Just a couple more days to save! My eBay & Etsy shops are on sale with the deepest discounts of the year. Link from the Home page to all my shops. I will resume shipping orders on January 2nd. Happy New Year!
Something you might not know about me, unless you’ve been reading my blog for many years ~ I’m a California girl, originally. I was born in Northern CA. My dad was an optometrist by trade but a scuba diver at heart. He closed his office every Thursday at noon and we would head for the beach where he spent each weekend diving for abalone. I didn’t find out until adulthood abalone is an expensive delicacy; we ate it like hamburger! My mom would say, “I don’t know what to have for supper tonight; I guess we’ll have abalone.”
It was a beautiful life. But when I was three my dad died in a freak pool party accident (only in California, right?) and we moved to my grandparents’ house in Ohio. I stayed really close to my grandparents for the rest of their lives and after we moved to North Carolina we always traveled back “home” for Christmas.
The road to Ohio took us through misty Appalachian hollows and huge cities, through flat plains and rolling hills. Everywhere, though, were Christmas decorations. Lit-up crosses high on mountain peaks. City boulevards festooned with lighted garlands. Lone blue stars shining from the tops of grain silos.
It always struck me, the sense of community. Everywhere, in every way, people bringing light to the darkness. No matter whether you celebrate Christmas or not, it’s no coincidence every winter religious holiday from Hanukkah to Diwali honors illumination. The days are dark and short, the nights long and even darker.
After my grandparents died my husband and I agreed to stay home for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, giving our children the chance I rarely had, to hang their stockings on their own mantle and open their presents under their tree they helped decorate. We travel to see their grandparents and cousins after breakfast and presents on Christmas Day.
Still, each Christmas Eve, that old sense of adventure steals over me. That feeling of journeying through the darkness, peeking into others’ celebrations, enjoying their decorations, wondering about their everyday lives when the sun is bright and the baubles packed away. That feeling of solidarity with strangers.
This Christmas Eve, no matter what holiday you celebrate, I wish for you to feel that solidarity, that togetherness. We will light our candles and eat our rØmmegrot (“cream porridge” my Norwegian-American grandparents’ traditional Christmas Eve supper) and I hope you feel the warmth of my regard in your heart.
It’s a magical night, when anything might be around the corner. What will you find in your stocking? What might you see on your travels? Who might you meet? Please know I am thinking of you and wishing you that sense of anticipation as well as all the joy of the season.
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Here's my Christmas Doll Challenge result: this Gambina cheerleader doll was a gift from my grandmother around 1985 when I became a cheerleader. It was displayed in my room for years and then I passed it on to my daughter, who displayed it in her room. Over time the vinyl face faded. My daughter and I decided it's time to pass the doll on to another special girl.
See how to re-blush faded vinyl dolls and make other repairs in The Christmas Doll Challenge group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1479326626218612
Christmas is just one week away but that means you still have plenty of time to complete the Christmas Doll Challenge or the Christmas Cash Challenge or both!
Imagine yourself on Christmas morning, gifting your precious doll as a family heirloom or flush with cash to shop the big after-Christmas sales. It's possible, but time is running out!
Most of you know I’m obsessed with Harry Potter ~ like if I ever win the lottery I might not tell anyone but you might notice the replica Hogwarts Castle I live in!
Well, I am equally a fan of the new Jumanji movies. It’s odd because I really didn’t like the first one all that much. I had the book and was excited when the movie came out but after watching it I was kind of “meh” about it. I haven’t actually watched since back then so maybe I should revisit it because I went into Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle thinking my kids would like it but I would be similarly unmoved. However, I LOVED it. It was transformational for me. I know that’s weird, but here’s the part that really struck me:
Throughout the movie there’s an emphasis on chasing your “guy” or video game avatar. I don’t want to ruin the plot if you haven’t seen it (and if you haven’t you need to RUN and watch both the new ones right away!) but everyone chooses an avatar to play the video game. There are only so may, right, and they all have different strengths and weaknesses. Some avatars aren’t at all as expected and their people feel a lot of jealousy and resentment as they have to really work to appreciate their avatar’s (and their OWN) strengths and rely and trust their companions with complimentary skills. The message is, they all have a particular skillset that works only with the other characters’ skills. If they can’t find a way to work together and appreciate their own unique assets they will fail.
Then at the end some of the people consider whether they can take their avatar back into the real world with them ~ can they “be like this” in their own lives?
Coincidentally, over Thanksgiving we watched Jumanji at my parents’ house and then the other day I watched Regan Hillyer https://www.youtube.com/@ReganHillyerCoach give a talk. I am taking Regan’s course, The Art of Manifesting through Mindvalley right now but you can watch her on YouTube for free.
Regan said just one thing that was so impactful for me: she came out on stage and she was walking all kind of bent over or cringing. She started to talk and she seemed really nervous and scared and hesitant. Then she stood up straight and she asked, “If I came out on stage like this would you listen to anything I had to say? Would you ever take my advice?”
That hit me and I thought of course not! Regan’s point is the way we are showing up in life ~ the “guy” we’re inhabiting ~ has an enormous effect on the level of success we achieve. It made me ask myself, who am I showing up as? Can I “be like this” (my perfect self avatar) in everyday life?
The other day I had to place a second printing order for my The Ultimate Zucchini Cookbook. I sell these as signed copies through my website and also unsigned from Amazon. I am sold out of my first printing of my signed author copies (yay! Thanks to everyone who ordered!). As I checked over my order before submitting it I saw my little author blurb on the back: “Amanda lives with her family in the Lake Norman and Blue Ridge areas of North Carolina.”
I am a serious bibliophile. It’s a problem; we have floor to ceiling bookcases in several rooms and they’re all full, so we also have books stacked all over the place, like tables and even the floor. One of my big recent projects has been going through them and listing some for sale that I decided I could let go. I donated some to our neighborhood Little Free Library as well. That was hard for me! Do you have that problem? Anyway, ever since I was a little girl I have noticed how many authors’ blurbs on book jackets say things like, “So and So lives with her family in Paradise beach and Gorgeous Mountain” or “splits her time between Italy and Wales” and stuff like that. And I would always kind of roll my eyes and think, well wouldn’t THAT be nice?
The thought of just being a writer, working from anywhere, having the freedom to travel, has always seemed like the ideal lifestyle to me. At that moment, reading my book blurb I was struck with the fact that I DID IT! I now have that life! I can’t split my time equally between our lake house and mountain cabin because my husband still has to work and our son is still in high school, but we go up to the cabin as often as possible. I work up there on my writing quite a bit because our wifi signal is very spotty so I can’t usually work online. It’s a great place to take my manuscripts for editing since it’s distraction-free.
But my point is, I imagined this very lifestyle from when I was very young and I manifested it ~ ACCIDENTALLY! How much sooner could I have gotten there if I had been intentional?
So my 2024 project is going to be creating my avatar. I am going to sit down and write out all my strengths and weaknesses, just like a video game. I am even going to draw a picture or make a photo collage of how my avatar will look. Then I am going to make a plan to mitigate my weaknesses and work with the strengths of the people around me. I am going to set a target ~ what will I do to “win” my year? And then I am going to intentionally set out to hit it just like I’m playing a video game!
So, who’s with me? Who wants to play Mandaline Jumanji? Should I set up a private group for the participants? Let me know in the comment if you’re in! I would love for us all to share our avatars and I really want to see yours and hear about your 2024 target!
Just as an aside, one of my favorite lines in the whole movie is when Nick Jonas asks, “Does phone mean something different in the future?” That cracks me up every time, thinking about how different phones are now than they were in my youth!
Do you like the new Jumanji movies? Which is your favorite?
And, just a reminder: any orders from my shops need to be placed before 9PM tonight to be shipped standard for Christmas delivery. After tomorrow, the 16th, orders shipped Priority Express must go out by 12/21 to arrive by Christmas.
Do you ever feel like you're different than everyone around you? Do you follow your own path, to the consternation of certain relatives or friends? It's the time of year when you hear all about it, right? How are you coping?
If I had walked into my high school career counselor's office and confidently declared that I dream of teaching people to mend their damaged dolls using easy-to-understand cheat sheet tutorials, an email course, and a book ~ she probably would have spit out her lukewarm cup of Joe in surprise. What an unconventional career aspiration, right? But here's the thing… it would have shocked me too! I was your typical Type A overachiever. I graduated 12th out of 400 people in my high school class. I had dreams of breaking the glass ceiling in publishing.
But that was later, after I was conditioned to strive for career glory rather than follow my heart. When I was a little girl I remember people were always asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I would always say I wanted to be a mother. “You can't do that!” my grandmother told me, as did my mother (both stay-at-home mothers, but whatever, I guess). I just wanted to be an artist and a mom.
When I was in middle school I had a vivid dream I still remember; I found myself on an island heaped with broken toys. All kinds of people were there, crying, wanting their toys fixed. I didn't see it at the time, but now I'm kind of amazed to find myself a doll doctor, fielding near-daily requests to restore people's doll and toys from all over the world! That dream was a premonition, although I didn't realize it.
The internet led to the demise of the big publishing houses. Once I became a mother my desire to raise my own children rather than handing them off to day care fulfilled that crazy old dream. I still hear about it, though. We all have at least one person we can't ever please, right? Practically the first thing I heard at Thanksgiving was that “No one wants to buy what I'm selling”. Nevermind it's been my job for over 20 years!
I take tremendous joy in receiving heartfelt thank-you messages for restoring those sentimental childhood dolls to their former glory so they can be passed down as cherished family heirlooms. My unique knack for fixing virtually anything isn't just a quirky trait, it's my secret weapon. And over the years I've found teaching others doll repair and entrepreneurship is my other passion.
So guess what? I'm beyond grateful that I didn't let the skeptics deter me and chose to pave my own path, even if it's a road less travelled…
So, how about YOU? What's your secret weapon? Are you living your passion or still searching for it? I want to know!
And if you haven't exactly lived up to your family's expectations or followed others' well-trodden path, I want to know how you're dealing with it, especially this time of year. It can be hard to go home when all you hear about are your perceived failures (even if you're most definitely NOT a failure). My husband and I own our own BEACH, for heaven's sake; it's not like we're destitute!
I think when someone like you, someone really creative, brave, and passionate, rejects the “normal” societal expectations to follow their dreams, it's threatening for people who don't.
I think a lot of people know, deep down, they could have done more in their life, but they let fear stop them. When they see you acting without fear they feel FOMO, they get jealous, or they actually feel scared because they're so brainwashed to follow the herd.
Whether you’re lying in bed late at night accidentally dropping your phone on your face (sorry about that), stuck in an Uber in traffic (thoughts n’ prayers), bored in the bathroom (we all do it right?), I’m so glad to know you’re out there!
You’re the best crew I could ask for and I can’t wait to hear from you! I'm so grateful you’re here on this crazy wild ride with me and I’m so excited to have a medium to share all the ups and downs, tips and tricks, sad times, good times, successes and failures. Hit the comments section and tell me all about how you're doing!
Once upon a time, in a small town nestled amidst towering mountains, there lived a young girl named Lily. She was an ordinary girl with an extraordinary gift - a creative spark that brought joy and wonder into her life and those around her.
Lily had always possessed an insatiable curiosity, a desire to explore the world beyond the limitations of her small town. Every day, she would set out on her adventures, armed with her sketchbook and an unwavering belief in the power of her imagination.
One sunny afternoon, as Lily strolled through a meadow, she stumbled upon an old, forgotten piano nestled beneath a weeping willow tree. The piano had seen better days, with dusty keys and chipped wood, but something about it called to Lily's soul.
Overwhelmed with excitement, Lily carefully brushed off the dust, revealing the instrument's faded grandeur. Tentatively, she pressed a key, and a gentle, melancholic melody filled the air. It danced among the wildflowers, resonating with nature's harmony.
From that day forward, Lily's world transformed. The piano became her instrument of hope, a vessel for expressing her deepest emotions and dreams. She poured her heart into each note, as her fingers danced effortlessly across the keys, becoming one with the music.
Her melodies touched the hearts of everyone who heard them. Old wounds were healed, burdens were lifted, and smiles were born anew. Lily's creativity had a magical way of connecting people, transcending language and barriers. Each composition held a story, a glimpse into the human spirit's capacity for goodness and resilience.
As her reputation grew, Lily received an invitation to perform at a renowned concert hall in the bustling city nearby. It was a chance to showcase her talent on a grand stage, but also an opportunity to inspire others to embrace their own creative instincts.
The night arrived, and as Lily walked onto the stage, a wave of nervous excitement washed over her. The audience hushed, awaiting her performance with bated breath. With each stroke of the keys, she poured her entire being into the music, allowing it to speak for her soul.
The melodies she crafted echoed through the concert hall, weaving tales of love, loss, and triumph. Tears glistened in the eyes of the audience, each person connecting with the music in their own unique way. In that shared vulnerability, a powerful sense of unity was born.
As the last note resounded, the crowd erupted into thunderous applause, their hearts overflowing with gratitude for the emotional journey they had experienced. Lily had not only touched their hearts but had reminded them of the innate goodness that lay within each person, waiting to be nurtured and shared.
And so, as the final encore came to a close, Lily stepped off the stage, humbled and grateful for the opportunity to emotionally connect with countless souls through her creativity. For her, it was a reminder that the human trait she found most endearing, above all others, was the power of artistic expression to awaken the goodness and hope that resides deep within us all.
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.