As predicted in my last post, I've been way too busy to post anything for the past few weeks. My mother-in-law passed away and we went out of town for the funeral. Although we weren't gone all that long for the funeral, the repeated absences over the past month had a cumulative effect any mom will recognize. I've been buried under a mountain of laundry, housekeeping, and gardening trying to catch up with all the mundane chores I put aside.
It just happens that I also acquired a flood of new inventory for my shops. Some is consignment I picked up from my mother and sister but most is a huge liquidation lot. Our youngest had outgrown all his dressy clothes so I had to take him shopping for the funeral. While we were out I came across an enormous sale of clothing at wholesale prices so I picked up everything I could find. Then I was offered a few terrific deals from some of my wholesale suppliers and I picked up even more. Brands include Chaps, The Limited, and New Directions. I have most of this listed now, so I hope you'll check. While most of my new stuff is for colder weather I do have some summer dresses and tops and I just added men's Trunks Surf and Swim Co. swim trunks to Poshmark and eBay. I also have a lot of unused vintage NASCAR fashion listed. You can link to all my shops from the Home page.
If all goes as planned (but who a I kidding? It probably won't), you'll be seeing fairly large shift in my business model pretty soon. When I started my lone store on eBay I sold dolls and my kids' outgrown clothes. That was nearly 20 years ago, however, and the market has changed. Doll making supplies and kits sell way better for me now than finished dolls. I do still restore and sell dolls but not as many and I mostly list them around the holiday season as well as Mother's Day. On Poshmark my men's fashion sells better than anything else, so I've been concentrating on sourcing men's clothing. I will still have children's clothing but I've decided to cut way down on that. People used to buy pre-owned kids' clothes even when they weren't perfect. Nowadays, with the super-cheap "fast fashion" available everywhere, including grocery stores like Aldi, I find parents prefer these cheaply made new clothes to nicer ones they can pass down. I have decided to donate most of my children's clothing. What remains will be new or like-new and only the best brands. Most will be sold in lots of one size or "Mystery Boxes" to dress your child or resell. So if you've had your eye on kid's clothes in my shops you will want to make me an offer pretty soon!
My ultimate goal is to go back to my original ambition to make my own line of clothing for kids, maybe with a bit thrown in for women. These will not be cheap or fast. I envision an exclusive line of extremely-limited or even one -of-kind pieces, and they will be appropriately priced for clothing handmade in America and made of high-quality fabrics. These will be pieces to wear for special occasions and hand down to the next generation. If I can get my chaotic life together I hope to get this underway in time for summer. We shall see. Right now I'm so buried in delayed housework and the kids' end-of-the-year concerts and moving up ceremonies and sporting events the thought of actually sewing anything seems like a pipe dream!
If you've been following my social media you may have seen we were out of town last week. It was Spring Break and we had a little vacation to Raleigh planned. My husband scheduled a business trip and the kids and I planned to tag along. We did go on our vacation but we left early when my mother-in-law was admitted to the hospital. A couple days ago she moved to hospice. We are back home now but yesterday we drove 7 hours round trip to go and visit again. I've had my stores on vacation and extended my handling time but tonight I turned that off and went back to my regular shipping schedule. We aren't sure how much time my mother-in-law has left, but the stores will likely be back on vacation soon. Therefore, I'm running an early Mother's Day Sale on eBay, Etsy, and Depop. The Depop sale ends May 1st and the others run through May 6th. You can link to all my shops from the Home page.
I was able to pick up a lot of new inventory and have some of it listed. I have some terrific brands like J. Crew, Joe's Jeans, and Vince Camuto, as well as some vintage fashion and European china. I am preparing several Coldwater Creek, Diane Gilman, and Liz Claiborne pieces for sale as well. I hope you'll stop by and pick up your favorites.
My weight loss journey with my new weight-loss coach's plan is going really well (see my last post for information). I actually lost a little more weight over vacation, meaning I lost nearly 20 pounds in the past month! My mother gave me some clothes to sell and I was able to keep a size M top that I liked and which fit me. Over Spring Break I wore a swim suit that hasn't fit for several years and by our beach vacation in July I hope to be able to buy a whole new suit for the trip.
With all the traveling back and forth to Raleigh I probably won't have much time for blog and newsletter posting in the near future. The best way to keep up is probably to follow my Instagram or Facebook; I'll try to update at least one of those daily. Thank you so much for reading my intermittent posts!
Well, almost three weeks ago I promised to give you the recipes for my latest Keto creations and then I never posted them! I do apologize; I joined a new weight loss group and have been fasting for extended periods and writing about food was just more than I could handle. The kids' track and soccer seasons are also underway and that doesn't leave me with much time for writing about anything!
But back to the recipes... a couple weeks ago our son was home for Spring Break and I made him a special meal every night. Since he has Type 1 Diabetes it's hard for him to find foods in the cafeteria he can eat and he's stuck with little diversity in his diet. I try to make sure he gets a lot of variety when he comes home. This time I introduced my Pork Belly Burgers, shown above. These are pretty easy to make. You can buy pre-made raw hamburger patties to save time and make it even easier.
Pork Belly Burgers
8 Pre-Made Hamburger Patties or
2 lb Ground Beef
1/4 Cup Dijon Mustard
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/4 Tsp Black Pepper
1 lb Pork Belly
1/8 Cup Lakanto Maple-Flavored Syrup
1/8 Cup Bragg's Liquid Aminos
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/4 Tsp Black Pepper
1/2 Tsp Asian Five Spice Powder
Chipotle Ranch Salad Dressing, for drizzling.
To prepare the pork belly, lay out the slabs of belly in a 13x9 inch pan. Sprinkle each side with the salt, pepper, and Asian spices. Cover with the Lakanto syrup and Liquid Aminos and turn to coat completely. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator at least 2 hours or overnight. After marination, remove the cover and transfer the pan to an oven heated to 350 degrees. Cook 1 hour or until meltingly tender but still holding together enough to pick up with a fork or chopsticks (see second photo above). Remove from the pan, reserving the drippings for later use. Cut into bite-sized pieces.
At this point, cook the burger patties as instructed on the label or mix all ingredients, form into 8 patties, and fry, grill, or bake as desired (if baking I cook at 350 degrees about 8 minutes per side or until fully-cooked). While the burgers are cooking pour the pan drippings into a frying pan. I prefer cast iron. Heat the grease over medium-high heat until a drop of water will sizzle when you flick it into the grease. Add the pork belly to the grease and fry 4-7 minutes per side or until a crispy crust forms on each piece. Remove to a bowl lined with paper towels and keep warm.
When the burgers and pork belly are done plate the burgers, top with pork belly, and drizzle with the Chipotle Ranch dressing.
This easy recipe is sweet, salty, and mildly spicy all at once! We prefer the Lakanto maple-flavored monkfruit syrup and the Walden Farms Chipotle Ranch Calorie Free dressing. The Braggs Liquid Aminos are a traditionally-prepared soy sauce free of the artificial chemicals and commercial sodium added to most bottled soy sauce.
Browned Butter Shortbread Cookies
Makes 1 Dozen Cookies
2 Cups Almond Flour
6-8 Tablespoons Browned Butter (see recipe to prepare)
1/2 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
6 TBSP Golden Monkfruit Sweetener (We prefer Lakanto)
1/4 Cup Unsweetened Dried Cranberries (optional)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Begin by browning the butter. Add butter to a saucepan and melt. Simmer over medium-low heat until the edges of the pan begin to collect tiny brown flecks and the butter fragrance intensifies. Watch carefully to make sure you don't burn the butter! Set aside.
Blend all ingredients except the butter and cranberries in a mixer or mixing bowl. Gradually add butter until the mixture is the texture of play dough and you can easily squeeze or roll it into a ball. Add cranberries if desired. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Roll the dough into balls about the size of a chestnut. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking pan. Press each ball flat with your fingers or the back of a spoon. Bake 15 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Allow to cool almost completely on the pan. Then lift the entire sheet of paper with the cookies on it and place on a wire rack to cool completely. These are very fragile before they are cooled.
These crumbly, buttery cookies really hit the spot! I adapted a recipe from @ketochix on Instagram to get them as close to the shortbread I remembered from my youth. Browning the butter adds the depth of flavor that provides the richness I wanted. I prefer these without the fruit but everyone else in the family likes them with the cranberries.
I know you're probably curious about my new weight loss group and the extended fasting. As you know, since September of 2017 we've switched to the ketogenic diet and I started testing with keto sticks to see how various foods affect my blood sugar. This works a lot better for me than counting carbs because it turns out strange things knock me out of ketosis. For instance, I can eat a sushi roll and stay in ketosis but a sugar-free Propel water will take me out! Keto worked fairly well for me. I lost about 15 pounds pretty quickly and then stalled out, with my weight just going up and back down within a 5 pound range for several months. Around July of 2018 I added intermittent fasting after reading Dr. Fung's books, The Obesity Code and The Complete Guide to Fasting. I joined Dr. Fung's approved Facebook fasting support group. A moderator runs this group; Dr. Fung is not personally involved. I lost another 5-10 more pounds with the fasting but got stuck again. I will say, ketogenic weight loss is not like weight loss I've experienced in the past. My body composition has definitely changed and I look as if I've lost a lot more than I have. My clothing size went from a tight 2X to a Large and even a Medium in some brands. I can wear clothes that haven't fit in years. Still, I want and need to lose a lot more. I was thrilled to see Dr. Wade Baskin formed a fasting group. Dr. Wade runs this group himself and teaches the techniques that helped him lose a significant amount of weight at age 50. You can find him on Instagram as @drwade_physio.
Basically the program is this: extended fasting plus a carnivore diet. Dr. Wade recommends you start with a 72 hour fast, then re-feed with 500-1000 calories of red meat if possible, although other meats and eggs are permitted. Then fast for 48 hours, and keep repeating this pattern until you are at your goal weight, at which time you can move to OMAD, or one meal per day, mainly eating meat. I've been on Dr. Wade's program for a week and a half and I've already lost 12 pounds! I'm extremely happy to have broken through my plateau. Dr. Wade broadcasts live once a week to give advice and the other group members are very helpful. During these fasts I drink an electrolyte solution of 4 tsp baking soda and 4 tsp No-Salt (potassium chloride) dissolved in 1 gallon of water. If necessary I also drink coffee with a small amount of heavy cream added and bone broth. I try to avoid the coffee and broth but I tend to get headaches and/or dizziness when fasting and if I do that's a sign I need to drink some coffee and broth. Exercise is not required on this plan although slow walking, preferably outdoors, or swimming or weight lifting may be added but you should take care not to over-exert yourself as this can lead to a rise in cortisol and stall out your weight loss.
For me, personally, trying to start fasting, Keto, and exercise all at once is a recipe for disaster. I tried it in early 2017 and it was just too much and I ended up quitting. If you want to get started I recommend first eating a ketogenic diet for a few months, using the keto sticks to make sure you'e staying in ketosis and that you understand which foods take you out. In general, to stay in ketosis you will need to avoid carbohydrates like sugar, grains, and starches as well as artificial flavors and sweeteners but you will need to test yourself to see what you can tolerate. After a few months you will find you are less and less hungry. Then you can add fasting to your regimen. At first I just made sure to have at least 12 hours between eating or drinking anything caloric at night and breakfast in the morning and I worked up from there. At this point I am able to fast at least 72 hours (3 days) without much trouble. The first extended fasts were really hard for me. Autophagy, the process through which your body removes and replaces damaged cells and toxins trapped within your fat cells (one purpose of your fat cells is to trap toxic substances and insulate them from the rest of your body), kicked in hard and I experienced bad GI issues as well as insomnia and weird skin sores. As I eliminated fat cells they released the toxins they had stored into my body, which quickly pushed them out in every way possible, including right through the skin. The more processed junk and chemicals you've been ingesting, the more you'll experience this as you fast, so you'll want to clean up your diet as much as possible before beginning the extended fasts. If you experience these symptoms, just break your fast and try again later. I had to try several times to get past 50 hours of fasting but I finally accomplished it, and now I'm to the point I can write about food and look at recipes without really craving food. It's Thursday evening and I've been fasting since Monday and I'm not hungry right now or even thinking about food at all. You can follow me on Instagram to see me progress.
As always, please remember I'm not a medical professional of any kind. I'm just recording my journey. Always talk to your doctor before embarking on any health or weight loss plan. If you are already lean, and especially if you have 4% body fat or less, you do not need to be fasting for extended periods.
Recently I came across a new-to-me brand at the thrift store: Saint Jack. I noticed a messenger or saddlebag style leather pocketbook that looked like vintage Dooney & Burke. When I picked it up I saw it was marked Saint Jack in several places so I looked up the brand. I found out Saint Jack was a fine leather maker in London and their pieces are worth a great deal of money. So much money, I lost my head and grabbed the bag and headed home to polish the leather, which is all the bag seemed to need. Let's just say, this will be a lesson to me that I should curb my enthusiasm the next time I go thrifting!
Although the bag looked used but presentable in the shop, when I got it home I noticed every time I handled it I would get sticky flakes of black plastic or something on my hands. When I investigated I realized that although the bag is made of leather the lining was made of a vinyl-coated "wipe clean" fabric. The style and color of the leather looks to me like it's from the late 1980s or early 1990s and after 30 years the vinyl coating was peeling off the fabric. I tried scrubbing off the vinyl and peeling it off with a lint roller, but I couldn't get it all. The plastic flakes stuck like glue to everything they touched and after a few days I was finding little flecks all over the house. Whenever I thought I'd gotten it all out of the purse I would reach in and get more little black flakes on my hands. There's no way I would ever sell this to someone else to use when it was driving me so crazy. I decided I would have to put in a new lining.
I looked through my fabric stash and found a sueded cotton paisley called Kashmir by Hoffman California, most like from the exact same era as the bag and a perfect match! I carefully removed the original lining by picking out the seams with a seam ripper. Then I took apart the pieces and used them as a pattern for the new lining.
I sewed in the new lining by machine and hand and was even able to move the Saint Jack logo plate to the new lining. I re-lined both the main and front pockets of the bag. The paisley peeks out a little when you open the bag and I think it adds a lot of style compared to the plain black of the original!
When I removed the original lining I was careful to make note of the construction and I saw the lining was both sewn in and glued to tabs on the sides. I used my go-to glue, Beacon 527, to glue the sides. My inspection of the bag turned up a couple splits in the leather binding of the flap, so I used the Beacon glue to re-attach those as well. It's such a great repair you can't even see it!
The brass hardware had some discoloration from age so I made a homemade brass polish and scrubbed it all. It makes sense to do this before you clean the rest of the bag, but unfortunately it didn't occur to me until after I'd done that, so I had to clean it again to remove the salt afterward. The scrub is kind of messy but it does work: mix salt, white vinegar, and lemon juice or essential oil to make a paste. Apply the paste to the brass, let it sit for while, scrub it with a toothbrush, and then buff off with a paper towel. I was fasting when I was doing this and it made me hungry because it smells like cocktail sauce and made me crave shrimp cocktail, so keep that in mind if you're dieting!
Another flaw I discovered when I got the bag home was the snap on the front flap was broken off. I converted the snap to a magnetic closure. I glued the magnet with Beacon 527 over the spot where the snap had been and then I covered it with wool felt on the inside. I both sewed and glued the felt in place. The felt helps keep the magnet in place and also prevents the metal from scratching the brass on the bag's front.
Finally, after all that work I was ready to remedy the dry and scuffed leather, all I thought I would have to repair originally! As I mentioned when I restored the WWII leather B6 bomber helmet, my homemade wood polish makes a terrific leather cleaner and restorer! You just use a soft cloth to rub it on and then buff it off to remove dirt and re-condition the leather at the same time! You can buy the Young Living essential oils I use from the link on the Home page.
After I cleaned and conditioned the leather I got out the shoeshine kit and used brown cream shoe polish on the brown trim. Then I brushed the entire bag to a gloss with a horsehair brush.
There was a small spot on the edge of the strap where the edge coating was worn away. I fixed this by dipping a toothpick in acrylic paint and dabbing it on the spot. You can't even see this repair, either!
I'm really thrilled with this restoration! This bag still shows enough vintage patina to communicate its authenticity but now the leather is supple and soft and the lining is beautiful. Everything feels sturdy, as only truly quality-constructed pieces feel. The bag was well-made to begin with and the hand-sewing of the restoration only supports and accentuates that. I can't find out much about Saint Jack, except they made fine leather pieces in London; I don't think they are still in business. Their pieces are extremely rare, especially in the USA. This one is one-of-a-kind. The classic style is timeless. This is a bag you will use forever, that will never go out of style. You can find it in my shops, along with many other restored vintage pieces, using the link from the Home page.
Having been parents for 20 years now, my husband’s and my Valentine's Day celebrations are no longer the romantic affairs they once were. On rare occasions we have gone away somewhere but most of the time we have a fancy supper for the entire family and exchange cards. This year was no different. My husband gave me a card and some sugar free chocolate and shrubs for the yard and I gave him a card and sugar free candy and then spent two days cooking a big supper. I made sirloin steaks that were vaguely heart-shaped, splurged on carbs with mashed potatoes and salad, and then I adapted a couple cake recipes to create a Keto Almond Mocha Fudge Cake. I've been craving dense, rich chocolate cake lately and this fit the bill perfectly! Scroll down for the recipe!
Keto Almond Mocha Fudge Cake
4 large eggs, separated
8 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
3/4 Cup Powdered Monkfruit Sweetener, divided
1/2 Cup Golden Monkfruit Sweetener
8-10 drops Chocolate Liquid Monkfruit Drops
1/4 tsp salt
1 Cup Almond Flour
8 ounces Unsalted Butter
1 TBSP Brewed Espresso or Strong Coffee
1/2 TBSP Pure Almond Extract
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder for Dusting
Sugar-Free Whipped Cream for garnishing (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease one 8-9 inch springform pan with butter and then dust with unsweetened cocoa powder, turning to coat evenly. Melt the unsweetened chocolate, butter, and 1/4 cup of powdered monkfruit sweetener in a double boiler or over very low heat, stirring constantly. Once the mixture is melted, remove from heat and stir in the almond flour and liquid chocolate monkfruit drops. Set aside to cool.
Separate the eggs. Beat the egg whites with 1/2 cup powdered monkfruit until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
Blend the egg yolks with the espresso, almond extract, and 1/2 cup golden monkfruit sweetener. When the chocolate mixture is still workable but cool enough so it will not cook the egg yolks stir in the egg yolk mixture. Fold the egg whites gradually and gently into the chocolate mixture until blended.
Set the springform pan on a jellyroll or similar pan, in case of leaks, and bake 30-35 minutes until the center of the cake is set but not completely dry and the edges are done. A toothpick should NOT come out clean from the center.
Remove to a wire rack to cool. When cooled, remove the sides of the pan and then refrigerate at least four hours. Allow the cake to warm to room temperature before serving to make it easier to slice. Serve with whipped cream if desired.
This cake is heavy and dense and extremely rich, with a texture similar to cheesecake. The hint of mocha and almond aroma make it a perfect accompaniment to coffee or red wine. You will want to slice it into smaller servings, as most people will find they are unable to eat a large piece. When taken straight from the refrigerator the texture is almost like a solid block of chocolate and it's difficult to slice, so you will want to allow enough time for it to warm up before serving. Everyone really enjoyed this dessert and I was thrilled to lose over 5 pounds this week even after a Valentine's Day splurge! If it were up to me alone I would probably cut down the sweetener a bit but most everyone likes dessert to be sweeter than I. I didn't sweeten the whipped cream very much so it made the cake more palatable for me. I've been fasting around 20 hours each day this week and only eating one meal a day, ending my eating window earlier in the evening and going to bed earlier, so I was ready for the big Valentine's meal and rich dessert! I linked my favorite brand of sweetener, Lakanto, in the ingredients. My family agrees, this is the only sweetener that really tastes like sugar!
In other news, I added some new inventory to my shops, including this 1971 Fisher Price toy school. This was one of my beloved toys as a child (not this exact one but the same toy)! I came across a large lot of NASCAR collectible duffel bags from 1993, all unused and unsold, still wrapped in the original plastic, and got those listed. The bags feature the Winston Racing Team logo and would be a unique gift. Other new additions include vintage books and ceramics as well as some electronics. You can link to all my shops from the Home page.
Months ago I promised to write a tutorial showing how to convert your Blythe doll's color change eyes to sleep eyes and now I have finally gotten around to writing it. I know I've been the world's worst blog writer and newsletter poster lately and I am trying really hard to get back on track.
So, if you are a Blythe owner you know the Blythe doll comes with really cool color change eyes. When you pull a string in the doll's head the eyes close and click and re-open with a different color and gaze direction. Blythe eyes don't stay closed, however, and some people like to be able to close the eyes so Blythe can "sleep". A word of warning: if you convert the eyes don't leave them in the closed position for long periods, as some Blythe owners claim this warps the eyes so they no longer work.
To begin your repair you will need to remove the spring in the back of Blythe's head. You can lift it up with a skewer or pliers and unhook it from the shaft. You will not need this spring if you plan to create sleeping eyes but you might want to save it for future repairs of other dolls.
After you unhook the spring unscrew the back of the head and gently pry it open with a flat head screwdriver or similar tool. I used a zipper bag to corral all the screws and other pieces so I wouldn't lose them.
Lift off the back of the head and make sure to note the location of all the pieces and screws. It is helpful to take a picture so you can refer to it during re-assembly.
Remove the screw and the tiny paddle-shaped piece under the eye mechanism. Don't lose this piece! This is the piece which holds the eye chips in place so the color shows and the eye opens.
After you remove the paddle untie the drawstring from the eye mechanism. It's helpful to use a pair of tweezers to untie the knot. Remove the drawstring and set aside. You can re-use this, bead it and decorate it, or replace it entirely. You will be using two strings instead of just one with the sleep eyes, so most people replace the string with two new matching strings.
Remove the eye mechanism by pushing against the side of the eyes and lifting them out of the head. You will have to press hard, so be careful not to scratch the eyes. At this time also remove the scalp from the head. You may or may not need to unscrew it depending on which Blythe version you have. Remove the spring from inside the head as well. You can just unhook it with pliers and set it aside.
Find two strings or narrow ribbons at least as long as the original drawstring. If you want to embellish them with beads do that prior to insertion. Take the first string and thread it into the back of the head through the round hole next to the rectangular hole. Then thread it through the half-circle shaped piece on the back of the eye mechanism as shown. It can be helpful to use a sewing needle to get it through the hole. Tie the string in place using a double or triple knot so it doesn't come undone.
When you have the first drawstring inserted you can replace the eye mechanism in the front of the face by just pushing the little pegs on each side into the tubes in the sides of the face front. Just insert one at a time. Take your second drawstring and thread it through the rectangular hole in the back of the head. Bring it into the head and tie it to the triangular shaped piece above the eye mechanism as shown (tie it to the hole where the spring was attached). I've shown this from several angles to give you a good idea of the way the strings are attached. When the strings are tied in place re-attach the paddle shaped piece under the eye mechanism.
Replace the scalp and the back of the head and screw them in place. The ribbons should appear as shown in the photos below. To work the eyes now you will pull one string to close the eyes and change the color/gaze and pull the other string to open the eyes.
Initially I replaced the factory eyelashes and painted eyeshadow on the eyelids before I converted the eyes, but I found when I opened and closed them the paint all scraped off. So I made eyeshadow by grinding soft pastels into powder and applying them with a brush like eyeshadow. You can also use real human eyeshadow for this. Then I sprayed the face with Mr. Super Clear flat UV Cut varnish to set it.
Now your doll can close her eyes as shown above! The photo below shows the Blythe face after eye conversion and with her face plate custom sculpted and re-painted. I typically glue hook and loop tape to the scalp and add it inside wigs so the hair can be easily changed, and it is also easy to find rooted scalps you can change out for a different hair color and style. This particular doll has her original eye chips. See my eye chip replacement tutorial to see how to change the eye colors from the factory options.
Please remember, I am happy to create a custom Blythe just for you! I also sell eye chips, bodies, and other Blythe conversion supplies, as well as ready-made custom Blythe dolls, in my shops. Link to all my shops from the Home page.
If you ever ship anything on a regular basis you are no doubt aware of USPS' newest rate hike. It's huge, because they switched to First Class to zone pricing instead of flat rate based on rate and that means the further you are from me the more postage costs. This is a problem since I am most popular on the West Coast when I live on the East Coast! Atelier Mandaline eBay provides free shipping and free 30 day returns for most items, so this hits me hard. My main wholesale supplier also raised rates this year, so I don't have any choice but to raise mine as well. Since my Etsy store does not offer free shipping, prices there will remain stable at least for the time being. Etsy is starting to make motions as if they are going to basically require sellers to offer free shipping and if that happens of course I will have to make accommodations.
To ease the transition for my eBay customers I am holding a storewide sale of up to 40% off for one week only, through 11:59 PM Sunday February 3rd. The more you buy the more you can save! If you have your eye on anything in my eBay Store I suggest you pick it up while it's on sale. This sale includes my newest inventory: eye chips, clothes, and shoes for Blythe dolls! The shoes and some clothes will also fit Tiny Betsy McCall and the Azone and similar 12 inch BJD bodies! A few of these are shown below. I'm getting more and more into customizing BJDs like Blythe, Pullip, and Jun Planning and I hope to have many new tutorials, supplies, and kits for you soon!
The new year started as a blur for me. I've been incredibly busy with the kids and my business, especially my doll hospital. Although I don't particularly love to cook I am always trying to make new recipes to replace foods my son loved before he became diabetic. I stayed on Keto fairly well over the holidays but I had a few cheats and lots of Keto indulgences and it made me realize how much better I feel on strict almost-carnivore Keto. Just before New Year's Eve I had the worst migraine I've had in at least five years, with vomiting and everything. I went to bed at 7PM that night and slept for about 12 hours! I'm also aware of how run-down I became during the fourth quarter. I just pushed myself way too far this year, but we really needed me bringing in money for our son's bone graft surgery. I want to thank you profusely if you've purchased from me or sent a doll to the hospital recently; you really don't know how much it means to us. Please read on for some delicious recipes I will share as a special thanks!
First up is my Keto Sesame Yeast-Raised Bread. It turns out you can use a small amount of real sugar with yeast to get a lofty bread very similar in texture to wheat bread. This is safe for diabetics because the sugar is consumed by the yeast as it expands and raises the dough. The sugar does not affect your blood sugar levels because by the time you eat the bread it no longer exists!
Keto Sesame Bread (Image above)
Makes 14 slices
1/2 cup Hot Water
1 tsp Real Sugar
2 1/4 tsp Active Dry Instant Yeast (also called Bread Machine Yeast)
4.5 TBSP Melted Butter
6 Large Eggs
1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
1/4 cup Heavy Cream, warmed to a little more than room temperature
3/4 cup Almond Flour
1/3 cup + 2 TBSP Sesame Flour
1/3 cup Psyllium Husk Powder
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/4 cup Golden Monkfruit Sweetener
2 tsp Xanthan Gum
Sesame Seeds for Sprinkling
To activate the yeast, heat the water to 110-120 degrees. I just let my faucet run as hot as it would go but you can use a thermometer if you are new to bread making. If you get the water too hot or cold it won't work. Yeast is a living organism and extreme temperatures can kill it. Dissolve the real sugar in the water. Stir in the yeast and let it rest for 10 minutes. You will see it begin to swell and bubble and it will turn a creamy color if it is working. It is eating the sugar and growing! As the yeast grows, preheat the oven to about 300 degrees and then turn it off and let it cool with the door cracked while you make the bread. This will give your bread a nice warm place to rise.
While you wait for the yeast to grow go ahead and mix the other ingredients. To make the sesame flour I just blitzed toasted sesame seeds in my bullet blender until they were powdered. I buy really large jars of sesame seeds at Asian grocery stores where they are much cheaper than the regular grocery. Try to let the warmed and melted ingredients cool a bit before you add them so you won't cook the eggs. Add the yeast and mix. Try to mix the ingredients as little as necessary. Mix fast for only about 30 seconds and then slow the speed. The resulting dough will be like batter, not dough. If you don't have a silicone pan, line your loaf pan with parchment paper. I just line a regular loaf pan with a silicone pan I have prepared by greasing with butter or coconut oil. It's so much easier and doesn't stick! The ones I use are linked above.
Make sure the oven is warm, not hot. You don't want the bread to start cooking. Place the dough in the oven and let it rise for 1 1/2 hours. When it has risen you will find the texture has changed to a bread dough texture. Remove the pan from the oven and heat it to 350 degrees. Brush the top of the bread gently with water or coconut oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for about 15 minutes and check to make sure the top isn't getting too brown (you might remember our Saga Of The Terrible Oven which burns the outsides of everything and leaves the insides raw and which we can't afford to replace). If you have a similar oven to mine and the top of the bread is looking really brown tent aluminum foil over the pan (don't touch the dough) and return to the oven. Bake for 45 more minutes and check to see if the bread looks mostly done. If so, like if the center isn't obviously raw still, turn off the oven but leave the pan inside with the oven door closed for 10 more minutes. This light cooking finishes the bread nicely. Place the pan on a rack to cool. When the bread is just warm, not hot, turn it onto a board and slice it. Serve with butter or desired topping.
We had this bread with a French Onion Moose Roast I made in the slow cooker. I really wanted bread to soak up the rich gravy and it was perfect for that! I don't like it as well eaten on its own, although it's better if it's toasted. I don't like the flavor of the psyllium husk powder. Everyone else in the family really loved this bread, so I guess it appeals to most people. I will revise this recipe and in the meantime @ketochix on Instagram just posted a coconut milk yeast bread that looks really good. If you are trying Keto I highly recommend her profile.
Besides the bread another new recipe is Keto Maple Bacon Doughnuts. These were a bit sweet for my taste but my kids loved them and a dozen disappeared overnight!
Keto Maple Bacon Doughnuts
6 TBSP Coconut Flour
3 TBSP Almond Flour
6 TBSP Vital Wheat Gluten
3/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 cup Monkfruit Granulated Sweetener
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
7 TBSP Sour Cream
3/4-1 cup Unsalted Butter, softened
1 tsp Maple Extract
Frosting and Topping:
3 slices nitrate free bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 cup Unsalted Butter, softened
1/4 cup Powdered Monkfruit Sweetener
1 tsp Maple Extract
Make topping: melt butter. Stir in maple extract and powdered monkfruit. Remove from heat and set aside. Cook bacon, cool, and crumble into bits. Set aside.
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Grease a doughnut pan well with butter or coconut oil. Mix all dry ingredients for doughnut dough. Add sour cream and 3/4 cup butter. The dough should seize together into a ball. If it resembles coarse crumbs keep adding butter as needed until it makes a smooth ball of dough. Bake 10-15 minutes or until the edges of the doughnuts just begin to pull away from the pan. If you are baking two batches at once you will need to almost double the cooking time; I start checking at 20 minutes when I double the recipe. Do not over-bake. Cool the doughnuts completely in the pan and then turn out onto a platter. While the doughnuts cool, warm the frosting and whisk it until it has a creamy look and flows easily. Spread frosting on doughnuts one at a time very gently (in my quest to make these moist I made them quite fragile). Sprinkle with bacon bits while the frosting is still warm and moist. The frosting will harden quickly to "glue" the bacon to the doughnuts.
The eBay links for the pans and wheat gluten are affiliate links; there is no cost to you but if you buy something on eBay (anything, not just these products) within 24 hours I will get a small payment. Affiliate links help me keep my tutorials and recipes free for you, so thank you in advance for using them.
After a little over a year on Keto I haven't lost very much weight on the scale, but it seems like every time I enter my closet I find I can wear something that hasn't fit for several years. I am definitely seeing improvement in my body size and composition and especially in how well I feel when I stick to the program. I have a history of undereating and overexercising, as well as binge eating at night, so this month I have backed off extended fasting and instead focused on 14-18 hour fasts each day. I'm trying to move my eating window earlier as well.
Besides evaluating my Keto success in 2018 I have also been looking back over my business. I am trying to define my goals. Last year was one of huge strides for me professionally. I designed my own private label doll eyes and had them manufactured and imported them. I more than doubled my inventory. I ordered wholesale fashion lots. All of this was fun and I learned a lot, but it was truly exhausting. By the end of the year I felt physically and mentally depleted. I didn't increase my income as much as I wanted, either.
I have some decisions to make about the direction Atelier Mandaline will take in this new year. Recently Walmart has been continually reaching out trying to persuade me to sell on Walmart.com. While that would be an amazing opportunity for exposure, it would require a large outlay of revenue to get started. I would need a business address, which I currently don't require. The only inventory have in large enough quantities are my doll eyes, which I don't believe is probably something Walmart shoppers are trying to find, so I would have to purchase huge lots of new inventory. The inventory I already have is taking over our house, so I would need to purchase or lease a storage facility or warehouse. It's really tempting, though, because I have always wanted to design and market my own products, especially dolls and toys, and now I built a relationship with a trustworthy manufacturer. I am just going back and forth about whether it's worth the risk to make such sweeping changes. At this point we are still getting all sorts of random medical bills from our son's bone graft surgery and our insurance company messed everything up and has to re-submit the billing information, so any large business expenditures will definitely be something for later on in the year, not right now.
I did make large fashion inventory purchase from the Goodwill outlet because I desperately needed to replenish my men's and women's larger and plus size stock. Instead of searching for trendy brands I reverted to my earliest niche and focused on fine vintage pieces. I took my oldest son with me and instructed him to help me find quality fabrics, like wool, cashmere, and alpaca and pieces made in the USA, Europe (especially France), and Mexico and the rest of the Americas. This strategy was so successful it actually shocked me. We put half what we found back and still bought over 42 pounds of clothing. Every bit is in exceptional condition, with a few pieces just needing a button or a stitch here and there. I have cleaned and repaired everything and am about a third of the way through photographing and listing it all. Besides that I made some hand crafted nebula jar necklaces with my daughter and got those listed. I've been absolutely slammed with doll hospital requests, with five arriving so far this week. I keep reminding myself it's a blessing to be so busy!
I hope you will stop by the shops to see all the new listings. If you like high-quality, classic, and handmade styles you're going to like them! You can link to the shops from the Home page.
The doll above is a Factory Blythe with the original eye chips and positioning, although with eyes modified to "sleep" and replaced eyelashes. I cover those changes my sleep eyes tutorial. Today I'm going to show you how to replace the original Blythe doll eye chips and change the positioning of the gaze as shown in the doll below.
If you've been following along you may remember a couple months ago I customized my first Blythe dolls and promised tutorials. but then my son required a bone graft surgery and we spent November going to one or more doctor's appointments every week to prepare. My son had surgery on Monday. It went exactly as planned and we spent only one night in the hospital, less than half the time usually required. He's recovering well and you can keep up with his progress and see photos on my Instagram and Facebook. I had a suspicious number of orders for a Monday, almost all from repeat customers, and I know that's because many of you are trying to support us. I want you to know we are all sincerely touched and extremely appreciative!
So, on to the tutorial. I apologize if it's a little confusing; I took photos of the same process using two different dolls. Just follow the steps for any Blythe doll, and possibly also for Pullip dolls, although I will have to update once I've customized one of those. Begin by gathering your materials. You will need a candle, glue sticks, a Blythe doll, and new eye chips. You can purchase new eye chips from my shops, especially Etsy, from the link in the Home page. Make sure the eye chips you buy will fit the Blythe doll you are customizing. There are several sizes of Blythe dolls. Right now all the eye chips I am selling are for the 12 inch Blythe. I am also working on a Blythe eye kit.
To remove the eye mechanism first remove the back of the head. Remove the screws first and make sure you save them.
Next use pliers or a skewer to unhook the spring from the bar next to the eye pull string. If you want the eyes to "sleep" you will not need the spring, but if you want them to work as the originals you will need to save the spring and not pull it out of shape, so be gentle.
When you have removed the screws and spring you can pop the back plate off with a flat head screwdriver, butter knife, or similar implement.
Here is the original mechanism. Make sure to take a photo or make note of the arrangement of all the pieces before you remove anything.
Unscrew the gaze bar, which is the little paddle-shaped plastic piece screwed in as shown above. The original Blythe gaze is slightly downcast, as shown in the first (blond) doll in this post. If you desire that just leave the paddle as is. If you want Blythe to look up, as shown in the second (brunette) doll in this post you will need to sand the straight top edge of the paddle's "handle". That is the part of the paddle without the screw hole. The more you sand this edge the more your Blythe's gaze will look up. Be very careful when removing and sanding this piece and don't lose it. It is essential to the function of Blythe's eyes and is not easily replaced.
Next remove the pull string. You can use tweezers to help you untie the end if you want to save the string. If not you can just cut the string, but you will need ribbon or something to replace it.
As gently as possible use a flathead screwdriver to pry the eye mechanism out of its slot. This can be quite difficult. Sometimes slightly heating the plastic with a hair dryer can ease this process.
Remove the eye mechanism.
If you have a factory or Tomy Blythe you will need to remove the screw to take off the scalp.
Save any pieces you remove in a baggie or somewhere they won't get lost.
To remove the eye chips heat the ends of the glue sticks so they melt slightly but don't drip.
Adhere the glue sticks to the eye chips.
To speed the process you can do four eye chips at a time. Leave the glue sticks in place until they cool.
Draw a straight pin or knife blade around the edges of the eye chips to loosen them.
Then pull the glue stick off and the eye chip should come with it. Often the eye chips will stick and you will have to repeat the process two or three times before it comes out.
The doll I'm working with here is a Basaak Blythe and the eye chips were extremely tight. Some of them broke when I removed them and I had to cut and sand out the pieces before I could proceed. I've never seen this happen on another tutorial, so I don't know if it was a fluke or if this is a specific problem with the Basaak dolls, but if this does happen be prepared to remove the broken pieces fully or the new eye chips will not adhere. You can actually purchase blank Blythe dolls without eye chips and I think in the future this may be what I do as it will save a great deal of time!
I used an X-Acto knife and sandpaper to remove the broken eye chip pieces. Supposedly all you have to do most of the time is just wash out the white glue with warm water, but that didn't work at all with the Basaak Blythe. They obviously used super glue to fix the eye chips in place!
When the eye channels are completely clear you are ready to insert new eye chips.
I ordered custom eye chips and they were too tall to fit in the Basaak Blythe eye sockets so I had to sand down the posts and repaint the pupils. Sometimes you will have to sand the sides as well to get them to fit, especially with custom eye chips.
When your eye chips are sanded and painted, if necessary, use white water-soluble glue to insert them. That way you can easily remove them later if you want to change them out. If they are stuck you can soak the eye mechanism in warm water and the glue will dissolve.
Press the eye chips in place. Sometimes they snap right in and other times you have to hold them until the glue sets.
Once you've inserted all the eye chips and let them dry you can insert new eyelashes and color the eyeshadow if you desire.
After I re-inserted the eyes I had to touch up the face paint where it was smudged. Then I re-inserted all the components I removed earlier. Look at the photo below to see how the gaze changed after I sanded down the gaze bar paddle. You can purchase eye chips and other Blythe parts and even ready-made Blythe dolls from the links to my shops on the Home page. Stay tuned for more Blythe tutorials as my son's recovery advances.
As many of you know, I am self-employed largely as a result of our adoption of two children with special needs. I feel incredibly blessed to live in an age when I can work from home, create my own career, and communicate with people all over the world. The Internet changed my life and has given me more opportunity than I ever imagined it could. That does not, however, mean it's made this life terribly easy. The fourth quarter of the year is a notoriously busy time for anyone in retail, and for a solo momtrepreneur like myself it's just insanity.
This year, more than ever, I'm feeling the pressure of trying to be a mother as well as run a successful business. Our youngest son has a major surgery scheduled this Monday. He will be getting a bone graft and some facial revision to help correct his cleft lip and palate. We've always known he would need this surgery and his team of specialists have been working together for years to get him ready. This particular surgery is time-sensitive and must absolutely be performed during the optimal window of his dental development. We hoped to have it done during one of the school breaks but it just didn't work out that way. So now, right at the height of the sales season and my busiest professional time of the year, we have the surgery, and last month we learned our cleft team had gone out of network with our insurance company. Facing a $10,000 bill, we applied for Gap Coverage so we could pay in network, and thankfully it was granted. That process, however, required extensive phone calling and paperwork-filling for myself and my husband, and my son has visited almost his entire network of doctors in the past month to get all his pre-surgery check-ups and procedures finished.
If you watch my social media on Instagram and Facebook you also know we discovered a rotten support post on our house that spread mold and decay into the interior walls and floor and then we had yet another water heater leak, so besides all the doctor visits we've had to work around contractor and plumber schedules. We performed much of the interior renovation ourselves. My husband has become a champ at installing drywall and I helped out with the painting.
Add to that all the cooking and cleaning and entertaining of the holiday season, and you'll understand why I haven't written a blog post or newsletter for ages. I sincerely apologize. I have been working hard to get new things made and posted for sale and the slideshow above shows a few of these. I know how much people love trunk sets during the holidays so I managed to finish a few, as well as one doll and book set, and some single dolls. I was honored to create an adorable matryoshka birth announcement set, and my daughter and I collaborated to design some cozy winter poncho wraps.
We are trying to fit an early birthday celebration into the weekend since it will be so long until our son can eat solid food and run around again, so I have my stores either on vacation or set for really long handling times. You can still place orders but I am not guaranteeing new custom order deliveries for Christmas and anything paid after 9PM on Sunday will likely not ship until Friday at the earliest. I truly hope you will still place orders because to be honest I need the money! As soon as I know how long we will be in the hospital and how well my son recovers I will update my handling time and get everything out as soon as I possibly can.
Please keep us in your thoughts and please know as soon as I am able I will get back to writing tutorials and posting new projects. This is my "why". I am so grateful to all of you for supporting me, reading my blog, shopping with me, emailing me , over all these years. You made my little family possible. You gave me the ability to drop everything and step away from my career when it's necessary for me to be just Mom. I'll be spending the day and night in the hospital on Monday, at the very least, and possibly longer. There may be a delay in my response to messages and questions during that time.
Many blessings on you fall, until I can write again, Amanda
My name is Amanda, but my childhood nickname was "Mandaline". I am a mother of three turning my passion for creating into a full-time business.