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DIY Doll Tree Swing

Bonjour, mes amis! C’est moi, Ellowyne Wilde.

It’s a sad time to be me these days. Not only did I (and my dolly peeps) get booted from our cozy home in Laurie’s dining room and crammed into a cold-hearted cabinet (because of a move to another town that ended up not happening!)…

…but we learned a few months ago that as of the end of 2016, Robert Tonner wouldn’t be making any more dolls from the Wilde Imagination line for our lovely collectors. Gasp and cry! No more new Ellowyne or Prudence dolls for Laurie—unless they come by way of her mother as she downsizes. I suppose Laurie has enough of us to keep her occupied, but it’s the principle of the thing. I was just coming into my glory days. You should see what kind of amazing pics people share about me and my Wilde friends on FB, Twitter, and Instagram!

Because Laurie’s somewhat listless right now (a writer without a manuscript to sink her teeth into is like a waitress without customers; a teacher without students; a pastor without a congregation; a doll without her cozy home—er…), I’ve taken it upon myself to present her latest craft. It was a simple feat, really. Just a matter of finding some time to implement it, which she accomplished yesterday as she worked through that day’s Bible study lesson.

(Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God—so good!)

Ahem.

Here it is:

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A tree swing.

Didn’t I tell you it was simple?

If you’d like to make one for your dolls (okay, fine, your children’s dolls (we both know the truth ;))), keep reading for how she did it. If you don’t care to make one…scroll down a few pics for a brief slideshow near the end.

To make this swing, cut to size any piece of scrap wood, MDF board, particle board, etc., that you have on hand (this one is 3″ x 6.25″, scaled for a 16″ doll), and drill four holes near the corners:

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Prime the board and then paint it/decorate it any way you like. Laurie used Valspar paint in Fresh Cotton, followed by Mod Podge to glue some scrapbook paper overtop, purposely tearing the edges:

Once it’s dry, take jute twine–or any kind of cord or rope–and lace it through the holes so it looks like this:

Or! You can insert the twine through the top and tie a knot at each hole under the swing. Because Laurie needed to get this onto a large branch, she tied knots over the branch:

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And voilà! A tree swing fit for a doll.

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This should help take our minds off our troubling times for a bit, don’t you think?

Or…maybe I spoke too soon? It looks like Pru is about to get some unwelcome company.

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A Sad Day for Ellowyne Wilde

IMG_5658Bonjour, mes amis! Ellowyne Wilde here. It’s been a long time, n’est ce pas?  I thought I would chime in today with an update on Laurie’s dolly adventures—oh, wait. Sorry, my bad. There haven’t been any adventures. Why’s that, you ask? Because she was too busy trying to perfect her Christmas story this past winter and spring that she hasn’t taken the time to play. And then! Then!

Then she packed. Us. Away.

Can you believe it?

“Only for a little while,” she promised. And she removed our accessories.

“Just until we move into a rental house.” And she wrapped up our furniture.

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Before

“Look on the bright side—you can still see the goings-on around here.” And she stuck us in the—gasp—doll cabinet!

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Let us out!

At least she had the decency to look contrite.

And now that she’s not moving? Dare we hope she’ll free us? Bring back our humble abode?

Nope! Claims she doesn’t want to put a new set of holes into the walls she freshly patched and painted.

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After

Oh sure, she stops by our cramped quarters now and then, looking a little put-out (like she’s the one who lost all her belongings), but it’s not the same as when she could pose us, and decorate for us, and imagine with us. We’ve been guaranteed a kitchen and fireplace when we finally move. Hmm, methinks I’ve heard that one before.

But you know what really boils my vinyl? The fact she’s letting the Senson girls—those mischief-makers—run free. Cinnamon joined us this spring, Mistletoe got a new outfit, and Piper got a new hairdo.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d think Laurie had found a new favorite doll.

Sniff.

Time will tell I suppose. Maybe Christmas…2017? Maybe by then, we Tonner girls will be warming our non-articulated toes by an LED-fed fireplace befitting dolls of our caliber.

Sew Cool

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Sweater and hoodie patterns by Becky Colvin

Since my mom introduced me to the imaginative world of Ellowyne Wilde seven years ago, it’s fitting that she also introduced me to the world of tiny knitting needles a few years later (sizes 2 and below, though the tiniest I’ve gone is 000). The former created in me a surprising obsession (within financial reason, of course), and the latter put my knitting skills to use and fed my obsession at the same time.

The patterns are designed by Becky Colvin of sew-coolseparates.com, a talented seamstress and knitter who has, over the years, created dozens of patterns for several different makes of posable dolls. Interested in a sweater (or pair of pants) for your doll, but not interested in making it yourself? Visit her Etsy shop, SewCoolSeparates.

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Santa phone case

 

 

 

Though I have knitted a couple of things over the last several months, my needles have gone untouched since mid-November when I finished my Santa phone case. So imagine my delight when I received an email from Becky informing her followers she needed testers to knit some American Girl Doll patterns, as she’s looking to sell patterns via pixiefaire.com. I jumped at the opportunity and ransacked my arsenal of tiny knitting needles.

 

 

 

Here is the result for the sweater I knit-tested:

It took me three weeks to complete, because I only allowed myself to knit at night after my girls had gone to bed. (Right now, I spend much of my time involved in the online writer’s critique group and preparing for a couple of upcoming writing contests.) I couldn’t tell you exactly how many hours I spent making the sweater, but I can tell you it went fast. And it’s knit from the top down, so for those who don’t like to sew seams after the knitting is done, this is right up your alley with only two small underarm seams to sew.

I hope to test-knit another AG sweater for Becky, but Ellowyne has informed me she’s feeling neglected. I suppose I should make her something, huh?

How about you? Do you know of another skilled artist who offers fun, intricate knitting patterns for dolls? I would love to hear about him/her–I’m always on the lookout for new patterns to try!

Just a little pre-holiday fun…

My brother-in-law can be very vocal about his displeasure in seeing Christmas paraphernalia hit the stores weeks before Thanksgiving (a sentiment shared by many, I know). But while he frowns, I can’t wipe the grin off my face, for I represent the other (and likely smaller) crowd that thrills at the sight of all that red and white making an appearance on retail shelves.

For the sake of my family, I try not to overexpose them to too many Christmas carols before Thanksgiving. On my own, however, I start filtering the uplifting songs into my repertoire by late August. For the sake of my family, I refrain from pulling out any Christmas decor until after Halloween. Yet for the sake of myself, I do begin the decorating process come November 1st. 🙂 I have always been that way, and no matter how society’s views change on this controversial holiday, I pray I will always find joy, comfort, and peace in my own corner of the Christmas world.

IMG_4680So for all of you out there who share my excitement at this time of year, here’s a little Christmas fun from my corner to yours. Look closely. Someone’s up to her usual mischief, hiding among those trees and those snowmen. Can you find her?

 

 

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Same picture…different position.

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Adventures in Walt Disney World

IMG_3426Psst! Hey, everyone. It’s me—Mistletoe! I figured since Laurie is too busy running around doing “life”—which includes everything but the one thing she should be doing (working on her Christmas story!)—I’d share with you my latest escapade. You know—for posterity’s sake.

Cuz for a doll like me, taking a trip to Walt Disney World is worth remembering!

Okay, okay—I snuck into WDW via Laurie’s travel bag when she wasn’t looking.

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Can you blame me? I’ve been listening to these plans since last fall! What doll wouldn’t take advantage of Laurie’s distraction during the pre-vacation packing? Um, besides all the Ellowyne dolls, the two Prudence dolls…and Tori…and Ping Lei… I almost convinced Piper to join me, but she said one doll would be less conspicuous than two.

But hoo, boy! I had no idea getting to the east coast from Montana was such a process! Two flights. Always two flights. And this time we had a four-hour layover in Minneapolis. No way was I going to stay cooped up in that bag for 240 minutes…

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At long last, after leaving Missoula, Montana around 6am, we arrived in Orlando, Florida at 5:20pm, where we hopped the Disney Express bus and joined up with Laurie’s parents and her sister’s family at the Port Orleans French Quarter resort. There we stayed for the first half of our vacation. What a fun place that was, with cobblestone streets, wrought iron fences, a pool featuring a sea serpent, and way more foliage than I’m used to! As Laurie and her family enjoyed a late dinner, I made friends with the local alligators and stretched my legs on the nearby playground.

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For the second half of the vacation, we stayed at the Polynesian, reminiscent of the South Pacific with its palm trees, tropical vegetation, and sandy beaches. The Lava Pool is the main attraction for the kids, with its 142-foot water slide through a volcano, and across the lake one can make out the distant view of Cinderella’s castle in the Magic Kingdom, just a monorail ride away.

Gazing out at the beach from the [] lounge at the Polynesian

Gazing out at the beach from the lounge in the Hawaii building at the Polynesian

Astride a horse in the lobby of the Grand Floridian

Astride a horse in the lobby of the Grand Floridian

For the next week, I called a Cabela’s knapsack “home.” Laurie carried it with her everywhere—to every kingdom, every meal, every ride, every event and show—and I fit quite well in the main compartment.

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Over the course of a few visits to the Magic Kingdom, we hit all the popular rides, such as Thunder, Splash, and Space Mountain, as well as the newest roller coaster, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. We enjoyed the less-popular but always entertaining attractions like the Carousel of Progress and Mickey’s Philharmonic in 3D. Aside from the characters we met at several character dinners, we also met Anna (Laurie’s favorite), Elsa, Merida, Tinker Bell (Laurie’s second fav), and even caught a glimpse of Flynn Rider wending through the crowds! {Swoon}

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Eek! There’s Flynn Rider! Be still my heart.

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Ahem. For lunch one day, we dined in the Beast’s Enchanted Castle. It was amazing! Most people sat in the ballroom to eat—get a load of those chandeliers!—but Laurie’s mom led them into the West Wing. Dark, gloomy, and thunderous, the room contained the enchanted rose, as well as a slashed picture of the prince over the fireplace. Every so often during a spine-chilling rumble of thunder, that prince changed into a picture of the Beast! :O Not the most cheerful atmosphere in which to eat a meal (Laurie’s youngest did not enjoy), but hey, the food tasted delicious and I got some selfies out of it! (Lighting was terrible, so sorry for the less-than-professional pics!)

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The ballroom. Check out the chandeliers!

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Cousin, daughter #2, daughter #1

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We visited Animal Kingdom only once, and only once did I sneak out of the bag. Can I say, “People!” There were people everywhere! Not only was it summer break for the US, but apparently it was also Brazil’s winter break, so that didn’t help with the congestion. But after conquering Mt. Everest (now that’s a roller coaster), bracing the Kali River Rapids (not a dry seat on the boat), and surviving the Kilimanjaro Safari (lions and rhinos and giraffes, oh my!), I did manage to get this one selfie:

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And then there’s Epcot—way more fun now than Laurie remembers it being as a kid twenty-five years ago. It offers dozens of fun rides in the Future World that hadn’t existed “back then,” and let’s face it: learning about another country’s history and culture in the World Showcase is far more interesting as an adult than as a child. Germany and France are Laurie’s natural favorite countries to visit, but Norway runs a close third. Her family on her mother’s side has an odd fixation with the trolls in that country that stems back to their first visit in the 1980’s, plus Norway will now feature characters and a ride from Frozen (Laurie’s favorite Disney animated film).

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Here is Laurie’s oldest daughter. Great pose, right? I so wanted to do that pose myself, but once again—people! So I settled for second best. (Please tell me you see the big ball behind me to the left!)

Me with my Mexican Sombrero and my German beer stein.

Me with my Mexican Sombrero and my German beer stein.

And here I am in Canada. They show a ten-minute film in a 360-degree theater, hosted by Martin Short. I didn’t stop laughing the entire time. (And I had no clue so many well-known actors call Canada home!)

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Hollywood Studios was Laurie’s hubby’s favorite kingdom, hands down. (But then, with the new Star Wars attractions, that didn’t come as much of a shocker.) We watched the theatrical performance of Beauty and the Beast, caught the Frozen Sing Along that ended with an auditorium full of snow, blasted through Star Tours, a 3D motion-simulated ride that offers over 50 story combinations—almost ensuring you’ll have a different experience each time—and stayed late one evening to watch Fantasmic (once again, Laurie’s youngest was not too thrilled by the scarier bits). Laurie’s hubby, off on his own at one point, ended up following the crowd to a huge outdoor arena where he sat spell-bound as the Extreme Stunt Show unfolded before him featuring race cars that performed high-speed chases, split-second spins, and explosions.

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Unfortunately, I have no picture of my days in Hollywood Studios, since the first day the Germaines visited, they were on a tight schedule—no time for me to sneak out and wander—and the second day it rained off and on, enough to get everything extremely wet.

Oh, well. Next time. There will be a next time, right?

Anyone else going to Walt Disney World? Mind if I tag along?

Anyone else going to Walt Disney World? Mind if I tag along?

I’ve heard Laurie’s sister (who lives 40 minutes from Walt Disney World) is going to treat herself and her family members to year-round passes to WDW as a way of celebrating her fortieth birthday. Wonder if I can ship myself back to Florida around Christmastime for some more pics? (I never did get a selfie with that Norway troll…)

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Letting Go Is Not The Same As Giving Up

Seeing as how we are officially halfway through the year, I thought I’d bring you up to date on my New Year’s resolution, which was to send out query letters to dozens of agents and/or publishers.

To be honest, I’m discouraged at how few agents and publishers I have been able to find that are willing to represent inspirational romance. I will be lucky if I can send out enough queries to warrant an impressive rejection pile on future projects. As of right now, however, I have stopped my efforts to find an agent for Her Knight in Rusted Armor after only six queries. Sounds kinda pathetic at first, doesn’t it? But I didn’t stop because my ego couldn’t take the rejections (I had psyched myself up for a couple dozen at least!). And I didn’t stop because I had already run out of options. I didn’t even stop because of the amount of time required to research each agent and tweak each query letter accordingly. I stopped because I realized I was wasting not only the agents’ time in reading my queries, but mine, as well, in working on them.

Writing can be such a conundrum!

Writing can be such a conundrum!

For how can I convince someone to invest in my work when I am no longer passionate about it, myself?

Oh, I’m still passionate about writing, but not about this particular story. I had hoped that in shelving Her Knight in Rusted Armor for a while (it sat untouched for over a year) I would be able to return to it with renewed fervor and a drive to see it published. Such was not the case.

And I’m okay with that.

Last year, I would not have been okay with that. This story represents hundreds of hours of work and tears and agony and joy. To just let it sit in my laptop and in my memory key seems like such a waste, for I will now have nothing to show for my years plugging away at this plot line and breathing life into these characters.

But over the past few months, God has slowly shown me not to look at the time as a waste, but rather to appreciate how much I have grown from this process. Grown as a writer, grown as a Christian, grown as a wife and mother, expanded my knowledge and experiences. I learned the nuts and bolts of fiction writing while plowing through the first version of Her Knight… fifteen years ago; I continued to gain knowledge and understanding about the writing craft through the several revisions of this story over the ensuing years; and I advanced in my writing abilities as I tried to apply that knowledge to the individual chapters, paragraphs, sentences, words.

Today, Her Knight in Rusted Armor and I have taken each other as far as we can go. For the story, this means it will not see the light of day on a bookstore shelf. For me, this means I get to draw on what I’ve learned from crafting Her Knight… and apply it (in the first draft rather than the tenth) to something new, fresh, and completely unrelated.

In some ways, when I focus on my writing career (or lack thereof) from the perspective of a driven American living in a society where success is defined by tangible results, setting aside a manuscript can be frustrating. There are writers out there younger than me–with kids!–publishing their second, third, tenth, twentieth book! Sometimes I find myself asking what’s wrong with me, that I’m turning away from the only story I have that is 100% complete. This means I’m now putting off my quest for publication for who-knows-how-much-longer!

But then the Holy Spirit steps in and gently turns my focus back to the Lord. He has me on my own path and I need to look to Him to guide my footsteps, not try to emulate other people’s paths to their successes. Oddly enough, I find that I’m not even sure what I hope my “success” will look like anymore. All the more reason, I suppose, to seek the Lord one day at a time, rather than chase after desires that have been known to change depending on the time of month or the pressures of outside circumstances. 😉

Anne Graham Lotz has said, “Let go and let God,” and I try to apply that to my writing endeavors. It’s not always easy. And I’m not always happy. But in the end, so long as I’ve pursued God in the midst of it all, I will find fulfillment in ways I never could have imagined.

Trust in God II

 

 

Never a dull moment…

Hallo! Ich bin’s, Ellowyne! (I thought I’d try out some German since it was Laurie’s college major, but I’m not feeling it. She claims it sounds beautiful. If you ask me (which nobody does since I’m a doll), I think French sounds far more elegant…eloquent…Ellowyne-esque!)

But enough about languages. Who wants to talk language (other than Laurie) when we have a doll to introduce?! Yes, we have a new member of the family, who arrived when the Germaines returned from the fishing trip in early May. Here’s what this InMotion Girl by Ruby Red Galleria looked like originally, when Laurie’s mom received her…

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Original Lia

With a brown wig...

With a brown wig…

…with her original name of Lia. By the time she came to us in MT, she wore a nondescript brown wig, which didn’t quite gel with those intelligent eyesbut Laurie had plans.

A change of clothes paired with a sassy new wig brought out Lia’s true personality…and we all agreed this required a new name.

 

 

So everyone, meet Piper.

...and improved

Piper: New and improved

As you can imagine, she and Mistletoe hit it off right away.

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Kindred spirits

We have four younger dolls now in this expanding motley crew: Tori, Mistletoe, Ping Lei, and Piper. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s one that captures the essence of these girls’ personalities when it comes to mischief or adventure:

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Left to right: Ping Lei, Piper, Mistletoe, and Tori

Though Mistletoe and Piper switch roles at times, Mistletoe is typically the “driving” force behind their escapades, Piper supplies the fuel (the encouragement and follow-through), Tori goes along for the thrill of the ride…and Ping Lei tries to curb their enthusiasm so they don’t do anything too foolish.

And then, of course, there are those days when Mistletoe takes an idea and runs with it all on her own.

Toodles!

Toodles!

Sigh. Drive safe, dear.

Tschuss!

Tschuss! Au revoir!

Be sure to turn around at the property line!

(I suspect our lives will no longer be as quiet and uneventful as they once were.)