've been worrying, lately, as I'm wont to do. This gigantic storm is one thing that has me on edge. The past couple nights I've been lying awake wondering how things will work out. So, today I walked it out for a while, trying to get my exercise in ahead of the storm. It was supposed to bear down on us about 1 PM, with high winds, tornadoes, and flooding.

While I was walking, some spooky things began to happen. Crows began calling all along my way. Crows and ravens are sacred in many cultures. In my own ancestry they were said to be the spies and messengers of the god Odin. His daughters, the Valkyries, who choose among the dead of the battlefield to see who to carry to Valhalla, could transform into crows or swans.

More and more crows appeared around me as I walked. When I got to the water I planned to sit on our dock for a bit, but it was wet, so I stood there, looking out at the water and stewing. As I stood there, one particular crow came calling right above my head, pulling me out of my mind and into the present. Far out across the lake I could see a boat's wake heading toward me. The thing is, there was no boat!

Something like this makes a person nervous, or makes me nervous, at least. Our culture isn't good, in my opinion, at acknowledging the unexplained. We write people off as lunatics if they talk about experiences like these. Extraordinary things happen every day, though. You've probably heard some sort of story like this already this week.

Anyway, I left the water's edge and started walking away along the path. The wake turned and followed me. I stopped and watched it for a while and then walked on. As I walked further, the wake turned again, still following me. I stopped in an open area and watched it coming straight toward me, ever closer. I walked out to meet it and came right up to me. I could see a deep depression in the water, as if from the prow of a ship pushing it forward and down. It came right up to me and disappeared at my feet. Even though I'd been nervous earlier, this made me feel strangely calm.

I walked home. I'd taken a picture of the wake in the water when it was still far off across the channel. I tried to crop the photo so I could see it better, but when I tried, instead the photo copied itself and then my phone shut itself off! I decided it didn't want to be altered, at least until I saw whatever I was supposed to find.

Maybe my ancestors were sending me a message, or maybe I've been watching too many episodes of Vikings. At any rate, when I got home I saw an answer to my worries. The storm's path turned and won't hit us hard, if at all, it seems. Now I feel like everything is going on as it should. It's all going to be okay.

I'm using photos from my walk for this post. Eventually the photo let me crop it so you can make out the wake from my invisible ship. I saw a muskrat today, as well as the  invisible boat. This is another answer to a worry; many in the neighborhood saw the animal and feared it was a beaver. It's right by the community docks, which we would of course prefer not be chewed. I watched it swimming and diving, though, and saw it has a thin tail it uses as a propeller.

A musk rat, eating a snack.

Later, I kicked myself for using my regular camera and not Instagram. I've been on the Facebook eBay For Business page a lot lately, and many successful sellers recommend using Instagram as a marketing tool. I've never made my Instagram public or followed anyone because I thought my friends would get sick of all the doll photos. Due to other eBay sellers' advice, however, I made my profile public, so I should have used it for these photos! I'm mandaline919 on Instagram, so please follow me. I've linked this blog to my Instagram profile. I welcome advice on whether you think that's the best idea. Should I link my eBay store instead? It's http://stores.ebay.com/atelier-mandaline. Anyway, the dogwood blooming by the lake is another photo I should have taken with Instagram. You can see it here instead!

Dogwood blossoms by the water

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Garden B.F.F.s


Today has been chilly and rainy, a perfect day for gardening, and for soup. Therefore, I have a little of both for you in this post. If you're into gardening at all you are probably familiar with "companion" planting. This is the idea that certain plants have "best friends" they like to grow near. They also have "enemies"; plants that won't do well together. A good example of plant "enemies" would be zucchini and watermelon. I once planted these too close together so they were cross-pollinated. The resulting produce were pinkish, weird zucchinis and watermelons with hard, white, flavorless flesh.

I took advantage of the fact that plants and seeds like to be set out during rainy weather to plant spinach and basil and parsley seeds. I sowed the parsley in between the tomatoes because parsley is a good friend to tomato plants. Both will grow better if they are near one another. Roses are a good companion for parsley as well. I might get some more seeds and put them out around my roses. 

The parsley is sown in between the tomatoes.

I got the metal fencing panels, which I'm using as plant supports, at Aldi for just $7.99 each. I think they look so much more elegant than last year's mesh and rebar homemade plant supports. I've always really wanted a pretty vegetable garden of the sort you see in Old Salem or Colonial Williamsburg, with a fence or boxwood border and beautiful plant supports. My cousin, Realpha, inherited my great-grandparents' house in Michigan and turned the entire side yard into a beautiful garden. Her husband built a picket fence and all sorts of lovely wooden trellises and things for her. They have the garden laid out in square plots inside the fence, each bordered with lettuces as edging, and linked by gravel paths. I get severe garden envy every time I visit! Our garden is coming along, however. I put in more blueberries and strawberries with flagstone edging. Jerry has plans to bring sod up to the flagstone.



Clammy, cold weather calls for soup, so last night I made a favorite, Beer Cheese Soup, adapted for my diet. Instead of using flour, I thickened the soup with copious amounts of pureed cooked vegetables. It's thick and creamy and hearty, but still wheat-free. It does have beer and cheese, which both contain carbohydrates, as do vegetables, so this is a reduced-carbohydrate recipe, not a carb-free recipe. Of course, dense bread or pretzel bread would be perfect with this soup, but you could substitute coconut flour bread instead. Look at my Pinterest Carb Control board for many different recipes. Since we aren't on Induction anymore we had fresh pineapple with this soup. Contrary to popular belief, you may start adding fruit back into your diet after the first two weeks on Atkins, to the point that you can still eat it and continue to lose weight. Here's the recipe:



Hearty Beer-Cheese Soup
1/4 cup salted butter
1 whole sweet onion, chopped
1/2 small head of cabbage, chopped
4 small carrots, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup coconut flour or soy flour
3 teaspoons prepared or dry mustard (dry will have a more intense flavor)
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 cups cream
1 cup chicken broth
12 oz (2 1/2 cups)  cheddar cheese, diced or shredded
1 (12 oz) can beer

Melt butter in a Dutch Oven or soup pot. Add onion, carrots, and garlic and cook until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the cabbage and parsley and continue to cook 10-15 minutes until all the vegetables are soft. Puree the vegetables in the pot with an immersion blender or move to a food processor or blender and puree. Return the vegetables to the pot and add the coconut flour, pepper, and mustard. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Gradually stir in the cream and broth. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer, stirring frequently, 10-15 minutes until the mixture is thickened and bubbly and heated through. Stir in the beer and cheese. Cook and stir until the cheese is melted and the soup is hot. Do not boil the soup once you've added the cheese, as this will result in separation and a grainy texture. Serve hot.

My mug is from the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum shop in Northport, MI.
My owl trivet came from a local antiques store.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Toddler Salon

This Ginger has a Saran or similar synthetic wig.

Over the weekend I was able to finish four more dolls from the big box I ordered and have been working on over the past week. I was going to write this all in one post, but if I cover more than one topic I get whiny emails from people complaining about the length, so here is today's second post.

I thought I would talk a little about styling doll hair. This is a topic people search often. I've written posts about it before, but this time I remembered to take a couple pictures while I was working.

This Pam's wig is mohair.

These little toddler dolls are perfect to use as a model for 1950s hairstyling, because they came with many types of wig. Ginny sometimes had a mohair wig, and sometimes a Saran or similar wig. Other Ginnys came with real fur Caracul wigs in the "poodle" style. Later Ginnys had rooted synthetic hair. I remember my 1970s Lesney face Ginny had very stylish long straight rooted hair when she was new. After years of play her hair was fuzzy and matted, though. Now I am able to fix this problem, but it bothered me quite a bit when I was a little doll mommy.

To fix that type of hair, brush the hair with a wire brush. Massage liquid fabric softener into the hair like shampoo and rinse out. Pour almost-boiling water over the hair and immediately brush with the wire brush, pulling the hair straight. Leave in a "conditioner" of 50/50 liquid fabric softener and water.

The Ginger clone has very soft synthetic mohair. I treated it as mohair.

My big box of dolls has Ginger, Pam, Lucy, and other unknown clones of these and they all have different types of hair. The Gingers all have Saran or other synthetic hair. The Pam and Lucy dolls and one of the Lucy clones all have mohair or possibly synthetic mohair. The Ginger clone with the painted feet has very soft synthetic mohair. I decided the Pam and Lucy dolls' hair must be real mohair since it's all so much less soft than the Ginger's!

Brush the Saran hair.

Before you clean a doll's hair you need to comb the tangles out so it doesn't mat up on you when you wash it. Synthetic Saran or that type of hair can be brushed with a wire brush. I ordered a doll brush from eBay for this purpose because I couldn't find a wire brush anywhere else.

Pick mohair out with a bamboo skewer. This hair was gray with dirt.

Mohair often becomes fuzzy and matted from storage. If you try to brush it in that state you'll often just pull it out of the wig cap. Instead, first take a bamboo skewer of the type you can buy with grilling accessories and pick the mohair out with the point. Once the mohair is all loose you can wash it. If it only needs styling you can brush it out with the wire brush and style it.

After picking and washing, the mohair turned yellow!

These dolls mostly just needed hair styling but some needed a good washing. I have suffered since childhood from awful nightmares about dead insects and I knew I was in big trouble when I pulled a huge insect casing out of the yellow-haired doll's wig. Sure enough, over the weekend I had a dream a toy I was restoring just dissolved in my hands into a pile of dead insects! Obviously, the yellow-haired doll got a good bath!



I used the Terri Lee and Ginny clothing lot.

Once you've finished brushing the hair you can wash it, if necessary. For mohair I just use shampoo or dish soap. For Saran or synthetic hair, especially dry hair, I use a mixture of 50% liquid fabric softener and 50% water. Besides cleaning the hair, you can leave this mixture in as a conditioner and styling aid.

Pam is cozy in pajamas.

If you need to set the doll's hair, use tiny doll curlers or the smallest perm rods you can find at beauty supply stores. None of these dolls needed a set so I don't have photos of that. For mohair, pour warm water over the curlers and let the hair dry for at least 24 hours. Do not use hot water, as this can felt the mohair, which will mat it all up so it looks like sheep's wool! For Saran hair, pour almost boiling water over the curlers, avoiding the doll's eyes. The hot water will lock the curl into place. When the curlers are completely dry unroll the hair and arrange the curls with your fingers or brush into style.


I gave Pam a robe.

Set the doll's style with hairspray. I use Mink hairspray when I can find it. It is especially good for mohair. It adds a shimmer that looks beautiful. If you want more relaxed curls just leave the style and the hair will straighten a bit over time. If you want the style to stay exactly as you've arranged it put a hairnet on the doll to hold the style.


Ginger clone got a coat and hat.

Now all but four of my little ladies have been to the salon and look super cute. I dressed them in clothes from my same lot of Terri Lee and Ginny clothes, including the handwritten Ginny tag clothing. I have two, a Ginger and a Pam, awaiting epoxy work. Two more, a Pam and a Lucy, need new wigs or glue removal. It's more than I could tackle over the weekend and I became overwhelmed and listed them for parts. Those dolls are very cheap. The starting bid is barely more than the shipping cost, which is included. So, if you want to buy a restoration doll or a fully-completed doll, make sure to visit the store: http://stores.ebay.com/atelier-mandaline.

A gold trimmed dress and gold satin bows accent her golden hair.
 

Birthday Feast

My husband, Jerry, celebrated his birthday this weekend. I'm afraid it wasn't the biggest of events. We don't really know anyone here to invite to a party. Our teen was out of town on a school trip, so we couldn't go out alone. We had a date night on Monday before our teen left, but I felt like I should try to do something at home to make the day special. I decided on a big birthday feast.

The Birthday Feast
Birthday meals are tricky when you're dieting. If you read this blog often you'll know I'm always trying to lose weight. Low carbohydrate plans like Atkins work best for me. It took me many years to figure this out. I made myself really sick following low calorie, low fat plans before I realized they aren't ever going to work for me. I read recently that researchers identified a genetic variation relating to heart health. If you have this particular gene variation low fat plans are healthiest for you, but if you don't (and I definitely don't!) they are quite dangerous. I feel sorry for Jerry, though, always having to eat my traditional Scandinavian fish-heavy, high fat cuisine and rarely getting to enjoy bread or cake. I was determined not to let my diet ruin his day. I didn't want to ruin my diet, either, though. I've lost so much weight now people are starting to comment on it and I'm going to have to make another trip to buy new clothes.

I used all my Atkins cookbooks and scoured Pinterest for ideas, and eventually planned a delicious and still decadent and celebratory meal. We started with Surf and Turf. I made bacon-wrapped Filet Mignon with lobster tails and Jerry grilled them for me outdoors. While he was manning the grill, I prepared salads with Ranch dressing and Lemon and Herb Browned Butter for the lobster. The Ranch dressing recipe, which is called "Creamy Italian" from Atkins, can be found here: http://mandalineartfulliving.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-companion-and-other-tales.html.

The recipe for the butter is as follows:

Lemon and Herb Browned Butter
1/2 cup butter
1 TBSP lemon juice
pinch salt
1 tsp chopped fresh dill or other herb

Melt butter over medium heat. Stir in all ingredients until blended. Lower heat to lowest setting and simmer until butter is lightly browned, stirring occasionally, about 15-20 minutes. Serve in dipping bowls on the side or pour over grilled lobster before serving.

Earlier in the day I made a reduced-carb Nutella Marble Cheesecake. This is almost, but not quite sugar-free. I thought we could allow for a tiny bit of indulgence on a birthday! The sugar in the cake comes from the Nutella, so if you want a truly sugar-free cake look at my Pinterest Recipes board or search Pinterest for DIY Nutella and make yours with Monk Fruit sweetener, Stevia, etc.

This cake is actually better the longer it is chilled. It gets more dense and moist and gooey the longer it sits. Next time I will make it the day before. That might be soon; it's so good Jerry asked to have it again for our anniversary in a couple months!



Waistline Friendly Nutella Marble Cheesecake

For the Crust
1 1/2 cups roasted, salted nuts, finely chopped (I used peanuts)
1/4 cup Monk Fruit in the Raw natural sweetener, or to taste
2 TBSP softened butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Chop the nuts finely in a food processor. Add sweetener to taste. Monk Fruit is sweeter than sugar, so add it a tablespoon at a time and taste after blending until you get the level of sweetness you like. Add the softened butter and pulse until blended throughout. The mixture should resemble soft crumbs. Butter a springform pan and press the nut mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake 10 minutes and set aside to cool.

For the Filling
16 oz cream cheese, softened ( I used Organic Valley Cultured cream cheese)
4 tbsp salted butter, softened (I used Kerrygold salted grass-fed Irish butter)
1/4-1/2 cup Monk Fruit in the Raw sweetener
2 eggs
1/4 cup + 1 TBSP heavy cream
1/4 cup + 1 TBSP Nutella chocolate-hazelnut spread

Combine cream cheese, butter, eggs, and 1/4 cup cream in a mixer and blend until smooth. Add Monk Fruit sweetener 1/4 cup at a time until the taste is pleasing to you. When the crust has completely cooled add this mixture to the springform pan, reserving 1/3 cup. Now add the 1/4 cup Nutella and 1 TBSP cream to the reserved cream cheese mixture and blend until smooth. Top the cream cheese mixture with the Nutella mixture in the springform pan. To make the marble top, place a dollop (1 TBSP) Nutella on top of the mixture, in the center of the cake. Draw a butter knife through the Nutella, first horizontally, then vertically, so it mixes a bit into the cake. It will make a marbled pattern. Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees. The edges of the cake will be set and pulling away from the sides of the pan and the top will be puffed but still a bit jiggly when the cake is done. Cool cake on a wire rack until completely cool. Chill in refrigerator at least 3 hours, but overnight is preferred. The longer you chill the cake, the gooier it will get! To serve, carefully loosen the cake around the edges by running the blade of a butter knife all around the edge of the cake. Gently unlock the spring and remove the outside ring of the pan. Garnish by pressing a pretty chocolate truffle into the center of the cake.

The cake has a ribbon of cream with a marbled top

I'm really glad Jerry enjoyed his feast, because the rest of the weekend was pretty mundane. I had until midnight Saturday to list free on eBay, and I listed all day, right up until midnight! Since we moved here a year and a half ago, our son has gone from wearing boys' size 14 clothes to wearing a men's size Large. Yes, you may feel very sorry for me now! I have tons of clothing to sell. Check my store, especially if you have a teen boy to dress: http://stores.ebay.com/atelier-mandaline. The size 14 clothing has been worn the most, but he blew through the 16s and 18s so fast they were barely used! 

Little Mountain, seen from Lake Norman

We did get out on the lake yesterday for a while since it was a gorgeous day. We motored out to Terrell where we could see Little Mountain, and Jerry commented it's amazing to see the lake and a mountain at the same time. Then we stopped on an island to swim and wade for a while. I think it was a nice way to spend a birthday. I'm partial to boating, though. The smells: water, fish, mold, gasoline, are like home to me, and I love the feel of the wind on my face and the cold water on my skin. I hope Jerry enjoyed it as much as I did.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Little Red Riding Pam and Lucy, Too

A big lot of toddler dolls from the 1950s

I meant to finish this post last night but it just got too late and I had too  much to do. EBay is having a sale on free auction listings that ends tonight. I'm out of my free listings for the month so I'm working as hard as I can to get as much listed as possible by midnight.

Fortune's Pam doll

Virga's Lucy doll

Besides the little Ginger doll from my last post, I finished a sweet Pam and a cute little Lucy yesterday. Pam and Lucy are nearly identical twin Ginny clones. Neither are marked, and it can be quite hard to tell them apart. 

Lucy was made by the Virga doll company, as a Ginny-type toddler doll and also as a doll called "Lollipop", who had colored hair like green or violet and wore fairytale, ballerina type costumes. Lucy was also made as a series of ethnic dolls, such as American Indian or Hawaiian Hula girls, and those are worth a great deal more than the regular Lucys. I have one of the Native American Lucys in my store right now, so be sure to check. 

Pam, as far as I know, was mostly just made as a Ginny-type toddler. I saw a Hula Girl years ago who was called Pam, but I don't if the identification was accurate. I know you could buy Pam at stores, but she also sometimes could be purchased as a premium with Fab detergent labels.

Pam


Lucy



When you first start looking at these toddler dolls it can be very difficult to tell them apart. I've read before that Ginny dolls were always marked, but Ginger, Pam, and Lucy dolls were never marked. It seems like Muffie dolls were always marked.


Pam has peg-shaped arm hooks.

Lucy's arm hooks are C-shaped.

Pam and Lucy have the Ginny face and look just alike at first glance. You can see the difference in their arm hooks and fingers. I read another blog that had this great tip: Lucy has C-shaped arms hooks, so think "Lu-C". Pam has peg-shaped arm hooks, so think "P for Pam and peg". Lucy mostly has her third and fourth fingers fused together, but Pam has separate fingers. Pam dolls also often have arms made of a different, softer plastic than their bodies and the arms tend to lighten over time, so you will often see them with lighter arms than their bodies.

Lucy, dressed in a vintage ensemble.





Using this method I was able to identify the doll in the blue dress as Lucy and the doll dressed as Red Riding Hood as Pam. Lucy retains the remnant of a blue flower stapled into her wig, so I dressed her in a blue floral print dress from the big lot of Ginny and Terri Lee clothing I bought recently. The dress is not tagged but it is very nicely made. Lucy has a faint pink streak in her hair near her flower and very nice, high-color cheeks with only a little unevenness from rubs in the paint. These are usually called "fever cheeks" in toddler doll parlance.


Pam, after cleaning and dressing.

Pam had such unusual coloring she really stood out to me as a doll who should have a special costume. Her mohair wig is platinum blond and very smooth and shiny. I brushed the dust out of it and was able to style it back into its flip with my fingers. I cleaned Pam and re-strung her arms and that was all the work she needed.



I found a very nice un-tagged dress in the doll clothes lot. It's one of the nicest small doll dresses I've seen. It's printed all over with a Scandinavian-looking print. The same lot had a very pretty and new-looking knitted red cape marked "Ginny" on a hand-written tag. Later, I found this is a 1930s Vogue piece for the Just Me 9 inch doll. It lost its ribbon closure, so I added a new one at the neck and gave Pam the cape. The cape is incredibly well-preserved! I also gave her red shoes from that lot marked "Ginny" on the soles. She's turned out to be one of my favorites of the dolls I've finished! She goes well with the fairy tale themed Madame Alexanders I've been restoring lately, but at a more affordable price point. Her small size makes her easy to display as well.


Pam in her costume.







Please check my store for these and many other dolls (they make great Mother's Day gifts). I'm also starting to list Father's Day presents as well: http://stores.ebay.com/atelier-mandaline.

The cape belongs to this 1930s Vogue Just Me doll.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Gorgeous Ginger Girls



I'm certainly not an expert in Ginny and related toddler dolls, but I've restored so many over the past year I'm getting much more knowledgeable. Today I started on another big box of toddler dolls, including Pam, Lucy, Ginger, and unknown clone dolls. This Ginger is the first I've done with the later "big eyes" face.



Ginger dolls, according to another blog I've seen, are not marked. Ginger, by Cosmopolitan, is often described as a "Ginny clone", but in my opinion she seems to be more of a Nancy Ann Storybook Muffie clone. Muffie and Ginger have the cutest of the toddler doll faces, I think. From my observation, the earlier Muffie and Ginger dolls have smaller eyes, like the brunette doll I show wearing the green Ginny raincoat.


Later, both Muffie and Ginger changed face molds to one with very large, round eyes. Then, both moved to vinyl face dolls, and finally, both moved to vinyl-face high-heeled teenage dolls called "Little Miss Nancy Ann" and "Little Miss Ginger". I prefer the earlier smaller-eyed Muffie face, but both the Ginger hard plastic faces are really appealing.



Ginger was so cute, in fact, she was cloned just like Ginny! Here I have three dolls: an early smaller-eyes Ginger, a big-eyes Ginger, and a Ginger clone. Ginger can be identified in several ways: she always has a faint belly button, dimples above each toe and below her lower lip, separate fingers, and circle mold marks on the inside of each wrist. The Ginger clone has all these markers, but her feet are painted white. I've seen molded-shoe dolls with painted feet, but never a barefoot doll with painted shoes!

The doll on the right is a Ginger clone.
 
 

The Ginger clone also has a shorter, "no-neck" look not common to real Gingers. Her wig is synthetic mohair, very nice and soft, rather than Ginger's Saran wig. She is also strung differently, with a band going from her head to her arms.



All these little Ginger types are really sweet. I finished the brown-haired doll first because she didn't need much work. I cleaned her. Her hair was in its original set but a little dirty, so I just brushed the dust out and pinned it up to cover a tiny mark left on her face, probably from wearing glasses for a long time.


 


I got the Vogue Medford tagged Ginny dress in a large lot of doll clothes. This originally had a green flocked bodice supposed to look like velvet, but the flocking is all flaking off. There was a very tattered flower in the waist band and a tear to one side of the bodice. I removed the old flower, fixed the tear, and sewed a replacement flower over the repair. Then I sewed a couple torn places in the skirt.





The previous owner wrote "Ginny" in pencil on the inside of the skirt. I didn't try to clean it off, but it may come out with upholstery spot cleaner. The panties also have residue of some kind on the seat, which I think came from the previous owner trying to repair a tiny hole. I didn't try to clean those either since it doesn't really show.





I made Ginger a hat to match her dress and gave her new socks. Her oil cloth shoes are probably very old Ginny shoes with the side snaps. She turned out very well and makes an adorable display doll. Besides Ginger, I finished one Pam and one Lucy tonight. You can find these and many more to come in my store: http://stores.ebay.com/atelier-mandaline.