Friday, September 28, 2012

Tutorial- Bendy Doll Makeover


    Abriel and Samuel got these little bendy dolls last Christmas from Magic Cabin.  Abriel loves them (there is a boy as well) and as a result they have grown to look quite ratty.  I decided to try giving them a makeover, also changing some things I wasn't overly fond of, like the face.  It was just too cartoonish for me, and I don't like the exaggerated smile.  So, here's the step by step process on how I made over the girl doll. 
     The clothes were dirty and pilly, so I wanted to replace them.  In order to do this, I carefully cut along the seams, so that I could use the old clothes as a pattern for the new ones.  The pants were glued on at the top, but it was pretty easy to rip it free.  In order to get the shirt off, I had to take the head off.  It was securely glued, and wasn't budging, so I just gave it a good twist, hoping to break the glue, but I broke the dowel instead.
That meant taking the doll down to the shop and drilling out the old dowel.  This can be a little tricky, but if you're careful and keep your drill at a very low speed, it can work out pretty well. 
After I had drilled it out, I cut a section of a 3/16 dowel, making sure it fit well inside the body and head.  I also sanded of the facial features with 200 grit sand paper. 
I painted on a new face with acrylic paint, making her have a neutral expression and brown eyes, like Abriel.  I also painted her shoes brown, but I think in the future, I will paint them the original color, since now when the paint chips, it will show the black underneath.  Her head is just stuck on at this point.  It can't be glued until the shirt is on.
I chose wool felt for the new clothes, so I wouldn't have to do any hemming.  I used the old clothes for a pattern, minus the seam allowance, since I was using felt.  I sewed one half of the shirt, as shown, and the front and back of the pants before putting them on the doll.  The rest needs to be sewn while on the doll, because it cannot be dressed otherwise.
After I had finished sewing the inseam on the pants, I hot melt glued them in place.  I then glued the dowel into the body, and slipped the shirt on, getting the dowel to poke through the neck hole.  I finished sewing the shirt while on the doll, and then glued the head on, making sure the face was pointed in the right direction.  Now to fix that crazy hair.
I figured braids down the back would be the best way to keep it from going all over the place.  I made two tiny braids, then tied them off with embroidery floss.  I then put a dot of white craft glue at the knot, to keep them tied.  I also glued any stray hairs in place. 
   Now, doesn't she look better?  I can't wait to redo the little boy.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Roughing It

     I have a tendency to get fixated on accomplishing something I set out to do, and by golly, I'm going to do it even if everything seems to be going to pieces.  Eventually I'll stop long enough to think, "What in the world am I doing?"  Which was what was going through my mind as I was driving down the highway this Friday; car loaded with camping gear and kids, and no husband.
      The plan started out simply enough.  I wanted to go camping with my brother and his family, but the weekend we were planning on going was suppose to be rainy, so we had to push it back a couple of weeks.  Then my brother suggests we camp in the woods on my parents property.  Dave didn't like the idea of hauling camping gear up a mountain, but David (my brother) assured him that he could get his truck pretty near the sight.  I had my doubts if this could be done, but I thought that between Dave and I, it wouldn't be too much work to get our stuff up there.  It might be a little hitch in my planning, but still worth the trip.
     Then I see that it's going to get pretty cold that night.  I don't love camping when it's freezing out, but since the weather is only going to get colder, I just planned on packing warm PJs.  Then Dave has to work, and can't come with us.  At this point it would make since to cancel the camping, and just stay at my parents, but the kids were looking forward to camping, and so camping we were going.  I pared all our camping paraphernalia down to the essentials, and loaded up.  Dave had already left for work, and I was rushing to get everything together and packed up, so I was well into my two hour trip, when I realized I had forgotten our coats and the twins she-shes (special blankets).  Abriel is convinced that she can not live without her she-she.  I don't think she has ever spent a night without it, and here we were, getting ready to sleep out in the woods with no she-she.  This is when I thought, "What am I doing?" 
      Despite the bumps along the way, I did get there safely, (Considering my driving is less than exemplary, that is something in it's self.)  hauling everything up to the camp site wasn't a big deal, and it didn't get near as cold as it was suppose to, so we didn't even need our coats.  And Abriel, though not happy about it, managed to go to sleep with out her she-she.

        Here she is getting ready to go to sleep in our cozy little tent.
Samuel was all about helping David get a fire going in the morning.  David showed him how to break sticks over your knee, and so he broke every little twig that went into the fire, over his knee.

     David has strung up swings on a big beech that's on the edge of the woods.  The kids loved swinging on them.  They can be quite thrilling.  Unfortunately, I whacked my heel on a root while swinging.  It hurt so bad, I thought I might have done some permanent damage, but thankfully it feels much better now. 
So I guess my persistence, or perhaps stubbornness, payed off, as we all had a really fun time.  Camping out in the woods is quite a bit different than camping at a campground.  Every time during the night when Rumpole (the big dog in the pictures) would start barking and growling, I'd start thinking about bobcats and bears, and all the other big scary animals he might be barking at.  At some point I realized that even if there was something out there, there wasn't a thing I could do about it, so the best thing to do was just go to sleep.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Baking with Children

     Children; all children of any age, love to help bake sweets.  You get the thrill of seeing basic ingredients transformed into a delicious desert, and you get all those tastes along the way. 
     I love having my children help me in the kitchen, if I'm not a hurry and the thing I'm making doesn't have to turn out just so.  I also have to remember to bring lots of patients.  There will be a mess, there will be little fingers grabbing everything in sight, and it will take five times longer than it would if you didn't have your little helpers, but really, it still can be fun.  It also helps if you are making something you are very familiar with and is an easy recipe to follow, as steps and ingredients can easily be left out when there are so many distractions.  And yes, there will be plenty of those too. 
    The other day we made an apple pie together.  This is a great thing to make with kids, because nothing has to be precisely measured out. 
     You will probably have to let your hygienic standards down a little.  Kids lick things and touch things, and that's OK.  Everything is going into a really hot oven soon.  And as far as raw eggs go, I do let my children eat cookie dough and lick cake batter, and neither me or my children have ever gotten salmonella.  So I say go for it.  After all, what is baking without the tastes.
     Let your children participate as much as possible,  but if something is a little tricky, it's alright to say, "This is a mommy job."
    And of course remember that you are making special memories with your children, that they will remember fondly their whole lives.  I know I have many warm memories of helping my mother in the kitchen. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Apple Picking and Baking

     Apple season is here, which means that fall is here, too.  I like to start out my fall/ winter baking with apple baked goods.  It smells so good when they bake. Now that it is getting cool in the evenings, a little heat from the oven actually feels good. 
     We went apple picking at an orchard with our homeschool co-op this past Tuesday.  The kids loved getting out there, and picking their own apples.  Most of the trees were very dwarfed, so we could pick the apples easily, but some of them were big enough that we had to put the kids on our shoulders to pick. 


     There was also a little farm yard with rabbits, goats, sheep, chickens, and peacocks!  It was a thrill getting to see peacocks.  They are truly majestic birds.

    Of course when we got home I had to make something with all those apples, so I made an apple crumble.  Crisps and crumbles are sooo easy to make, that you can whip one out for dessert while you are making supper.  Which is what I did. 
Here is my own recipe for a apple crumble:
Slice eight medium apples into 1" chunks.  Spread out evenly in a 11"x 9" pan. 
In a large mixing bowl, combine:
  • 1/2 cup flour (I used white whole wheat, but whole wheat or all purpose will work too.)
  • 1/4 cup wheat bran
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Chop into pieces, then cut into the flour mixture, like you would for pie crust:
  • 1 stick of butter.
Sprinkle the flour and butter mixture on top of the apples, then bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes, or until it is bubbly and the apples are tender. 
     The last step is the hardest.  You need to let it cool down enough so that you don't sear the inside of your mouth.  I usually end up skipping this step, and suffer the consequences, because it smells too good to just sit there cooling!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Working with Kids

     I have recently been blessed with a flood of orders of the things I am selling through Etsy.  I'm thrilled that things are selling, but my shop is clearing out pretty fast, and I'm realizing just how long it takes me to make anything. 
     I've been working all day to replace my viking boat, which has sold.  There is a whole lot of sanding in one of those boats.  I am envisioning a belt sander in my future. 
     I've been trying to decide on a color for my new boat.  I like the green and yellow a lot, but I love trying out new designs.  I'm not the kind of person who can turn out the exact same thing over and over.  It might be a little extra work to make each and every thing unique, but it keeps me from getting bored. 
     If my time was my own, I could spend all day out in my shop, working on things.  But if I do that, when I come back to the house, it's chaos.  It's amazing how quickly the house can become completely blitzed, if I'm not there to rein in the mess making. 
     When I am working, Samuel is usually down in the shop with me.  He loves to sand scrap wood, and rummage through tools.  Anna and Abriel pop in and out, and usually play at least within ear shot.  They all love to hammer in nails.  Some times when they're all in the shop, talking, distracting, and getting into EVERYTHING,  I feel like I could give anything for a little uninterrupted time.  Then I stop and remember the reason I am working here, with my kids, is that I can be with them. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Boys and Guns

     I'm not a pacifist.  I have no problem with little boys playing with toy guns, theoretically.  My brothers had tons of toy guns, which they loved, and I had assumed that when I had a boy, I would probably buy him toy guns to play with, too.   That is until my mother gave Samuel a toy gun for Christmas one year.  It was camouflage and looked like a miniature military weapon.  One look at my sweet little innocent boy holding that gun, and the gun went bye, bye.  I have decided that that is a toy we can do without. 
      Most of the little boys I've known, seem almost obsessed with guns, and sometimes even gore and violence.  I was pleased to see that Samuel wasn't interested in reenacting war games, and didn't seem to have any interest in guns.  That is until recently. 
     The other day he showed me a picture he had drawn.  It was of a roughly circular shape, brightly colored in sections.  When he showed it to me, I told him how pretty it was, and asked him what it was?  I expected him to say it was a rainbow, or something like that, since he's been really into rainbows lately.  But no; he looked up at me and said, "It's a spaceship for bad guys.  They kill people."  What! Where did that come from?  He doesn't watch anything more intense than Dragon Tales.  Where did he hear about bad guys and killing people, and spaceships?!  Where did my sweet little innocent boy go?  Today he made a pistol out of legoes; and that's what he called it too.  A pistol, not just a gun. 
     All this has made me ask, is a interest in weapons and warfare something that boys instinctively have?  When I would hear other little boys talk about this or that action movie, I would think, Ah ha! That's where all this obsession with violence is stemming from.  But Samuel doesn't watch action movies.  He is hardly obsessed with violence either, but he is definitely interested in playing good guy/ bad guy games, and in shooting things.  Types of things that Anna and Abriel have never shown one iota of interest in. 
    So the bottom line is: Is this a healthy behavior?  I think the answer is yes and no.  Yes, I do think that the natural need in males to fight and protect is good.  If that means that my little boy is going to be into guns, then, well... I can deal with that.  However, I don't think that movies and shows that depict violence, gore, or killing are O.K. for boys to watch.  Images are strong and powerful, and even though the overall message of the movie may not be bad, it can be detrimental just to experience all those violent images.  Children do not belong in war, even if it is only taking place on your TV screen. 
     Currently, Samuel does not have any guns, other than what he can make himself, although I can see getting him a very simplistic, unrealistic gun some time in the future.  For right now, I would love to have him drawing rainbows just a little bit longer.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Our Pet Toad

     We had so much fun with the toad Anna caught several weeks ago, that I decided that the next time we caught a toad, we would keep it.
     Well, yesterday Anna caught another toad.  After spending the night in a make shift terrarium, Dave went out this morning and got a 10 gallon terrarium from the pet shop, making it official that this toad is now our permanent pet. 
     American toads are considered a good beginner amphibian to own, since they are pretty low maintenance.  All they need is a terrarium, (minimum of 10 Gal for one toad)   an appropriate substrait, part of which is at least 3" deep, a place to hide, and a shallow water dish that they can soak in.  Toads do not drink; they sit in water and absorb it through their skin. 
      I chose peat moss mixed with topsoil for my substrait; I wanted it to be close to what he was used to in the wild.  His toad home, I made from a gourd, and his water dish is mussel shell.  I think I will have to get something bigger, but it will do for now. 
As soon as I put him in the terrarium, he hopped into his little gourd house, and walked around in it some, then he hopped out, and started checking out the other stuff in his new home.  He seemed like he was adjusting so well, that I went ahead and put in the food I had caught for him earlier.  He gobbled up the three crickets almost immediately, but I think the little grasshoppers were too big.  He was very interested in them, though.  He also managed to catch several ants that were crawling on a branch I had put in.  I'm glad he's eating so well, as I think that's a sign he likes his new home. 
     Right now he is just hanging out in the gourd house.  He has now been named, Algernon, but we'll call him Algie for short.  I love toads, and I have to admit, this pet is probably more for me than the kids, but they enjoy having him too. 
    I would love to figure out how to get a good picture without the reflection on the glass getting in the way, but these will do for now.   Isn't he cute?  As for the "he" part, I had decided to just call it a boy, regardless of what gender it might be, since I certainly couldn't tell, but earlier he was puffing out his throat, so that means he's really a boy, right?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Little Doll Love

     Both Abriel and Samuel have been so good about not playing with the toys I have made for Stepping Stone Toys, that is until I made something they both really wanted.
     I don't know what it is about little dolls, but they go nuts over them.  Samuel has his own little viking that he loves, but he lost his sword.  When he saw me making these vikings, he was going to get his little guy a sword.  I ended up making him a new sword, as he was just not going to give up trying to get his knight a sword. 

     Abreil loves her root children, and of course when she saw me making these, it meant more little friends for her.  She just could not understand how I could be making a little doll, and it not be for her.
    I think I am going to have to make some more wooden figures soon, and this time they'll be for my kids.