I just want to start by updating my last post. We did end up finding a property in the mountains and we are under contract to buy it! It's nice piece of riverfront land and although it looks to us like it's on the side of cliff, the grading guy says it's just "moderate". We aren't building a house anytime soon; we will just be camping on it and fishing for trout. I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart. This has been a dream of ours for over 20 years and though we've been saving up for all that time the deciding factor in going ahead with the purchase is my income. It has become reliable enough to make us feel confident we could pay ourselves back (we borrowed from our savings to make a cash offer). When you follow my blog and click on my affiliate links and purchase products from me you help make this possible. I can't ever tell you how grateful we are! This land is close enough to our son's university we will be able to see him far more often, and if our other children attend the same university it will make it easier to be close to them as well. We close in one month and at that time I will officially be on vacation over the weekends. For one thing, we won't have Internet access and we may or may not have electricity, so I'll be off the grid! It's going to be weird to take weekends off; I've worked seven days a week since 1998 unless we went on vacation or something. I'm sure I'll get used to it however! I'll do my best to keep my customer service exemplary during the week.
I also have an update to a post from way last year concerning my "Doll School." There was only slight interest in the subscription doll school. I had the idea to send a lesson with instructions and supplies each month. The services that provide subscription billing were too expensive for the projected amount of students I would have and the coding to set it up myself was far beyond my capabilities. I have a solution finally: I already offer doll repair kits with instructions and supplies for various repairs. Now I am also selling instruction packets for specific dolls. These are copied from a vintage doll repair correspondence course. The school that offered the course is now defunct and the lessons are no longer under copyright. I have included my own tips in each packet as well. The lessons cover Cissy and Elise, Sweet Sue, Tiny Tears and Betsy Wetsy, Kissy, the Valentine ballerina, Thumbelina, Saucy Walker and Posie, and Suzy Smart. I also offer a packet with all the instructions.
This way, you can pace yourself. You can order the instruction packets as you need them and get supplies or kits from my shops to supplement the packets. I have an idea for the Ultimate repair kit with supplies (sort of a doll hospital starter kit) but I'm still trying to figure out how to make that affordable enough that anyone would actually buy it. You can order my Doll School lessons from eBay, Etsy, and now Poshmark!
That's right! Poshmark just opened a Home Market as well as a School Market. If you download the app with the code STUDIOMANDALINE you will get a $5 credit which you can put toward your doll lessons! You can link to all my shops from the Home page. My Poshmark doll supply offerings are still pretty slim; I have instructions and stringing kits but I'm still working on getting more supplies on there. My US wholesale supplier has unfortunately become quite unreliable and I have trouble keeping things in stock. I would like to order more custom goods from my Chinese supplier but the cost is much higher due to the recent tariffs and I have to order so many units storage space becomes a problem. I'm busily working out the kinks and I'll let you know when I get it all set up.
Besides Doll School I just listed a bunch of women's athleisure-style clothing from brands such as Pink Lotus and Miss Me. My enormous wholesale Foster Grant sunglasses order arrived today and I'll start getting those listed in the next few days. I have vintage Pyrex and Fire King and Nintendo 64 newly-listed in all the shops.
I hope your summer is wrapping up beautifully, and I look forward to seeing you in Doll School!
The Atelier Mandaline doll hospital is steadily busy, just the way I like it! I don't like to be swamped with other people's dolls because it prevents me from working on my own, but I absolutely love my bread-and-butter business to come through this, my own website, so I don't have to pay fees to sites like Etsy. The dolls shown above are my most recent patients, who visited the hospital for split repairs, blushing, re-stringing, and hair styling. Use the contact form at the end of this post to request a doll repair.
Please see my new price list for common doll repairs. These prices do not include return shipping. If your doll needs more than one repair or if you send multiple dolls I will offer a discount of some kind. Please be aware, this price list only applies to repair requests through this website. If you contact me using eBay or Etsy or another platform I will then have to create a listing for you to pay through that platform and pay fees to the platform. Many people prefer to pay through a larger, more well-known site, and I understand that caution, but prices on those sites are 20% higher because of the fees I have to pay. You may purchase doll repair kits from my eBay and Etsy shops and do the repair yourself to save money. You can link to all my shops from the Home page.
My most recent patients arrived in pieces or very loose and with faded blush, messy hair, and/or splits in their seams. I gave them a good cleaning, then repaired the splits with epoxy, and restrung them. Then I styled their hair and refreshed their blush. I wanted to expand on my last post and tell you about some more of my essential tools for doll repair. First of all but not shown is Mr. Super Clear UV Cut Flat Matte Varnish. This is expensive but well worth the cost. It is the only varnish I have found which seals even pastel and watercolor on hard plastic without even a hint of stickiness. Here in the South the humidity level keeps most varnishes from drying properly and every other brand I've used has dried sticky. I am able to use pastels and even human makeup on my dolls now because this varnish holds it in place. The matte varnish is preferred for the vintage Madame Alexander hard plastic dolls, which were designed to have a "porcelain-like" finish. For composition dolls you may want to use the gloss version that mimics those dolls' original finish.
Another of my favorite tools for epoxy repairs and doll cleaning is a nail buffer. These have four or five sides and are designed to file ridges out of your nails and then smooth and buff them to a shine. It turns out, they work just the same way on hard plastic dolls! Even the roughest side is gentler than fine sandpaper and the small size makes it easy to use on miniature doll parts. The Cissette doll above had epoxy repairs to several seams. I used the buffer to finish-sand the epoxy. Then I painted and sealed the areas and used the Shine side to give the painted areas the same sheen as the original plastic.
My newest favorite tool is the Creative Options Small Rack System organizational box. Do you remember the part of Toy Story 2 when the toy thief hires a toy restorer to come repair Woody? Remember his cool tool box? I've wanted a box like that ever since that movie came out so when my husband saw this one he snapped it up. It was my anniversary gift this year. I love it for carrying my tools, from stringing hooks to bamboo skewers, and now I'm not always having to search for my hemostat or my epoxy! The only thing it's missing is the little doll chair.
The Atelier Mandaline hospital and shops will most likely have a slightly longer turnaround time for repairs and order fulfillment starting soon. I am trying to stop working on weekends, at least during the slower months of the year. The holiday rush will probably force me to work on the weekend but I'm trying to avoid it for now. I'm really proud of myself: It's only August and so far I've made double the profit of last year, even though I'm working less! I've been pushing myself to learn more and source better. More of my income is coming from my website and private label products, saving me on inventory and selling fees.
One reason I want to spend more time away from work, besides my kids growing up too fast, is we are embarking on the fulfillment of a long-held dream. For many years we've wanted to buy some land for a fishing and hunting camp. This weekend we are helping our oldest move into his dorm and then we have an appointment to view some land. I just can't believe we are at the point of actually viewing properties! I'm so excited I haven't been able to sleep all week! We've been wanting to diversify our investments and land seems a perfect place to put some money. The properties we are viewing are near our son's university, making it possible he could actually live there in the future and also allow us to visit him more often. I really want an income property for short-term rental. My husband is not interested in this, but I'm going to work on him. Maybe in the future you can experience the Atelier Mandaline Glamping Getaway! We are focusing on the best trout streams in the Appalachians so you can load up on quality wild protein while you relax. My long-term goal is to convert more of my profits into income-generating properties in resort areas like the beach and mountains. I have no interest in dealing with long-term tenants so weekend or weekly rentals seem perfect. I love the idea of income coming in without me having to be involved day to day; eventually I would hire a property manager to make it more autonomous. Please send all your most positive vibes our way that we can find and afford a suitable piece of land!
As always, some links on this site, including those in this post, are affiliate links. I get a small payment is you buy anything from eBay in the 24 hours after clicking the link, even if you don't buy the products I show. This costs you nothing and helps me keep my tutorials free for you.
At long last I am back to my blog! This summer has been something else. Our son's soccer team won the division championships, extending the season so it overlapped with the swim team season. Now swim team is nearly over and we are the champions in that league so far. We spent a week at the beach, not exactly a relaxing week, as we biked 10 miles and walked at last 2 miles each day as well as fishing and kayaking, but a fun week. I think I may have even lost a little more weight while on vacation, although my scale is broken and my new one hasn't arrived yet so I am not sure. It has actually been terrific to be away from the tyranny of the scale and just focus on my fasting and diet and enjoying activities I love. Maybe I won't open the new one for a while! I'm going to be out of town again next week so I thought I would squeeze a tips post in while I'm home. Today I want to talk about one of my top tools for doll restoration: the curved hemostat.
I always recommend hemostats as a necessary tool for doll stringing, but they are really useful for eye restoration as well. Many people who use my eyes have reported problems getting the eyes to look in the right direction after they insert them, especially if they're using the boil method. Other clients have trouble getting the eyes inserted into the socket from the inside. That's a particular problem with the Patti Playpal and similar dolls. My go-to tool in both these situations is my curved hemostat. A 6 or 7 inch curved hemostat will work great for a doll with a shorter neck. Dolls with longer necks may need an 8-10 inch length. You can purchase hemostats from my Etsy shop.
If you are having trouble straightening a doll's gaze from the front of the face you can grasp the back of the eye pocket with your hemostat and shift the eye that way. This method avoids the damage that can occur to the face if you are poking around the eyes with a skewer or other pointed tool. If you are having trouble grasping the eye rather than the socket you can cut a small slit in the eye pocket and open it just a little. That will allow you to grab the back of the eye to move it. Unless the slit is very tiny you will want to reseal it with tacky glue and let it dry.
If you are having trouble getting the proper sized eye into the eye socket the hemostat can help with that, too. Just gently heat the eye pockets inside the head with a hair dryer. When the pocket is soft use the hemostat to grab the back of the eye and insert it into the pocket. Then use the hemostat to push the eye into the socket as far forward as required.
Many vintage dolls, especially drink and wet dolls, are dirty and moldy inside their head. This is residue from being fed with their bottle and washed by their little mommy. I take a paper towel or cleaning wipe and use the hemostat to hold it so I can reach all the way inside the head to clean and dry it out.
This baby doll is all ready to return home with her new eyes! Besides purchasing eyes, hemostats, and doll repair kits, you can go to my Etsy shop to contact me about repairing your doll in my hospital. My hospital prices are higher on Etsy since I pay them a commission but some people prefer to pay through an established site. You can also contact me through this website to request a doll repair using the contact form at the end of this post.
In other Etsy news, I am now offering free domestic shipping on all purchases or bundles $35 or above! International buyers should contact me before purchase for a quote with the domestic shipping cost removed from the base price. My Etsy shop has really grown this year, even surpassing my eBay sales over the past few months. I can't wait to see it get even bigger as I implement all the new product ideas I have in my head!
As you know, when my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes I worked hard to learn to cook foods to fit into the ketogenic diet. I have the hang of it now, and my son is doing great. We saw his endocrinologist last week and she was thrilled with his progress. His A1C is 6.5 and his sugars are totally flat, with none of the spikes or steep drops that cause organ damage. When he's at home he doesn't even need to use mealtime insulin! There are foods he still misses, so I'm always trying to re-create them. Tonight I made Keto Stuffed Shells, and it was a big hit. Everyone agreed I should post the recipe, so here it is!
Keto Stuffed Shells
24 Pre-Cut Provolone Cheese Slices, Non-Smoked
24 silicone muffin cups
1 large egg, beaten
2 TBSP cream sherry
1.5 cups ricotta cheese
1.5 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
2 drops Young Living Lemon Vitality Essential Oil
(purchase from the link on the Home page)
1 teaspoon Parsley
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 ounces tomato paste
12 ounces water
1/4 cup marsala wine
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pinch dried stevia
2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
Shredded Parmesan cheese for sprinkling
Make the sauce so it can simmer as you make the shells. Heat the oil and saute the garlic cloves until fragrant. Add the remaining sauce ingredients, blend, and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer, stirring occasionally.
To make the shells, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, fold the cheese slices into the silicone muffin cups as shown. They are easiest to work with if they aren't too cold, so you may want to leave them at room temperature for a while before you start. Place the cups on a pan and bake for 3-4 minutes, until the cheese is just barely melted as shown below.
Let the cheese shells cool while you make the filling. Beat the egg and blend remaining filling ingredients in a sauce pan. Heat over medium heat and stir, so that the egg is pasteurized but the filling is still thick and chunky, as shown.
Pull each shell away from the muffin cup and fold over to create a pocket.
Fill each shell with about 1 tablespoon of filling and fold the shell over it.
Tip each filled shell onto a serving platter or pan. Remove the marinara sauce from the heat and let it cool while you put the shells in the pan. You don't want the filled shells to get too hot as the cheese will melt again and the shells will fall apart!
To serve, plate the stuffed shells, top with the marinara sauce, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. The texture is really just about perfect, like al dente pasta! These don't reheat very well due to the cheese shells melting when you try to heat them up, so I recommend making just enough for one meal, unless you enjoy cold pasta!
I hope you enjoy this as much as we did. It's been years since we had Stuffed Shells, and it was formerly a favorite of ours. It's economical, too. I can't afford meat all the time and if you've tried to feed a family the ketogenic diet all the time you know it can get pricey. There's no doubt, carbs are cheap fillers that help stretch out your food, but there's also no doubt they're nutritionally void. In fact, many doctors now consider them "anti-nutrients" that actually keep you from absorbing the good foods you do eat. This is an inexpensive meal I can feel good about feeding my family. I know some people can't handle dairy. It might take them out of ketosis or cause binges or GI problems. We don't have any of those problems, so we will put this into the regular rotation.
As promised in my last post, here is my weight loss tips post. To recap: I've been on a weight loss journey for the past two years. Well technically, I've been dieting since I was about 12, but this time I've found a program that actually works. I'm using Dr. Wade Baskin's plan. This is how Dr. Wade lost a significant amount of weight when he was in his late 40s and also got off his prescription medications. He now uses his method to help his patients and group members. You can find Dr. Wade on Instagram. You can certainly join his group and just follow his instructions, but if you're new to intermittent fasting and the ketogenic diet I have some tips to help you get started. Just a warning, this is a long post!
The photos above are from February, 2019 on the left and today (6/4) on the right. It's almost physically painful for me to look at them and the worst part of it is I was actually 4-6 sizes larger at my heaviest than in the photo on the left. As you can see, I am finally starting to see the most important fat loss of all, the fat from my abdomen and neck, which is in dangerous proximity to my brain and vital organs.
I wasn't always fat. In fact, prior to my pregnancy with my oldest my measurements were 39-25-36. During my pregnancy I started to have symptoms of a mysterious illness. My husband was disabled in a near-fatal work accident when I was 3 months along, so I thought it was just stress, but after our son was born it got worse and worse. I went to doctor after doctor and suffered several misdiagnoses and "cures" along the way. One hormone I was given 16 years ago caused migraine headaches I still have today. I steadily gained weight along with developing bleeding acne, hair loss, joint pain, and other symptoms. Finally after TEN YEARS a nurse practitioner decided to run a full metabolic screening and discovered I had no measurable amount of Vitamin D in my bloodstream. Finally, it made sense that I had all the symptoms of a thyroid or hormonal disorder without anything showing up in tests; Vitamin D has a powerful effect on thyroid function and hormones. The diagnosis wasn't a cure, unfortunately. It took two years of taking prescription Vitamin D3 at enormous levels (50,000-100,000 IU per week) to get to the minimum recommended level. Around that time Norwegian researchers discovered many Scandinavians lack the gene to convert sunlight to Vitamin D. I haven't had genetic testing but since I'm around half Scandinavian, with the rest Northern European, it seems pretty clear I don't make Vitamin D well, if at all. My hormones were a mess as well, after years of so-called "healthy" diets and prescription medications that made everything worse. Basically, if you have seen an exercise or diet program on television or read about one on the Internet or in a magazine for the past 20 years, I have done it, and yet every year I was fatter than the year before.
I discovered the books Nourishing Traditions and Eat Fat. Lose Fat by Sally Fallon and Dr. Mary Enig and was able to use their Health Recovery program to help resolve many of my symptoms as well as treat our daughter's extreme malnutrition after we adopted her. I just haven't been able to lose weight, though. I might lose 8 -15 pounds but soon the weight loss would stop and I would gain it back plus more. A piece was missing and I didn't know what it was.
Thankfully, researching diabetes after my son was diagnosed led me to Dr. Wade. He recommended Dr. Fung's books, The Diabetes Code, The Obesity Code, and The Complete Guide to Fasting. For the first time I discovered the link between insulin production and weight gain. You can eat low carb, but anything you eat will cause your pancreas to release insulin and it is insulin that causes weight gain. Therefore, it is eating FREQUENCY, more than any other factor, which has the greatest impact on your weight. This discovery was a revelation to me. I started fasting, but I still wasn't seeing the results I wanted until I discovered Dr. Wade's plan.
One purpose of your fat cells is to protect your body from harmful materials. If a toxin enters your body, it creates some fat cells and sticks the toxin inside a little bubble of fat, like an oyster making a pearl only not quite so pretty. This is one reason excess fat cells are so dangerous, especially when they surround your internal organs. They're full of poisons that can leak out. They create hormones that can drive your appetite for harmful foods. When you start fasting your fat cells begin to empty out and your body goes into a process called "autophagy", which means to eat itself. When fuel is restricted your body begins to get rid of any damaged or unnecessary cells in order to preserve the healthiest cells. If you've been eating the typical American processed food diet and exposing yourself to lots of pollution (say, getting your recommended steps in while walking along the road and breathing in exhaust fumes), your body will start pushing all that stuff out as fast as it can and it's not pretty. This is where Dr. Wade and I differ a bit on the best way to start fasting. He says go all out with the 48 and 72 hour fasts right from the start. I disagree.
Early in 2017, before our son's diagnosis, I tried to start Keto, Intermittent Fasting, and exercise with Internet advice. This was before I read Dr. Fung's books. I felt absolutely MISERABLE. I was constantly sick and had no energy and I lost no weight whatsoever. My sister lost lots of weight on Keto but I concluded it wasn't for me. I went on to try a Vegan plan that ended up with me at my highest weight ever and sick with IBS symptoms. I don't want you to go through that! Fasting can be uncomfortable but it doesn't have to be so bad you give up on it.
To begin, start a ketogenic or carnivore diet. There's lots of debate about both of these, but basically you want to limit your foods to meat and non-starchy vegetables. Some people include dairy and others don't. I personally have no problems with dairy, most likely due to my genetic background. Butterfat has been a main food source for my ancestors for generations. Carnivore is a controversial and supposedly new diet in which you eat just meat or only animal based foods. However, if you read Sally Fallon's books you will find Dr. Mary Enig had years of research showing plant foods are not necessary and can be harmful if not carefully prepared. Traditional societies did not eat plant foods without extensive preparation, usually involving fermentation, to render them harmless. Otherwise plants contain anti-nutrients that keep you from absorbing nourishment from your food. I personally believe the ability to tolerate plants varies due to genetics. I've noticed my Chinese children can eat far more fruit, for example, than I ever could. I recommend either the allergy treatment protocol in Dr. Atkins' Vitanutrient Solution book or his 1000 Calorie Fat Fast from his New Diet Revolution book to give you a good elimination diet to help you determine which and how many foods you can tolerate. You should also use ketogenic urine testing strips before and after meals to see which foods spike your insulin. You can find these in the diabetic section of drug stores. If your test strips are pink or purple before you eat but change to beige after you eat that means the food is causing your insulin level to spike. Avoid those foods! Try to keep your diet free of keto junk food, such as prepackaged shakes and cookies and things. You are trying to rid your body of chemicals so they won't be expelled in a painful manner when you start extended fasting.
As you begin your diet, start a light fasting schedule. While you're fasting make sure to read The Complete Guide to Fasting! Simply go for 12 hours without eating. So, if you eat supper at 7PM don't eat anything until breakfast at 7AM the next day. Over the course of a few weeks push your eating window longer and longer until you can comfortably eat only one meal a day. Most experts believe it is best to eat your one meal early in the day. You will see this referred to as OMAD (One Meal A Day), and it will come naturally as you adopt a ketogenic or carnivore diet because the extra fat and protein you eat will reduce hunger a great deal.
When you start fasting longer than about 12 hours you will almost certainly experience some discomfort from the toxins leaving your body. These may include nausea, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, skin lesions or rashes, headaches, insomnia. and more. I've experienced all these at various times. If your symptoms are severe, just break your fast. Have a clean meal, and start again another day. It took me forever to get past 50 hours, and I had the craziest symptoms. The weirdest was when my stretch marks from my pregnancy 20 years ago broke open and began to bleed! If your symptoms aren't too severe, however, I have some products I recommend. I do sell these products, so I will make a small commission when you purchase, but I promise you I do use them and highly recommend them! For upset stomach, heartburn, nausea, etc: drink 2-3 drops of Digize oil in a GLASS (not plastic cup) of water and take two Essentialzymes capsules. You can also rub the Digize on your stomach if you don't like the flavor. You can substitute Fennel Vitality oil if you prefer; it tastes like licorice! For insomnia and constipation: take MegaCal as directed on the label. Add 2 cups of Epsom salts to a warm bath with Lavender, Dream Catcher, Peace and Calming, or Valerian oil and soak for at least 20 minutes. You can buy these Young Living products from here or the link on the Home page. I rarely need to use these products anymore, so just keep telling yourself it will get better as your body gets rid of all the junk it's been storing!
For general malaise, weakness, dizziness, or muscle cramps, drink unflavored electrolyte water. You can make your own from Dr. Wade's recipe: Mix 1 quart water, 1 teaspoon baking soda or sea salt (Dr. Wade prefers Redmond's Real Salt), and 1/2 teaspoon potassium chloride powder ("NoSalt" or NuSalt" the spice aisle). Do NOT increase the amount of potassium, but the salt or soda can be increased or decreased to suit you.
Once you've gotten used to OMAD you can start increasing your fasting time until you are going 48-72 hours. I use the Zero app to track my fasts. Dr. Wade doesn't like when people do really long fasts, like a week or more at a time, because he thinks that can lead to binge eating and a binge and purge disorder. He wants you to get to the point that you've rid yourself of all your addictions, including caffeine and food cravings, and can eat a small meat meal and go right back to fasting. He recommends you take no foods or liquids unless you absolutely need the electrolyte solution. At the very beginning you can use bone broth and coffee or tea with cream as Dr. Fung recommends but you want to wean yourself off these crutches. You should not be exercising while fasting. Save that for your eating days. When you do exercise you want to do so at such a low pace you could keep it up for hours. More strenuous exercise will cause your cortisol to spike and stop your weight loss.
Then when you reach your goal weight you can go back to OMAD and eating a more varied diet if you prefer. For me personally the ketogenic diet works best. Carnivore is higher protein and protein converts to sugar in the body, so it's not safe for my diabetic son to have too much. Also, with our children's medical bills I can't afford meat at every meal. I use lots of eggs, cream, and cheese as a meat substitute. You can look back over my posts on this page and my blog for tons of ketogenic recipes.
I've had great success with Dr. Wade's Facebook Group. Be aware if you join, he expects participation and will remove you if you don't post. He also will call you out if you're doing something he doesn't like. Please remember it's a support group, not forum to bully others. He knows what he's doing, however, and he's spent more time advising me than any doctor I've ever had, since he conducts a 1-hour live session every single week to answer questions and help us work through problems.
I have a long way to go, still. I want to lose at least 50 more pounds, but this is the best success I've had at weight loss since my twenties and I wanted to share it with everyone. It's so important to recognize much of the advice we are hearing pretty much everywhere is designed to help Big Food and Big Pharma make a profit, not support our health! I'm trying to get over my anger at the fact that my whole situation is a direct result of me following my doctors' advice over two decades. It ruined half my twenties to half my forties but I finally feel like now I know how to take my life back.
Here's a bonus oils recipe for you. We had an incredibly busy weekend, with our youngest son's final soccer playoffs game, so naturally he got stung by a bee at recess on Friday. The sting was on his calf. They washed and treated it at school and it looked fine, but after the game Saturday his whole lower leg was red and swollen and by Sunday morning it was turning purple. I recognized a possible infection starting so I used my oils. I mixed a little witch hazel with 4 drops each Sacred Frankincense, Lavender, Melrose, and Copaiba and applied it every few hours with a cotton ball. I added Peppermint to the mix when it began to itch. I also had him spend Sunday afternoon with his leg elevated and iced it. By Monday night the swelling was completely down and it no longer hurt or itched! It still looks bruised but that's just a remnant of the damage and it's improving quickly. This mixture is a great treatment for any skin issues that might itch or get infected.
As usual I'm playing catch-up with basically my whole life right now! We have had a lot going on, but some great things happened lately and I wanted to update you. First of all. please join me in celebrating my 100th blog post on this, my own website! Having my own website was a longtime goal of mine and I'm proud to have achieved it.
Next, our Saturdays have been taken over the past few months by soccer. This was our son's first year on a travel soccer team. They made the playoffs and they won, so they're the champions for the region! That was really exciting, but I'm glad it's over. The championships lasted a month past the usual end of the season, so soccer and swim team overlapped. All these games and practices take time and I've gotten basically nowhere with my planned re-merchandising of the shops. Still, I remind myself I chose this career specifically in order to have the opportunity to give my children these opportunities and it's working out well. I rarely miss these events in their lives and I'm available to ferry them around as needed.
If you've been following me for a while you know I've been on a weight loss and health recovery journey since 2017. In September of that year our son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and I decided to switch the whole family to the ketogenic diet. I lost some weight, around 15 pounds, right away but then my weight loss stalled and pounds began to creep back on. My body composition did change significantly. Part of this journey has been learning which foods I can and cannot tolerate. I found most fruits, vegetables, and grains cause me to blow up like a balloon and experience GI issues, so just cutting them down removed a lot of the bloat I experienced due to inflammation. Then at the end of March I found out Dr. Wade Baskin, who I've been following on Instagram for a while, has a Facebook group. I joined the group and since then I've lost over 30 pounds! I would still have to lose almost 100 pounds to get to my pre-kids weight, but I think at my age that would probably not be the best idea as far as wrinkles go. I can see I'm already getting a stringy-looking neck and before kids I hovered around the lowest BMI range for my height, sometimes dropping into the underweight category. I was also a lot weaker than I am now, with a terrible immune system, and didn't have the amount of stamina I now have, 20 years later, so I guess I was "skinny fat". My goal now is to preserve my muscle mass as I lose weight and continue to improve my health, especially my chronic allergies.
The photos above were taken in 2017 (left) and Saturday (right). I have a goal to lose another 20 pounds by the beginning of July and I actually feel confident about my ability to do it. Dr. Wade's plan is very simple: you alternate 72 and 48 hour fasts until you reach your goal weight. Dr. Wade prefers dry fasting, but if you need it he does allow electrolyte solution and coffee. His goal is to complete shorter extended fasts, so you don't inhale everything in sight when you eat, and to remove your addiction to food. He prefers red meat only when you do eat, one 500-800 calorie meat meal between fasts. So it's simple but not terribly easy. I will write a longer and more detailed post next for those of you who want more information.
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.
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.