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Visiting

It’s been, as usual, a very busy month for us.  My Middles are both taking Driver’s Ed, which in Maine means 3 weeks of class plus driving time with the instructor.  And this month the only class available was in town – 30 minutes away.  So I’m spending a lot of time driving them back and forth now so that I don’t have to spend a lot of time driving them everywhere later.  Somehow this makes sense.  It makes me just a little crazy (and angry) when I hear people talking about how fast they can get from one place to another, and let’s not even think about how many people are on their phones while they drive.  Two more of my babies are on the road now.  Please drive safely.

Yesterday after I dropped the Middles off for class and drive time, the Littles and I headed a bit further down the road to visit my grandparents.  They’re in an assisted living home temporarily while my mom recuperates from surgery.  Unfortunately, my mom is an hour away in one direction, and my grandparents are an hour away in the other direction, so our visits are limited.

My grandmom cried when she opened the door.  It’s a usual reaction from her when someone surprises her, but it’s still a hard reaction to handle.  Can you imagine what it must be like to be so happy to see someone that you cry?image

My grandmom is the one who taught me to sew.  She was a bit of a seamstress, sewing things and altering clothing for friends, family and neighbors to make a bit of “pin money”.  She had her sewing machine set up in the middle bedroom of their home, and I remember fondly standing by her side while she worked.  She helped me earn my Sewing Merit Badge when I was a Girl Scout, showing me how to make a pattern from an item of clothing and then sew it together.image

Every time I see them, they, for the most part, tell the same stories.  But instead of being bored with them, I’m honored. Because an awful lot of those stories, especially from Grandmom, are about things we did together.  What an honor to be a part of a 92-year-old’s good memories.  She talks about the swimming lessons she took my brother and I to, and about walking to the pool in the summertime.  She talks about the sock monkeys she sewed with me by her side, about lining them up on the back of the sofa and naming them before she sold them. She talks about the songs we used to sing together.  She talks about them over and over and over again, and I love hearing them.

Sometimes she’ll talk about other things – like when she was a child growing up during the Depression.  My grandfather usually chimes in then, telling about the celery farm he worked at when he was about 11.  Or the newspaper delivery route he and his brother had when he was 8.  I love their stories.  I hope we get to hear them for a long time yet.

 

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Saying Goodbye

About 12 years ago, our family was looking into adopting a dog.  We had previously lived with Golden Retrievers and loved the breed, so we thought we’d try to find one, and while we wanted a puppy, we also wanted to adopt a rescue dog from a shelter.  I spent a lot of time online looking for the perfect Golden Retriever for us, browsing all the Golden Retriever Rescue organization pages.

abby-7202One day, it was a Wednesday I think, I found a picture of this puppy waiting to be adopted.  She was about 5 months old. She was in a high kill shelter – the listing said she only had seven days to be adopted. She wasn’t a Golden Retriever.  But something about this puppy made me stop and look over and over again.  I didn’t see my husband that night to show him the picture of the dog, so it wasn’t until Thursday night that I had a chance to have him look and see if he thought she might make a good addition to our family.  He agreed I could call and get more information.

abby-8277First thing in the morning on Friday, I called to talk to someone about possibly meeting the puppy to see if she’d be a good match for us.  I was asked to hold the line while the person on the other end gathered information.  I was then told that the dog was at a high kill shelter out of state, and that her seven days was up.  She said she’d call me back.  We waited for what seemed like forever for that return call.  When the phone finally rang, all the children gathered to hear what news it would bring.  As it turns out, the rescue organization here in Maine had called their sister organization out of state, who called the shelter where the puppy was located.  They were just about to take her in to be euthanized.  We were just in time.

abby-8509We then learned that she was in Louisiana and would be transported to us and it was only a short few days later that I drove to the pick up location to meet our new puppy.  She was small and scared and melted into my arms.  I put her in the back seat of the car for the 2 hour drive home and she whimpered until I was able to pull over and move her into the front passenger seat next to me, where she curled up contentedly and fell asleep.  When I arrived home, the first person she saw was Zach, who was 5 at the time.  She followed him everywhere, obviously quite excited to have been given her own boy.  We named her Abby.

abby-8919Abby spent the next 12 years following us from Maine to Texas and back to Maine again.  She watched over me through three pregnancies and births, so very protective that we had to lock her in another room when I was in labor because she wouldn’t let anyone come near me.  She was wary of strangers and chased off more than one delivery driver.  She loved walking in the woods with us, wandering around to chase smells and creatures, but always checking back with us to make sure we were still okay.abby-9591

About a month ago, Abby was definitely not feeling well. I made an appointment with our veterinarian who ran some tests and found that Abby was positive for Lyme Disease.  He thought all her symptoms could be explained by that, so we began a series of antibiotics and she seemed to be improving.  When Abby suddenly turned for the worse, we took her to an overnight/over weekend emergency vet who found she had extremely low blood sugar.  Over the course of the next few days, we found out that Abby had a pancreatic tumor that had spread to her lymph nodes.  We brought her home for comfort care (I think the comfort care was as much for us as for Abby).  We only had a couple of days with her when she again turned for the worse and we had to make the difficult decision to let her go.abby-6932

I wish we had more time together.  I wish my children didn’t have to deal with hard things like losing a beloved pet.  I wish I could have made her better.  But we gave her twelve years.  Twelve years of love and joy and companionship she never would have had.  And she gave us twelve years of love and joy and companionship that only she was able to provide.  Rest in peace, sweet girl.abby-9168

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Finishing touches

We built our new mud room/laundry room a year ago.  We hadn’t planned on waiting a year to paint, but once construction was done winter set in and the space was used to hold all the winter gear that is required for a family living in Maine.  While summer is traditionally a season for getting outside and enjoying the time in the sun, it is, for us, a time to get projects done that we don’t have time for during the very busy school year.  And so, paint.

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Is it wrong that the first thing I did this morning was walk to this room and just enjoy the calm?  What is it about shaker pegs that elicits such a tranquil feeling?  Soon enough, they will be covered in all manner of coats and snow pants and scarves and the baseboard will be hidden behind at least seven pairs of boots, but for now I’m enjoying the timeless minimalism.

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Ever After Cottage Cinderella Doll

It looks like this is turning into a doll blog.  I didn’t mean for it to do that, but dollmaking is what’s happening in my life right now, so doll posts are what you’re going to get. 🙂

DSC_0608-2I just finished making this one.  I never really plan how they’ll look, the dolls just sort of take on appearance as my hands work.  This one started the same as the others, a blank slate waiting for an expression and personality.  Once her hair was stitched down we picked out fabric for her dress, and she asked for this pale blue fabric, and “could you please make me a flower for my hair?”, so of course I had to oblige.  And then she turned into a fairy tale.  I didn’t really plan for her to be Cinderella, but that’s who she is.  I felt much like her fairy godmother while I was sewing her dress.

We decided to go out and play in the garden for some pictures.  She pretended she was watching for the carriage to carry her to the ball. DSC_0607-2She pretended she was running away after the ball and pulled her hooded cloak up for disguise.  DSC_0611-2She pretended she was greeting the handsome prince who came to sweep her away to his castle.  DSC_0610-2She’s very good at pretending.DSC_0612-2

While I’d love to keep all the dolls, and the children would be very happy if I did, there’s only so much room in our little cottage, so this little one has been listed for sale in my Etsy shop.

And I forgot to mention it here the other day, but if you purchase one of the dolls from my shop, enter coupon code FIRSTDOLLS for a 15% discount.  The coupon is valid through July 31, 2016.  I’m a new seller on Etsy and I know you don’t know my work, so I thought this would help.

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Opening Shop

Facebook told me the other day that I made my first doll one year ago. That first doll was rather primitive, but I was determined to try to make one of the dolls that I imagine. After many trials and tests and pattern changes and samples and stitching and unstitching and stuffing and taking it back out again, I am pretty happy with the pattern I have and the dolls I’ve been making.

And as it was my one year dollmaking anniversary the other day, I celebrated by opening my own online shop.  I only added one doll, but it only takes one listing to be officially open, right?  I have a couple of other dolls in the works, and I thought it would be nice to list them all at once, but after working on one of them yesterday and today, I decided that I’d just list them for sale as I finish them for now.  It goes against traditional online selling advice (which says to list at least 10, or even 100 items right at the beginning), but sometimes traditional advice should be tossed to the wind, yes?

My oldest daughter, Cate, made a few suggestions as I worked, and I must say she is pure genius.  From using a natural color hair, to making a headband, to the challenge of making braids (when I made the Sister dolls for my granddaughters), this doll’s beauty owes much to her.  And without further ado, here is the newest lovely.DSC_0556-2DSC_0562-2DSC_0563-2DSC_0565-2DSC_0558-2 DSC_0568-2 DSC_0564-2Her hair is deep brown fabric, molded and folded and squished and stitched into place one stitch at a time.  Her braids are attached, but not sewn into place, so a little girl who enjoys playing with hair can remove the ribbon and rebraid as she’d like, even twisting the braids to the top of the head and tying them in place.  Her eyes are a gentle shade of greenish grey, and as such, she asked me to make her clothing that would make her eyes stand out.  (She’s a quiet little thing, but just a wee bit vain.)  Her cheeks are made of wool felt, stitched into rosy place with embroidery thread, and embroidery thread is also used to hand stitch her sweet little face.  Cotton fabric is used for her clothing. Her dress fastens in the back with velcro – no small buttons to come loose or frustrate little ones’ fingers.  Her drawers have an elastic waist and two little pintucks on the legs.  Her hooded cloak, is made of a deeper shade of green than her dress, and it allows her to wander through wood and meadow without disturbing other little creatures with her presence.  And she truly does love to be outside watching the goings on of plants growing and animals playing.  Her little pointed boots are the same shade of deep brown as her hair, and have a little ruffle on top to match her cloak.   Her removable headband matches her dress.  She is stuffed with pure, clean, naturally hypoallergenic sheep’s wool, which gives her a bit of weight, though she is perfectly light enough for the smallest little one to carry her.

As with all the other dolls I’ve made, this one was stitched by me in my own little home in the woods of Maine.  If you would like to give this doll a home, please visit my Etsy shop.

And if you haven’t seen enough, here are a few more portraits. DSC_0571-2 DSC_0572-2 DSC_0573-2

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Sister Dolls

It took many weeks of working – a bit here, a little there – but these two very special dolls were finally finished.  Some of the delay was due to me, the maker, wanting so very much for them to be as perfect as could be, as these sisters were meant for two very special sisters – my Granddaughters, Ali and Norah.

May Dolls-2I learned in the making of these that custom is hard.  Knowing the likes and dislikes of the receiver makes one question and evaluate every detail – are the eyes the right color? do the cheeks match the hair? is the hair the right color? is the style right for each girl? The best making happened when I wasn’t really thinking about it, but just doing it – letting my heart guide my hands.

There was, of course, many suggestions from each doll on what to do.  “I want a bow in my hair”, said one. “Long braids”, said the other.  “My dress first, please”, they both asked at the same time.  This making of two dolls at once, both wanting to be first and also wanting their sister to be done at the same time made my sewing space even noisier than usual as they each gave me their wishes, often speaking over each other so I couldn’t tell which was talking. Sisters.

May Dolls-1One morning when I went to my sewing space, they were quiet.  They just sat there and looked at me expectantly.  “What more do you want?” I asked.  “We’re ready,” they said.   “Now? Already?  Surely some time for some pictures first?” I asked.  “No,” they told me.  “It’s time for us to go.”May Dolls-3

They watched me as I gathered the wrapping and packing supplies, whispering to each other.  And finally, they were ready. Traveling cloaks fastened, pointed shoes firmly on each foot (I did have to make sure they were wearing the correct shoes, as they had changed several times while I was busy in the other room), ribbons tied in their braids, and an extra dress for the journey, they laughed with excitement at setting out for their new home.  May Dolls-4They were a bit worried that I would send them on their journey separately, but once I tucked them in together they were quite happy, and I could hear them giggling and conspiring new adventures together even as I taped their traveling trunk closed.  And these two went on their way.  I do hope they aren’t too demanding for their owners!

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Fifteen

Fifteen-1Fifteen-2 We celebrated Maddie’s fifteenth birthday recently with a simple day.  She wanted to go shopping, something we don’t do very often, so Maddie and Zach and I drove to the nearest mall (45 minutes away).  I don’t remember the last time I spent a day with just the two of them.  While Zach was a little out of his element at 1). a mall and 2). stores with clothes and 3). stores with clothes for girls, he managed to find alternative stores (browsing games and books and sunglasses)  while Maddie and I shopped all sorts of sparkly, scented and girly things.  A quick lunch stop was next for us, and then home for pie!  Yes, pie. This girl has never liked cake.  A few gifts to unwrap with each of the little girls making something to give (a handmade doll with a broom from Emma and a collection of watercolors from Sophie).

Maddie Bag-1 Maddie Bag-2As part of her birthday gifts I sewed a bag for Maddie with some fabric I found at a little roadside shop in Boothbay.   Her bag is stitched with heavy duty home dec fabric on the outside and a soft chambray on the inside.  I only put three pockets inside the bag, measuring to be certain that her Kindle will fit in one of them.   I used the same tutorial as I did for Emma’s bag, and it stitched up a little easier the second time.  She declares it to be very soft and easy to carry, with room for all her treasures and art supplies.  As often as this busy girl is out and about, she needed something to keep her things at the ready, and we’ve already been rewarded with beautiful drawings she’s created as she goes from place to place.