Monday, March 23, 2015

Sewing in Miniature

I was the type of girl who was obsessed with dolls--their clothes especially.  I started sewing when I was six because I wanted to make doll clothes.  My grandmother was a kindred spirit and she used to make the most wonderful doll clothes for me and my sister and our cousins, including fantastically styled, retro Barbie doll outfits.  (I inherited her 1960's magazine of Barbie patterns and it is awesome.)

As an adult, I didn't lose my interest in sewing for dolls, so Grace and Brigid had pretty nice doll wardrobes, and I dabbled in doll making as well.  I had a standard rag doll pattern and I used to sell or donate them or give them as gifts.

My "standard" rag doll--not sure where the forehead stain came from.  
Anyway, this is all a long preamble to say that I haven't had any time to make dolls in years, but recently, I was going through my box of patterns and found an unfinished doll, not one of my standard rag dolls, but a doll from a kit designed by Gail Wilson for her Early American Doll series.

I had two kits, actually.  The kit for the doll itself and another for a Shaker outfit.  The doll was faceless and with no arms or legs.  So I finished the doll and made the Shaker outfit.  It was a fun project and not particularly difficult, although sewing in miniature can be fiddly and the straw bonnet was a bitch--partly because the glue that came with the kit was dried out and I substituted Martha Steward glitter paste, which is too stiff.  (The glue itself isn't glittery, it's intended to affix glitter to things.)

I had difficulty with the facial antiquing.
The paints and varnish had dried out and reconstituting them with water wasn't entirely successful.
Painted on shoes.  The feet are filled with sand to give them heft.
Shaker dress and apron

Shaker bertha
                                         

Straw bonnet



The bonnet barely fits over the hair, so I hung it from her neck by the strings and it looks like she's hauling a covered wagon on her back.  I wouldn't have chosen all that brown myself, but it's what came in the kit.

Now that the doll is finished, I have no idea what to do with it.  For now, she's sitting on top of the pantry shelves, guarding our staples.

Pantry Goddess

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday reading assignment: books that are traumatic

Last semester, Grace's English teacher distributed a list of books from which each student was supposed to pick one for an assignment.  Grace asked me to help her make a selection.  From the list, I gave her three or four choices which I thought she would like the best.  Of these, she chose Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.  I haven't read Blood Meridian, (or, obviously, seen or read much about the movie) but I have read All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing, which I liked, so I figured Cormac McCarthy would be a good choice.  Blood Meridian turned out to be disturbingly violent: murdered babies and drowned puppies and the like. I feel like an ignorant ass for recommending it. I don't remember being upset by All the Pretty Horses or The Crossing, although I do remember that those novels are violent.  There's violence and violence--some kinds are disturbing, others are less so.  Over the years, my children have been assigned some very disturbing literature at school.  Night by Elie Wiesel comes to mind.  I don't want to be THAT parent, and I would never get up a censorship campaign, so I've said nothing to the schools and just advised my kids to talk to their teachers about the disturbing content.

When I was ten, I checked Julie of the Wolves out of my school library and I absolutely loved it until I got to the attempted rape scene, which was such a shock, I could hardly process it.  I actually felt betrayed.  My mother didn't believe in censoring our reading, and I certainly would have resented any attempt to restrict my reading, but that freedom led me to believe that any book I chose would be "safe."  To this day, I can barely look at the cover of Julie of the Wolves, and, while I don't censor my children's reading, I never went out of my way to introduce them to Julie of the Wolves.

This was the cover art of the copy at my school library


Since starting to think about this, I've realized that ever since the Julie of the Wolves incident, I've avoided any book that I thought might upset me.  I won't ever read Lord of the Flies, or A Clockwork Orange or The Lovely Bones, for example.  (In college, just listening to a classmate's presentation about A Clockwork Orange upset me.)  And yet, Lord of the Flies and Clockwork Orange were the very books that Seamus wanted to read last summer.  I had to stand by my no-censorship principles, but I did warn Seamus that they might upset him.  So he read them and was fine.  (He liked A Clockwork Orange so much, we gave him a tee shirt with a screen print of the cover for Christmas.)


And then, browsing in a book shop for a Christmas present for Seamus, All the Pretty Horses caught my eye.  So I bought it, and he loved it.  Loved it so much, that he's been reading through all of McCarthy's novels.  He hasn't gotten to Blood Meridian yet, but he did read The Road, which sounds GRIM.  I'm not sure if I could handle reading The Road.  It just goes to show, we all have a different level of tolerance for disturbing material.

Have you ever been traumatized by a book?  Do you try to shelter your children from disturbing material or do you take a hands-off approach when your kids are choosing books?


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Melon Mincemeat in March

At Christmas, Becky gave me a pint of the mincemeat she made from an heirloom citron melon.  I intended to make it into a pie right away, but it turns out I couldn't face making another pie crust at that time, so the mincemeat sat until this Saturday, which turned out to be pi day.  Is it cliched to make a pie on pi day?  I thought it might be, but NOT baking a pie simply to avoid being a cliche seemed even worse.  I guess you can't win where pi day is concerned.

Even three months after Christmas, I still couldn't face making another pie crust, so I bought puff pastry.  I wasn't so sure about this, but then I saw that the puff pastry method is sanctioned by My Irish Table, by Cathal Armstrong, which is the cookbook I've been reading lately.  It worked very well.  My mini pie pan makes four pies and I had enough pastry and mincemeat for six, so I used wide-mouth mason jar lids for the final two pies.  This is a technique I saw on Pinterest, and thought was highly suspect, since it involved something as trendy as mason jars.  Surprise, surprise, it actually worked well, although probably because mincemeat is fairly firm.  I wouldn't attempt mason jar lid pies with a runny pie filling.

Fresh out of the oven


I brought the pies to our neighbor's barbecue and then felt self-conscious because, mincemeat in March?


But it was yummy! The mincemeat had a mellow flavor and the heirloom citron melon is aptly named because it really did have the taste and texture of candied citron.  Is there some law that spiced fruit may only be consumed at the holidays?

Off to the party
Did you celebrate pi day?