Monday, June 30, 2014

Summer's Glory

A beautiful summer bouquet

We've been so busy with swim team practices and meets, I've had a hard time fitting in much else this week. I was able to complete the nine Pin-Up Man bags for my best customer's order. They turned out really well. I'm sure Sean's friends will love them! Don't forget you may place your own custom orders through my store:

Custom-made bags

I've been trying to identify a doll dress for months and I think I finally got it right. A lot of 1950s doll clothing I bought contained this obviously older dress. My guess was it went to a composition doll from the 1930s or 40s. It fits the 8 inch toddler dolls like Ginny or Alexander-kins, so I first researched the Alexander pre-cursor to the Alexander-kins: Tiny Betty. I didn't see one exactly like this, though Bo Peep and Marie Antoinette and Cinderella all wore similar 18th Century styles, with attached panniers and pantaloons.

I think this dress is the same as in the photo.

Finally I came across a photo of the Toddles Bo Peep from 1943. Toddles was the Vogue doll which preceded Ginny. The Toddles dolls were marked with a gold sticker tag on one side of their dresses. This dress has residue from a sticker of the same shape and size in the correct spot. The fabric is yellow in my photo, but this dress has faded to cream. I really think it's the same dress, though, and I'm glad I finally solved that little mystery!

Residue from a tag

Since I sold through all my trunk sets I've been working on three new ones. I have Ginny, Muffie, and Wendy-kins all in progress with little trunks or suitcases to hold their trousseau wardrobes. Keep watching for those!

Just one day's harvest

I set the sprinkler on a timer while we were away and I guess it rained quite a bit as well, so the garden got plenty of water while we were gone. We've harvested our first ripe tomato, along with onions, cabbage, coriander, rhubarb, strawberries, blueberries, and the last of the dill. I made delicious homemade coleslaw for supper last night with our own cabbage, green onions, and dill. I threw in a cup or so of dried Michigan cherries as well. It was fabulous! Besides the veggies, we've been blessed with beautiful and fragrant flowers to grace the house and yard. There isn't much I enjoy more than a big floral bouquet!

The first ripe tomato from our garden

Over the weekend we made a trip to Ikea and I was ecstatic to find Cloudberry jam in stock. Cloudberries are an extremely rare find, especially here in the South. In Norway they grow in the Arctic and the highlands. Plants can take up to seven years to bear fruit, so even there it can be difficult to find them. The best cloudberry fields are jealously guarded secrets, passed down through generations of each family. Here I guard my wild blackberry fields with the same vigilance. I think I've discovered a cache  in our new home. Soon we will see how well it yields.

Cloudberries taste a bit like blackberries or raspberries, but with a hint of something citrusy, like apricots or peaches or oranges. Their large seeds and flavor remind me of pomegranates as well. They're just unique. To celebrate, I made up a little "recipe", although it's really more of an assemblage.

Cloudberry Cookies
Serves 5
Take 10 thin, pepparkakor-style (or Moravian-style here in NC) gingersnaps and top each with a 1/4 inch thick slice of marzipan. I used citrus-flavored pepparkakor. You can get marzipan in the baking section of most supermarkets. Top each cookie with a dollop, about 1/2 tablespoon, of cloudberry jam.

And there you have it! You could make your own cookies and marzipan if you really wanted a homemade dessert. And I suppose if you can find cloudberries you can make your own jam as well. I love this not only for the cloudberries but also because of the marzipan. I absolutely love marzipan, or almond paste. When I was a young girl my grandmother would make her own marzipan on very rare and special occasions. Usually she made them at Christmas. She would mold and paint each piece to look like fruit. I can still see her tiny peaches and apples and berries, each one a miniscule precious jewel. My mother never makes marzipan; she says it's too much trouble, but I hold on to the memory of those glorious almond fruits. I've never made them either. Maybe this year I will make a batch for my own children. If you are not making your own cookies and marzipan, I highly recommend Ikea's. Neither are overly sweet as are the American versions.

Yummy Scandinavian food from Ikea

We have two swim meets, an awards ceremony, band practice, and a parade, as well as the July 4th holiday for which we may have guests, so you will probably not be hearing much from me over the next week. I hope you have a wonderful Independence Day!

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Week of Father's Day and Summer Sale

We christened our family vacation in Hilton Head "The Week of Father's Day, 2014" since we spent the holiday there. My husband has always wanted a giant map, and thanks to Ikea I found one I could afford, so that's what we gave him for Father's Day this year. The map was so huge, however (larger than our king-sized bed), we went ahead and gave him his presents before we left. I could tell he was disappointed on the actual holiday, though, not to get any presents, so we decided to do something special every day.

A dolphin swimming in the sunset

We ate out in restaurants, went on a dolphin-watching sunset cruise, went crab fishing, hiking, took him shopping for new clothes, and explored the supposedly haunted ruins of the original plantation house that sits on the resort grounds. The resort is Sea Pines, and we do recommend it. Once you're there you can ride several trolleys around. We rented bikes because there are bike paths everywhere as well. The beaches get a little crowded for my taste, but if you go in the evening they're pretty deserted. There are stables and a petting zoo, a lighthouse, a nightly children's music concert, lots of dining options, pools, tennis courts, etc. We got a coupon in the mail that made it affordable enough for us to swing it, and I'm so glad we could. In 17 years of marriage, this is the first time we've ever spent a whole week at the beach. I have fond memories of my childhood annual week on Ocean Isle, so I am very happy we were able to give our kids the same wonderful experience. Even better maybe, because the Ocean Isle condo didn't have horses!

The Baynard Ruins, a 1790s tabby plantation house

Hilton Head is surprisingly wild for the amount of people using it every summer's day. When the tide was out the kids found live sand dollars, crabs of all sorts, starfish, conchs, and many water birds. The resort contains a nature preserve where they saw lizards, snakes, turtles, and even alligators. One was very close to the path and gave our daughter quite a scare!

We found a live Cannon Ball Jellyfish being eaten by a crab, so we took the crab away and relocated the jelly far out away from him. Did you know, Cannon Ball Jellyfish have no tentacles and cannot sting, so you can pick them up? I have many more beautiful Hilton Head photos on my Instagram as mandaline919.

Cannon Ball Jellyfish being eaten by a crab.

I did try to shop for my store. I hoped to hit a few thrift stores for some Hilton Head specific inventory, but we weren't able to get over there, so I looked while we shopped for my husband. I found a Lalaloopsy Pet Pals lamb. We discovered when summer began our youngest has outgrown all his shoes, so I have his summer styles listed now. Make sure to check the store out because right now I'm having my Summer Sale. Save 20% when you buy 3 or more items! EBay doesn't automatically included auction listings in this sale, but if you bid on and win three of my items I will send a discounted invoice to honor the sale. This is for one week only, so check it out here:

Friday, June 13, 2014

Adventures in Sunscreen

Homemade tinted all-natural sunscreen

It's the time of year for days spent by the ocean, lake, and pool or out walking in the sunshine. Between swim practice and a swim meet we spent almost six hours at the pool yesterday! Last year I shared my recipe for homemade sunscreen, but I have been trying to perfect those. The holy grail I'm seeking is an all-natural barrier sunscreen that doesn't whiten the skin. 

When sunscreen or any other cosmetic sinks into the skin the ingredients are carried throughout the body. Some ingredients seem innocuous but behave in unexpected ways inside the cells. Others are downright lethal, and unfortunately the pharmaceutical world is aware of this but ignores it. So, I want a sunscreen that sits on the skin's surface. Just in case, I want it to be made of all-natural, safe ingredients as well.

The active ingredients in my sunscreen are zinc oxide and coconut oil. The zinc is a barrier sunscreen, meaning it sits on the skin and blocks the sun. Coconut oil has some natural sun protection. Recently I read raspberry essential oil has a high natural SPF, so I may be incorporating that into my recipe soon.

For now, however, I decided to try and tint the sunscreen so the zinc doesn't look as white. I used cocoa powder and coffee for this. The coffee, used in my spray-on sunscreen, has the added benefit of tightening the skin for cellulite reduction! These still lighten the skin some, especially the water-proof option, but don't whiten as much as before. I like them a lot! The coconut essential oil and cocoa powder make the waterproof version look and smell like chocolate cake batter! I wouldn't eat it, though. Here are this year's recipes:

Waterproof Sunscreen
1/4 cup coconut oil
5 TBSP zinc oxide (don't inhale powdered zinc oxide; wear a mask)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-2 TBSP beeswax
 essential oil, optional for scent ( I used coconut)
2-3 capsules Vitamin E, pierced and squeezed into the sunscreen (or use drops)
Coconut oil can be found next to the shortening and olive oil in the baking aisle of most supermarkets. Zinc Oxide and beeswax are available on Amazon.
Set up a double boiler, or set one pot atop a smaller pot filled about 1/3 of the way with water, over medium-high heat. Make sure you do not use the pot or any utensils for food after making sunscreen with it. Melt the beeswax with the coconut oil. I use beeswax pellets for faster melting. Once melted, remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the zinc and cocoa until smooth. Stir in the Vitamin E and the essential oil. Place the sunscreen into a container. The mixture will be runny at first but will thicken considerably as it cools.
Spray Sunscreen
1/4 Cup coconut oil
5 tsp zinc oxide
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup brewed strong coffee
3 TBSP pure aloe vera juice or gel
1 cup green tea, brewed ( I prefer Lipton Green Tea Superfruit with passionfruit and coconut)
essential oils
2-3 capsules Vitamin E (squeezed out) or about 1/4 tsp drops
Melt the coconut oil over low heat. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the zinc oxide and cocoa powder. Add the remaining ingredients. Pour into a spray bottle using a funnel and shake the bottle to mix before applying. This is quite runny. To apply, spray into your palm and rub over your face and body using your hands.
The original recipes for un-tinted sunscreen are here:

Only a tiny dab of the waterproof version is needed.

The tinted sunscreen doesn't whiten the skin.

The waterproof version causes water to bead on the skin for hours
so you know when to re-apply.

These are so effective we rarely make more than one batch of each for the entire summer. The waterproof sunscreen goes such a long way a dime sized amount can cover my entire leg, and water still beads up on my skin hours later. I will keep refining my recipe, and maybe someday I'll come up with a truly tanned-look finish. If so, I'll share the recipe. Have fun on your summer adventures!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Man Candy

I wanted to share this amazing sky with you; the promise of the rainbow arching over the moon.

Since the beginning of May I've been super busy. We've had guests three times and traveled out of state twice. Now I'm trying to finish everything up so we can take the kids to the beach for a week. I'm washing a mountain of laundry as I write.

You won't ever hear me complain about traveling, though. I spent many years home with young children and never went anywhere other than to Ohio or Michigan to visit family. I missed the adventure of travel immensely. My grandmother told me, "This is just your time for that" (of child care and laundry). "It will pass," and of course she was right. Everything happens in its own time. There is no way to rush it or change it. You just have to try to enjoy each moment as it occurs and know things will happen as they're meant and when they're meant to happen. I am very grateful to have spent that time with my babies and toddlers, but I'm thrilled to visit new places again.

The bag I used as a model.

Just before we left for Seattle my best customer, Sean, asked me to sew nine bags to give as gifts at the next Barbie convention. That's not until the end of next month, but I'd really like to finish them before we leave since I'm on a roll. I don't know if it will happen, however. We have a swim meet tonight and I have to work the concession stand. Yesterday was sucked up by swim practice, a meeting at school, and the latest eBay webinar. The webinar focused on marketing, and particularly on writing real store newsletters instead of allowing eBay to send a generic one. So, there's another thing to add to the list. If you subscribe to my newsletter expect to receive a real message at least every two weeks, at least if things go as planned.

I drew the pattern for the bags using one of my favorite pool bags, an old Body Shop premium with purchase. I like it because it can stand up when filled, is lined, and has a tie closure. I've shown how to copy a pattern from an existing piece a couple times before, but it bears repeating. If you learn to replicate a textile through this method you will be able to sew anything without a pattern. So, if you want another shirt just like your favorite, or your friend wants a bag exactly like yours, you can make it.

Trace oddly-shaped pieces.

First, trace any odd shaped pieces, like the front of the bag. After tracing, fold the tracing paper in half to make sure each side is exactly the same. You can also just use half the piece as the pattern. To do so, simply fold the fabric and place the piece on the fold to cut it out.

Measure square or rectangular pieces.

Any square or rectangular pieces can be measured and copied. The side and bottom of the bag is one long rectangular piece, like 19 inches by 5 inches, so instead of drawing a pattern I just measured and cut a rectangle. I did the same for the straps. Please note, in normal circumstances you would add seam allowance to your pieces before cutting the fabric. A typical seam allowance is 5/8 inches. In this case I used a 1/4 seam allowance. Just measure and mark this along the edge of the traced pattern and draw a new pattern line by following the marks, like dot-to-dot worksheets.

A few finished bags

I did not add the seam allowance to these pattern pieces. Usually, I would draw out my pattern and measure it to figure out how much fabric to buy. In this case, however, I had a set amount of material so I had to calculate how to get nine bags from the fabric Sean sent. Naturally, being me, I couldn't just do the bare minimum. I figured out if I didn't add seam allowance to the pattern pieces (making the bags 1/4 inch smaller all over than the original) and supplemented a remnant of white lining fabric I already had I could line each bag to make it reversible as well as use contrast on the sides and base! I had just enough fabric to squeak out nine reversible bags. I did have to use grosgrain ribbon for the ties instead of bias strips.The bags take a long time to sew since this pattern is more complicated than I'd originally planned, but they're so nice! As a designer I often over-extend myself because I just get so excited about a concept I have to try it, even if it's difficult. I do appreciate these custom commissions. I find myself working on many things I'd never have thought about myself. I certainly never thought I'd be sewing hunky guy favor bags!

One side of a reversible bag

Sean chose these cute fabrics and sent them so they were waiting when we returned from our trip. The cowboy print is called "wranglers" by the Alexander Henry fabric collection, and the construction worker print on blue or cream ground, is "heavy equipment" from the same collection. I think it's really interesting to see someone, especially a male designer, using men as sex symbols. We are used to seeing beautiful women adorning everything from mud flaps on trucks to perfume bottles, but men are rarely portrayed in this light. It's fun and kind of rebellious, which I love. You can order your own custom pieces from my store, or purchase already-completed items:

The bag reversed

As I was sewing I listened to a radio program about women's clothing and how it's changed over the years. The presenter was critical of the very tight, low-cut and revealing fashions that are normal for fashionable women because she feels they keep women from being taken seriously. I think it goes even further than that, however. It seems to me women are no longer allowed to age.

I remember when my first son was born I got to my pre-pregnancy weight pretty quickly, but nothing was in the same place anymore, if you know what I mean, so I couldn't wear my college clothes. When I tried to shop for new clothes, though, I couldn't find anything between teen girl jeans and club wear and old lady knit pant suits. The message, I feel, is once you can't wear belly-baring low rise jeans you might as well hang it up and go buy a bunch of grandma house clothes. I think the shopping situation is a little better now, but it's still a problem for me and I resent it. Just because I'm a mother I don't think I should have to feel like I'm finished as a woman. Unfortunately, we women are more at fault than anyone, I believe. My own mother calls me every week to suggest I get a job outside the home so I can afford various cosmetic procedures, such as braces or a boob lift or tummy tuck. She obviously has a skewed idea of what a part-time graphic designer commands in terms of salary! We should emulate the men on this front. Design clothing for and celebrate young men with great bodies, but acknowledge the existence and worth of older men as well!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Seattle Sights

I'm posting today, sore and bruised but happy, from Seattle. The past few days we've shopped the Pike Place Market, sampling a fantastic assortment of luscious treats, walked on the Paradise Glacier, climbed the Longmire Trail to over 4200 feet in Mt. Ranier Park, kayaked in Elliot Bay off Puget Sound, walked all over the city sightseeing, and I've spent much of my time while Jerry is working swimming laps here in the hotel pool. I hope all the exercise will work off the treats I've been eating!

I highly recommend the doughnut stand in Pike Place market with its Donut Robot doughnut maker with a little conveyer belt. Ask for a half dozen or dozen with cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar; they go straight off the belt into a paper bag and are covered in sugar immediately. It's a bag full of melting, crunchy, sugary goodness. 

Turkish Delights is full of wonderful pastries and the namesake candy, but I loved the pita sandwiches called "donor kebab." The meat is shaved off a rotisserie joint right into your sandwich, with several cups of greens and a yummy sauce.

We met my dear college friend for a hike on Mount Ranier and afterwards he and his fiancĂ©e took us to Genki Sushi Broadway. Order from the menu for the freshest choices. The crunchy salmon bits and hot lobster roll are to die for. Try Bottega Italiana for dessert. Their gelato is the most authentic I've ever tasted outside Italy. 

We rode the Great Wheel after dark, which is a wonderful way to view the city lights.

Tonight we have a dinner cruise with Jerry's colleagues, so I have to go transform myself with lotions and potions from a scraped up ruffian into an executive wife. 

Follow my Instagram, mandaline919, to see lots more photos, and if you get the chance definitely come out to Seattle!

The Great Wheel at night

On the Paradise Glacier

Kayaking in Elliot Bay and Puget Sound

Mount Ranier

Sunset on Puget Sound