Meg March

I admit it has been decades since I last watched a Little Women film so I had to refer to the crib notes for a bit of background on Meg. She is the oldest of the 4 sisters and what I read described her as fun loving with a penchant for luxury.

I purchased this Yield House Meg doll completed with the intention of remaking her clothing. As a young woman she would have wanted to wear the latest fashions and not the frumpy frock she arrived in. Since I have been wanting to explore this category for a while it seemed the perfect opportunity.

Red and black with obvious box pleats

Looking at Victorian fashion plates and photos from the mid 1860s I was consistently drawn to the Garibaldi shirtwaist and skirt combination. This was a high fashion look and was sometimes paired with a bolero jacket. On a small scale I decided just the shirtwaist and blouse would be sufficient.

Inspiration drawing

In a previous post I detailed how I made Meg a cage crinoline. She arrived with a decent set of drawers and one petticoat I reused. Additionally I made her a chemise and petticoat of fine lawn.

New chemise & petticoat
Cage crinoline and underpetticoat

I found a lovely red silk charmuse at a local yardage store and originally thought to make her skirt in black velvet. It might have been made that way originally but I realized working the waist would be complicated and it would likely turn out bulky. Taking to eBay I found a remnant on Japanese kimono silk.

I’m getting better at drafting patterns for dolls but I feel I could have done better on this shirtwaist. It’s not my best output. I like the skirt – it’s made with double box pleats and I loved the hand of the silk. So nice to work with! But honestly I like her undergarments better.

C’est la vie I suppose!

Making a cage crinoline for your doll

For historical costumers, a cage crinoline is a necessity, but you may ask yourself what exactly that is. Modern lingo for this garment is “hoop skirt” which describes a skirt with hoops in it, typically made with plastic bands and sometimes flounced. But for the original cast, a cage crinoline was a modernization of the crinoline petticoat. A crinoline petticoat was a starched cotton underskirt, often times many layers were worn to achieve the desired bell shape to a skirt. In 1856, however, the cage crinoline was patented and allowed women to achieve the shape without all the heavy skirts! They were made with steel bands – not heavy ones – that were strong enough to carry the weight of one or two petticoats on top, plus the skirt of the dress being worn.

And of course, where fashion for people goes, so goes fashion for dolls. There are remaining doll-sized cage crinolines in private collections, and they are of course on a smaller scale and not as robust as human sized garments. They can be used to fill out a skirt for a doll, or simply for the fun of putting a hoop skirt on your dolly.

Looking at how the originals were constructed, I realized this is a simple project I could make and share the instructions here. My doll is an 18″ Yield House Meg doll, but you can adjust these measurements to fit your dolls.

Supplies

I found this trim that is 5/8″ wide, 95% cotton and reminds me of Petersham. It’s a nice woven, flat trim that will do nicely. I’m also using some aluminum jewelry wire here but you can use what is available to you. You want something that is malleable enough to bend into your shape but strong enough to hold the round hoop shape once completed. All told, I spent less than $10 on the supplies.

First you need to do some thinking and measuring. For a Yield House doll, the skirt is made from a 36” length of fabric. This results in a nicely full skirt similar to those worn in the 1860s. Consider how tall your doll is and how full her skirt is. You want the bottom hoop to be less than the full circumference of the outer skirt. I chose to make the bottom hoop 30” around. The top hoop should be wide enough to fit over the hips of your doll. Meg here needed 15” for decent clearance. For the middle bone I split the difference and made it 23”

Once you have your hoop circumferences, measure your wire to that length plus 2-3” overlap. Cut the wires and then twist the ends together.

Twist the ends together

Make all three hoops, then you can measure the tape to cover them exactly. Allow at least 1/2” on either end to turn the raw edges under. Beginning at the joint, fold the tape around the wire to encase it and then whipstitch it closed.

I used quilting thread but any type will do

Once you get to the end, tuck the end under and whip all the way around the joint.

Bring the folds together and stitch

Repeat on the second and third hoop until all three are covered. The next step will be to find the quarters on each hoop and place a small mark. This will ensure the vertical tapes will hang straight. these marks will be covered, don’t worry.

Mark the quarters

Determine the drop of your hoop skirt next. This is the length from the waist to where you want the lowest bone. I chose a 9 1/2” drop so the lowest bone would be near the tops of the doll’s boots. This is about where my life size hoops hang as well. Consider you need 1/2” on either end to tuck under – so add this onto the drop measurement. This gave me a 10 1/2” vertical tapes. Cut 4 of these. Don’t forget to measure the waist of your doll and cut a waistband to that length plus 1”.

The hoops should be equally spaced on your vertical tapes. Don’t forget that you will attach them at the top and the bottom. I measured and pinned the placement for the first and second hoop. The hoops attach at 3”, 6 1/2”, and 10” (the bottom).

Beginning with the lowest hoop, wrap the tape around so the raw edge will be enclosed. Stitch that in place. Repeat at all four quarters.

Enclose the raw edge

Moving to the middle bone, fold the tape over the hoop so you can stitch through the vertical tape, through the hoop covering under that, then out the vertical tape. You aren’t stitching behind the hoop wire, just catching the tape wrapping it. Repeat on all quarters and then move on to the top hoop.

Pin it into place until you stitch it

Once all the hoops are attached to the vertical tapes you are ready to attach the waistband. Turn the ends of the waistband under and stitch so the raw edges are inside. Remember, the waistband is the measure of your doll’s waist plus 1”.

Finished edges

Find the quarters of the waistband, place a small mark, then pin the tapes in place.

Stitch these in a square that will secure the tape and keep the raw edge inside. Once that has been done you can add a hook and eye or thread bar. You are done!

My doll happens to have a modesty petticoat under her new cage crinoline and then a fine starched cotton petticoat over it. I’m making a silk skirt for her next and this should do nicely to help it hold it’s shape.

All told I used less than the full amount of wire I purchased and less than a full spool of the white tape. Had I made the vertical tapes in white I might have used close to the full spool. I hope you found this little article helpful in demystifying the cage crinoline and will feel confident in trying one for yourself!

Supply List

5/8” Petersham or similar woven cotton flat trim (don’t use twill tape as it will ravel)

2 1/2 yards white

1/2 yard red (to make in all white add this to the length above)

Aluminum jewelry wire – 16 gauge – 72”

1 size 1 hook

Needle and thread to match

Ruler or tape measure

Nell’s 1866 Promenade Dress

When I was researching what to make for Nell, I came across a source for La Mode Illustree, a French fashion magazine popular through the 19th century. They frequently published doll costumes as a means for girls to learn dress making. While it took me some time to commit to one of the patterns, I have finally completed one.

Being as the magazine was written in French, I first had to translate the text. I’m not fluent but I have a very basic understanding of the language, and Google translate did the heavy lifting.

I decided to create a walking dress, or costume du promenade. It was described as being made from gray lindsay- a type of fine wool – with navy blue velvet trim. The original patterns were intended for a doll a bit larger than Nell, so I had to be careful to size it to her. I did not use wool because I don’t want to afford it for a doll, plus the majority of modern wool available at a big box retailer is a blend with a synthetic fiber to keep costs down and/or is heavier than I would need for a 12” doll. I substituted a nice cotton with a firm hand but fine weight.

Doll Sitting in Armchair

The source material includes the pattern page which has every pattern piece in the magazine all on two pages. The lines of each pattern were unique so you would find the dotted, dashed or starred lines, trace them and then make your garment. I followed this process, next having to print them and size them. I then proceeded to make a couple mock-ups of scrap to make sure it would fit Nell. It was quite an intensive process as I’m not completely knowledgeable in dressmaking. However, I persevered and eventually came up with a fit I liked.

As it turns out, these doll clothes were literally miniature dresses, made exactly how full sized garments were made. They were intended to teach little girls how to sew their own clothing, which makes a lot of sense. Just, the construction methods of the nineteenth century don’t always make sense to our modern thinking. Usually doll clothes fasten in the back and the front just simulates the intended look. Fortunately I have experience at making 1860s dresses so I knew what to do with the pieces. Also, there aren’t actually any construction notes, just the pattern pieces. So, the description of this was:

The doll is 48 centimeters tall, head not included. Her dress consists of a dress and a coat in gray lindsay. The overcoat, sleeveless, is retained by a belt. The skirt is 32 centimentres in length, 1 meter 50 centimentres wide; it is bordered with two bands in blue cotton velvet. Same trim for the sleeves and the collar of the bodice, whose figures 46 to 50 represent half. The belt clasps under a rosette. The overcoat is made from Figures 51 to 53; we put small pockets in it. The blue taffeta hat is made of stiff gauze, according to Figs. 54 and 55, furnished with archal thread, covered with taffeta, adorned with hives underneath, black lace on top.

La Mode Illustree, January 1, 1866

So here she is in her completed 1866 Promenade Costume. The dress includes a dogleg opening in the front, which requires careful attention to detail to ensure it stays centered. The bodice is darted as was appropriate in the era. While it shows 20 (count them all!) tiny, 5 mm buttons, they are nonfunctional and only for looks. This wasn’t unheard of in the 19th century either. I sewed on the buttons, which were squirrely to say the least, didn’t like how they looked, took them off and sewed them on again. I wound up sewing under the magnifying glass because they are tiiiiny. For reference, Nell is around 12″ – the height of a Barbie doll.

I haven’t attempted to make the hat because I have never made a hat and don’t know what to expect. But, at some point I will try it with scrap fabric. I do have some blue silk here that I have been dying to use for years.

The pattern pieces include letters in the various corners, which the person making them was expected to know meant that the two pieces with letters L and M, for instance, were to be sewn together between those two points. As I was making the third mock-up of the bodice, I started writing down the instructions. Not that I expect to share these with anyone, but it’s kind of fun to make a pattern with the sense that someone might sit down to sew your creation one day.

Since the dress is constructed exactly as an adult sized dress would have been, the knowledge of vintage clothing construction came in very handy! Perhaps one day I will convert this Promenade Dress to a dolly version that closes in the back, which would make it soooo much easier to reproduce. In its current form, it is an advanced intermediate skill level, but a dolly version would be just as pretty and much easier for less skilled hobbyists.

In the next post, I’ll dive into the construction of a cloth bodied China doll.

Dottie

This doll named Dottie was made for my sister as a Christmas gift. It’s my third making of the Little Cloth Girl pattern from Elizabeth Stewart Clark. Needless to say, I love this pattern.

You will notice an immediate difference in Dottie’s appearance from Emalie and Mernie, and that is her face & hair are embroidered. I’m not the best at embroidery (that’s my sister’s specialty), so I had to be very careful. I actually remade her face since I didn’t like the first attempt. All the embroidery is silk and I think it came out nicely. I also stitched in her fingers – not an easy task, plus she has jointed elbows and knees.

She again has the undergarments appropriate for a girl in the mid 1860s. I decided on this go-round that I would make a full wardrobe since she was a gift.

My daughter picked out this red fabric – which I just love. The dress is a darted bodice with sleeve caps.

The second dress is made from fabric my sister has picked out to make herself a dress – probably a wrapper. I thought it would be fun to surprise her, so I just asked for a 1/4 yard of any fabric. Now, once she makes up her dress, she will have a friend in a matching dress. How sweet! This dress is a gathered front yoked bodice. I really like how it turned out.

I made a quilted petticoat from flannel. While you can’t really see it, it has the same diamond pattern quilted in as Mernie’s.

The next piece I made was the basque coat. I used a sueded fabric to make it seem like wool or a heavier fabric. The trim is brown velvet and I love the nonfunctional buttons.

My favorite piece is the blue lightweight coat. Like I said earlier, I’m not much for embroidery, but I wanted this to look like it has braid, which was a common embellishment. The little button just finishes it off.

And just because I’m a glutton, I made a little handbag, a bonnet, a quilt that features all the fabrics used in the clothing, and a pillow. Oh, and inside that handbag are mini books I made. As an aside, I made another of these little bonnets for a Holiday Gift Exchange in the Historical Costuming For Dolls Facebook group. I’m not the only one obsessed with them!

I hope that you have enjoyed this tour of Dottie and her wardrobe. In the next post, I will showcase a costume made from a vintage fashion magazine.

Meet Nell

For someone who is a documented doll disliker, I have become fascinated by them. Not playing with dolls, or displaying them. And not all dolls; I like very specific styles of dolls designed in the mid-nineteenth century. Of course I can’t afford the real dolls – or, more accurately, I won’t afford them.

This doll, Nell, is a reproduction late 1860s-1870s cloth bodied doll. She has China head, hands and feet. I did not make her, but adopted her off eBay. She was designed by Tasha Tudor in 1977. I don’t know much about Tasha Tudor except to say she was an artist who loved dolls. In the 1970s there was a revival of these China head dolls sold as kits for home doll makers. Many brands offered the kits, and I don’t know how accurate they were.

Nell was poorly constructed – her legs are twisted and her arms are attached incorrectly as well as being rather fat. I could have remade her body, but I decided I love her as she is.

Sweet Nell came to me in a truly unattractive outfit. Remember she was made in the 70s. The dress was made from orange sprigged searsucker. Yikes.

Since I want to eventually use my dolls for teaching and display at history events, I could not leave her in this crazy outfit. From the muslin out, I redressed her. First came a new chemise and drawers from white cotton. I figured for a nicer doll I could have some fun with her corset and made her a corded corset with this beautiful brocade I had. Add a nice tucked petticoat and we are ready to keep going.

At some point after the first photos I remade her chemise. I never did like the first run at it. The new one is tucked to the neckband and lays much more smoothly. Unfortunately for Nell, it took me another several months to make her dress. I took a break to decide exactly what to make for her. Since she is later 1860s, I wasn’t limited to typical hoop skirt styles. While the basic bodice didn’t change too much after 1864, skirts and embellishments did.

I spent some time researching exactly what to make, delving into French fashion magazines and dreaming of the garments I would make her. And then I made a basic, almost boring, dress.

The fabric is cotton meant to mimic a patterned wool, which would commonly have been used. I modeled the dress off the amazingly versatile patterns from Liz Clark, modifying them to fit Nell. The skirt has box pleats at the waist, which were a more stylish method of attaching a skirt. It was a bit boring on its own so I added the pink ribbon bow and belt.

Next episode, look for the gift I created for my sister.

More Dolls

In all my spare time, I have made some more dolls. I never thought I would become so enthralled with dolls or their clothes, but 2020 was a year of sucki-ness, and I guess I actually did have some spare time. Anyway, I made a second doll from the Elizabeth Stewart Clark pattern.

This is Mernie. She has similar undergarments to Emalie, except I tried making a quilted petticoat. Since I had never even quilted before, this was quite a challenge for me. The pattern says to follow any quilting pattern. Well, I don’t know any quilting patterns, let alone an 1860s era pattern. So I made one up.

The pattern is really designed to hold the layers of fabric in place, I measured out the diamond pattern I wanted, adjusted, remeasured, then marked it out in chalk. I thought it would take forever. What I discovered was that quilting is kind of zen. I get in the zone and felt remarkably relaxed when I finished.

Mernie has a gathered front bodice with bishop sleeves. I like the gathered front, but let me just say that the cuffs of the bishop sleeve are insanely tiny. It was a challenge to finish them nicely – but one I felt up to completing.

I quite like Mernie. I feel I made improvements on my first attempt with this pattern.

Goodbye, Glen

An old musical friend left us yesterday: Glen Campbell. As a child in the 70s, we listened to all the greats, including Glen Campbell, John Denver, Anne Murray, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson etc. One thing about Glen Campbell was his ability to convey strong emotions just with his voice. I have always loved his music, even though it is severely outdated and of its time. There is no chance of a revival of Dreams of the Everyday Housewife, simply because we don’t really have housewives in America anymore.

From the bright tones of optimism in Country Boy to the deep seated loneliness in By The Time I Get To Phoenix, a Glen Campbell playlist can take you through the gamut of feelings. Galveston on the surface, is a poignant song about the coastal town in Texas, but upon a deeper listening, it is a protest song that conveys the fears of a soldier in Vietnam. Honey Come Back is a sentimental piece of resignation by a man who screwed up and knew it. His intonations and use of inflection was masterful, as though he truly felt every emotion, and I find myself hoping for a modern singer to recreate it but I’m always left disappointed. The closest I have found to the plaintive sadness and finality of By The Time I Get To Phoenix is Daylight by Maroon 5, but even that song – which is one of my favorites – feels lacking when compared (skip to 1:50 on that clip to get past the talking). Perhaps it is modern technology. My husband complains that digital remixing tends to “flatten” the depth in music. Or perhaps it’s not that at all, because I’m Not Gonna Miss You is a song that can bring you to tears if you let it and that is a song recorded in recent years, after Glen was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Glen Campbell was of a musical moment that really doesn’t translate to the new millennium, sadly. The orchestration on some pieces, and the stripped down simplicity of others are too “old fashioned,” and the lyrics are now “quaint” and obsolete and sexist. Young people either can’t relate to the hobo lifestyle of Gentle on my Mind, or technology has advanced enough to eliminate the need for a Wichita Lineman.

But for me, this is music that speaks – to the soul, to the heart, wherever it touches. He may not have missed us due to his memory loss, but I am sure going to miss him.

I’m not even going to touch on his musical ability here, except to say that if you ever thought Keith Urban is a super talented guitar player, take a look at Glen Campbell. He was renowned for his talent. For a bonus, here is a clip of Keith and Glen playing together in Vegas – what a treat.

Living in, and through, your remodel

Remember that TV show Trading Spaces? The one where friends overhauled each other’s living rooms, sometimes with amazing success? My husband and I loved that show, and were inspired at the time to think that we could take on the task of repainting our kitchen cabinets. The home we lived in had these really dark brown circa 1972 kitchen cabinets that were just oppressive.

We learned the hard way that there are professionals for a reason. Although DIY projects are fun, and lots of people are capable of tackling these kinds of projects and having great results, we are not in that group of people. Our cabinet repainting project was not an amazing success. At all. At our next house, we worked with professionals, and we learned that home upgrades, when done by someone who knows what they are doing, are not all that bad. We enjoyed seeing the progress every day. The changes we made helped us sell that house and buy the home we live in now.

Our current home was effectively the same as it was in 1959, with updated appliances and flooring. We are now approaching the end of a significant remodel of this house, and we have stayed in the house through the entire process, except for three weeks we spent in a hotel when we had to leave due to health and safety concerns – you know, like asbestos removal. We started the project in August 2016 with the outdoor demo. It is now June 2017 and we still have a couple months to go.

Many people cannot afford to do their project if they have to move out and rent an apartment or second home, so staying in their home during the work is a popular solution. Living through a renovation is a serious decision that you and your family must commit to so you don’t run into too much family conflict. Had we fully known what to expect, we might have done a few things differently, so I wanted to share some of my learnings to hopefully help you make the plunge into happy home renovation.

Here are my tips on how to prepare for living in – and through – your renovation.

  1. Plan to discuss every decision with your partner openly, and reach an agreement together before taking any action. If you don’t agree with each other, you have to find some way to come together in compromise so you can happily live in your home once the work is done. Communication is important in general so that you don’t harbor any resentments or negative feelings that may develop during the project. Your remodel is a huge step in home ownership and should be one of excitement, not lingering anger or annoyance.
  2. Decide what your style will be. Once we realized we liked and wanted to embrace the mid-century modern style of our home, everything was easy. When you have no idea what you want things to look like at the end of the project, there can be confusion about floors, walls, door styles, baseboard styles, cabinets, etc. You don’t want styles to clash or not work with the flow of the home. You may choose to work with a designer, and that can be helpful if you are uncertain about what coordinates, but be sure to interview potential designers to make sure they “get” your style and you. We also spent literally hours researching on the internet. Any minor thing we were unsure of we looked for pictures. How should the baseboards meet the kerf jambs? Look on Houzz. Should we use light or dark grout on the kitchen tile? Google it. Another resource is YouTube. There are literally thousands of videos that just show snapshots of a theme – if you want to see French country kitchens, retro diner inspired interiors, or homes made out of Airstream trailers, well you can.
  3. Pare down your belongings as much as possible. This one is a hard one for many people, but what is the point of doing a massive remodel or upgrade, just to fill it up with “stuff” once finished? I’m not saying you have to get rid of Grandma’s quilt or Uncle Fred’s baseball collection, but do have storage solutions for the things you are going to keep. I have a collection of family serving dishes so we built a china cabinet into the kitchen cabinets so it can all be displayed and used. Referring back to #2 above, if you are changing your style, there is no sense in keeping things that won’t mesh with it. You can get rid of your old dishes and buy all new once your home is finished if you like. More importantly, if you are planning to live in your home during your remodel, you don’t need your stuff 1.) in the way or 2.) getting damaged. Keep only what you absolutely need for day to day. If your project will last several months like ours, make sure you keep your winter clothes handy while you are packing in late summer, otherwise you will find yourself cold and shopping in December (not that I speak from personal experience, ahem.) Be prepared to continually pare down your stuff as the project progresses. Finally, if you are planning to store your stuff off site, carefully evaluate whether the cost of storing that single-use appliance or collection of soup ladles is worth keeping them. For us, the answer was frequently “no” and the people at Goodwill knew our car by the time we finished packing.
  4. Work with professionals. Unless you are a general contractor, most people don’t have the contacts in the industry to hire all the necessary trades, schedule all the different jobs, arrange for city or county inspections, and manage the overall process. A licensed, insured and bonded general contractor is worth every penny. They will spell out everything in a contract so you shouldn’t have have any questions, and if you do they should answer them all. They also know lots of people and companies in the building industry, and can tell you who to talk to, and guide you to brands they have good experiences with. Any additional personnel you hire should also be professionals – architects, designers, landscapers – and should be able and willing to work with your general contractor to move the project along toward completion. When the trades work against each other it only creates delays and headaches. Finally, if there is an issue during the project your general contractor should be your advocate to ensure you get what you want.
  5. Negotiate pricing wherever possible. We worked with a local appliance wholesaler who would price match. You bet we searched every item on sites like Amazon and Best Buy. When we were researching tile for the kitchen, we talked not only to the distributor our contractor likes, but several others, and we did shop them against each other. No shame here, this is a major investment. Get the best price you can without being cheap or rude. Remember that the people you talk to at the wholesale houses just work there. If the tile you like gets discontinued before you place your order, it’s not their fault so don’t scream at them. Don’t forget that you get what you pay for, so be educated on the differences between laminate, hardwood, vinyl, and tile, for instance. If you buy cheaper supplies, you may have to replace sooner than later.
  6. It will be much more dusty, dirty and inconvenient than you could imagine. We were fortunate to have two bathrooms and the ability to split our project into two parts so we would have a full working bathroom throughout the project. However, sharing a small bathroom with your whole family involves coordination and patience. Try to keep routines whenever possible (for kids in school, work schedules, etc) but be flexible with one another. Keep the spaces you use as tidy as possible. Cramming your whole family into one bedroom can get crowded, and clutter will just make Mom and Dad irritated, leading to yelling and crying – no fun for anyone. There is very little privacy. Consign yourself to wearing slippers and/or shoes all the time – if you are like me and like bare feet, this is no fun at first but there will be nails, screws and splinters dropped on the floor. Drywall dust is pervasive and you will find it everywhere, even in the rooms you don’t touch. If your kitchen is being redone, consider setting up a place in your house for a toaster oven, microwave and coffee maker. This will be your kitchenette for the duration, and will help keep you more healthy than if you eat out every meal. Don’t forget that you will be washing dishes in your bathroom sink. If you enjoy wine, don’t be afraid to drink it.
  7. Accept that there will be delays and things may take longer than you expect. There will inevitably be delays. Things happen and there will be situations that are out of your control. We had a window get delivered in CO instead of CA and the extra shipping broke it. Getting a new custom built window delayed us almost a month. This is no one’s fault. The installation of flooring is precision work and should be done with care and attention to detail. If your contractor budgets 2 days to tile a 2000 square foot house, something is not right there. Some days we could hear the workers hammering but had no idea what they had done all day. While demo, framing and drywall are very visual and seem to go really fast, the detail work is slow but just as important.
  8. Draw a line in the sand on change orders. As you install wiring for a wall-mounted TV, you may be tempted to install wiring in every room in the house. If you did not include it in the original project, this is a change order, and change orders are what send well planned projects over budget. The new kitchen cabinets may make the unchanging bathrooms look shabby. If you paint the walls but keep the existing floors, the floors might start to look dingy. Prepare for changes during the project but agree upon a point where there will be no more changes. This will save you money and heartache in the long run.
  9. Be prepared to cut things from your project. This can be necessary if there is hidden damage exposed when drywall comes down, or previous work on your house isn’t up to code. Having a set amount of money is a blessing and a curse at times. You only have so much, so you need to prioritize how you spend that money. When it came down to it, we chose to replace large plate glass windows with safer tempered glass and we cut into our A/V spending. Health and safety come over in-wall speakers.
  10. Get to know your crew. We have developed a healthy respect for the various trades and the people who perform this work for us. Living and working here, we see them every day. Not too many people ever think about what goes into building or remodeling a home, but it is the largest purchase most of us will ever make. Know the people who are helping to make your house into your dream home. Not only will you appreciate their workmanship, they will want to do the very best job they can for you.

BONUS ITEM – Take tons of pictures. Of course, you will take pictures! Take more than you think you will need. We have saved ourselves some pain long after the fact because we took pictures during the framing, plumbing, electrical, and every other stage. Once that drywall is up, you might not remember where the sheer wall ends, where exactly those pipes were set, or where the electrical wires wind through a stud. A photo can give you and your team a better idea when they have to make adjustments. If your camera can do a panorama view, take a few of those from the same location throughout the project. It is fun to see how that space changes over the months. We used a time lapse camera for some parts of the project, such as framing, drywall installation and flooring. It really works best in a large space. We also did monthly video recordings updating what had happened in the previous month. These will be fun for us to review in the future.

I hope that these tips help you as you prepare for your remodel. Make it as enjoyable as you can so that once the project is concluded, you will have many happy memories of it coming together. For some fun, check out my Instagram feed for pictures of stucco going on, custom cabinets getting installed and more.

Quitting Zyrtec

A long time ago, when I was single and had roommates, we had several cats. I had two to begin with, then took on a roommate who had two and then got a third, and then we got another roommate who had one cat. Yes, we had six cats in our three-bedroom bungalow.

For some reason, four of the six liked my bedroom best. I have always been mildly allergic to cats, but four of them hanging out in my room was just too much. I was itchy all the time, watery eyes, sneezing, etc. my doctor put me on Zyrtec (ceterizine). At the time it was prescription only, and it was a lifesaver for me!

Eventually, the herd thinned by way of roommates moving out and I was back to my own two cats. I tried stopping the Zyrtec, but got really bad itching, so I figured I had been overwhelmed with all the allergens and was more sensitive than I used to be. Thankfully, Zyrtec became an over the counter item you could buy at the local drug store and very affordable. I wasn’t terribly concerned and my doctor wasn’t either. She agreed that I could continue to take it due to my cat allergy.

Flash forward many years. I no longer have cats. They have gone the way of the big litter box in the sky and I don’t want to get another one because of my allergies. After my second cat passed away (at 20 years old, I may add), I waited a full month, cleaning and vacuuming diligently to remove all dander and hair, before I stopped taking Zyrtec.

After a few days, I was intensely itchy. Like, ants in your pants itchy. Someone put itching powder in my clothes itchy. My scalp itched. The insides of my elbows itched. The palms of my hands itched. The soles of my feet itched, no lie. I went back on the Zyrtec because I could not bear it! It didn’t seem right though, so I did something I rarely do, and that is consult Dr. Google. I don’t usually trust Dr. Google because there are a lot of people who are not medical professionals who are trying to advance their theory on X medicine or whatever. But, this time, I discovered that LOTS of people have had difficulty stopping Zyrtec. The general side effects are intense itching and an increase of congestion, among others.

It makes sense when you think about it. Zyrtec is a histamine blocker, meaning it stops you from sensing any histamines, and histamines are the things that make you itch, among other things. Doctors do not tend to recognize a withdrawal syndrome from Zyrtec for some reason. While it can happen with any allergy medication, it seems like the Zyrtec withdrawal is the worst. Many people online complained of these intense side effects after taking Zyrtec for a month, six months tops.

I took Zyrtec for 17 years.

Holy cow.

The cold turkey method would just not work! Zyrtec tablets are scored so you can cut them in half. While I considered doing that and then weaning myself off, I tried a slightly different method. I switched to a generic brand of Claritin (loratidine). I took this for about a week, then I changed to every other day for about a week. Then I stopped taking it.

Day 1 I was itchy, but nothing like the Zyrtec withdrawal itchiness. Day 2 it was less. Day 3 I noticed I was more congested but less itchy. It has been a week now that I haven’t taken either medicine, and I feel confident in saying that I don’t need to ever again! On the off chance I will be going somewhere that has cats or certain plants that bother me, I will perhaps try a non drowsy Benadryl and cortisone 10 for any itching on my skin. I don’t want to become dependent on a medicine again!

So, this is my experience with quitting Zyrtec. If you found this blog because you too are trying to quit Zyrtec, I can honestly say “I feel your pain, I know what you are going through!” Stick with it, though. If I can stop it after 17 years of use, you can do it too. I wish you all the best!

 

Parenting 70s style?

I understand that everyone’s experience is different, but I am getting a little tired of the proliferation of articles comparing childhood in the 70s to childhood today. Parenting blogs glorifying the disco decade and lamenting how horrible today’s kids are seem to be missing the point. The 70s were not some Garden of Eden for children, the same as children today are not all tiny megalomaniacs. If a contemporary parent allows their kids to slack on chores, dictate what the family does on the weekend, speak disrespectfully or demand expensive possessions, it’s not because the 70s were wonderful. It’s because the parent allows it, end of conversation. There were rude, entitled little assholes in the 70s, too.

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Super safe bike jump

Yes, my 70s childhood was great – we played outdoors, read books, made up games, rode bikes without helmets, and did our chores. With the exception of the bike helmet, my kid does the same things, plus she is smarter, has better opportunities, and can be expected to live a longer, healthier life. She can’t conceive of riding in a car without a seatbelt or attending a gathering where all the adults smoke in the house and around the kids.

The next time you are tempted to shout “This, right here!” after one of those “the 70s were wonderful” articles, just remember what we had to wear, disco music, there were 7 channels to watch, and Corinthian Leather hadn’t yet been exposed as plastic. We lived with the possibility of a Russian nuclear attack, soaring inflation and an evolution of the two income family as a requirement rather than an optional status. A cancer diagnosis was a death sentence, and gays and minorities were routinely discriminated against, harassed, and assaulted. It wasn’t a perfect world by any stretch. However, the values we learned in the 70s are no different from what parents today have the ability to teach their children, but in some cases, choose not to. It doesn’t have to do with the decade, but with individual parenting choices.

In 30 years, there will surely be articles lamenting the way midcentury children are being raised and comparing them with millennial children. Hindsight is not only human nature, it is also a romanticization of how things were. Let’s not fixate on how parenting happened circa 1975, but instead focus on what we parents can do today to raise our children to be good people. If that means letting them have the more expensive shoes or clothes, that’s your choice to make, but own it as YOUR CHOICE. Don’t blame trends, or parenting blogs, or even the good old days. You are the parent your child will blame while they are in therapy. You are the parent they will either emulate or do the opposite of when they are raising their own little people.

It is easy to get caught up in the parenting one-upmanship (and I guarantee our own parents struggled with these types of issues too, but they managed, even during the wasteland of no internet during the 70s and the yawning decades of no tech before that) but please, resist if $200 toddler sneakers aren’t the right choice for your family. Want them to appreciate their privileges? Make them work for them, volunteer at a shelter, mow the lawn, whatever is the right thing for your family. Choose to raise your kids with the values you want them to have. Just because you have internet doesn’t mean they get to use it 24/7/365. They will appreciate your efforts as adults when they are hearing from other parents about how spoiled and undisciplined, outspoken and rude children are becoming; they will have the secret weapon of good choices in their arsenal to raise your grandchildren to be good people.