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.

Introducing Nobody

My husband and I have a funny fascination with Japanese and Korean pop music (aka J-pop and K-pop). I’m not really sure why we are drawn to these, but we also love some wonderful Japanese dramas and are watching a funny Korean show called You’re Beautiful (about a girl who poses as a boy to save her brother’s job in a boy band, what’s not to love??). This is on Netflix, btw. Our favorite Japanese drama was called Haru to Natsu, and chronicles the story of two sisters separated by the Pacific Ocean and recaps their lives after they are in their 70s. It was one of the most emotional programs we have ever watched in any language. If you can find this program, it’s well worth the subtitles!

As for the music, the melodies are catchy, sometimes to the point of ear worm level, and videos have high production values. Here are some of our recent favorites.

Nobody by the Wonder Girls

Bubble Pop by Hyuna

Sugar Rush by AKB48

Stereo Girl by Super Baby Face

Heavy Rotation by AKB48

I My Me Mine by 4minute

Troublemaker by Troublemaker (Hyuna and JS)

 

Gift Review: The USA Time Line 4D Puzzle

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A gift under the tree this year, this is a review of the USA History Over Time 4D Cityscape Puzzle model 40008, available from multiple retailers, including the National Geographic online store and 4DCityscape.com. The puzzle is intriguing, offering to teach first the order of westward expansion, then the order of statehood, and finally the great national landmarks in their order of creation or inception. The puzzle was a gift to Melody, but with 806 pieces in the base layer, she became frustrated and I did most of that part. The instructions say to organize the pieces by color and then put them together in the various territorial expansion. However, with Mexico and Canada being the same dang color, that was tricky, and as we all know, puzzles don’t always lend themselves to good organization! The edge pieces along Canada and the Pacific and Atlantic were often difficult to determine if they really matched and we took those sections apart numerous times during the assembly. We ended up working West to East on the puzzle because that’s just how the pieces presented themselves. Ocean was difficult, but we muddled through. The base puzzle has several different sizes and shapes of pieces, from large cross-shaped pieces to your standard small connectors.

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Once completed however, the base layer is beautiful and interesting. I didn’t remember the Gadsden Purchase and had not known the bit of land above the Louisiana Purchase had been ceded by Great Britain. Had this been the complete puzzle, I would have been satisfied. It took three or four days of an hour here and an hour there to complete. But, once the base layer is complete, there is a second layer of foam pieces in the shapes of the states. Users are directed to assemble these in the order of statehood, but that really didn’t work for us. We just put them together. :-) Melody was very involved at this point and was insistent on doing the assembly. The foam pieces for the most part are very sturdy except for very small states, such as Maryland with its skinny portion around the Bay and Alaska’s finger. These pieces easily became bent. There are four call-out sections for Delaware, Rhode Island, South Manhattan and Washington DC. The foam pieces were slightly warped in some cases, the larger the piece the more warped it was. I’m looking at you, Texas.

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The next series of pieces were the plastic landmarks to be inserted into the foam pieces. I have two gripes about this sequence.

First, the pieces are formed on the sort of plastic rails you find in model kits, which is fine. They are numbered according to the landmark poster included with the puzzle. Still fine. However, the font is so tiny as to be nearly indecipherable, and in some cases was not etched on the outside edge but inside the piece. This led to us needing a flashlight to first see inside the tiny figures and then hunt for the numbers. They are also not in any sort of organized collection, and I couldn’t really figure out why some were silver, some matte brown and some a bronze color. Weird. The Statue of Liberty is the only item that shipped separately and green. It goes without saying that one of our most recognizable landmarks needs no special instructions.

My second gripe about this section is that the poster offers no help in finding the location of the various landmarks on the puzzle. Yes, they are numbered on the poster and on the piece, but there is no number on the puzzle. The foam pieces have “placeholder” blocks in a beige color that are to be popped out and the plastic item inserted in place. The placeholders sometimes have an obvious shape (L-shaped buildings and round auditoriums, for example), but they are not numbered or named. Let me tell you, one lighthouse looks a lot like another when all you see are round dots in a sea of foam puzzle pieces lol. We ended up having to google many of the landmarks just to find out what state to search. With 93 landmarks, this part of the puzzle was both very interesting and very tedious. First searching multiple plastic rails numerous times since the pieces are not organized by number, then looking them up on google, then having to actually take the puzzle apart, remove the placeholder block, insert the item, then put the puzzle back together was a process. We ended up pulling out the landmarks for 10 items in a row, then placing them before starting over with the next 10. We placed the landmark on its corresponding picture on the poster.

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You can see that the names of some of these locations are sometimes rather mundane. I can’t tell you how many Old Grist Mills there are on google. The more we handled the foam pieces, the less tidy they were going together again. Some of the small tabs became mashed and wouldn’t lock into place after a while. One item just did not fit into the allowed space and we ended up accidentally tearing the surface paper forcing it through the hole. One casualty of the process of breaking out the landmark pieces was the Las Vegas sign. It broke in half unfortunately.

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The puzzle instructions also indicated that once the foam layer was made, it should be tacked in place using two sided tape. However, I do not recommend this at that stage. It was far easier to push the landmark pieces up from the back side of the foam pieces than mash them down through the top side. Plus, removing the placeholder blocks was at times a struggle because even though they were laser cut, they still had to be dug out of the larger piece, and some of those spots were quite small. The most effective way to remove the placeholder block and insert the landmark was by holding the individual state in our hands. This necessitated the constant disassembly of the foam layer of the puzzle. The kit did include some double sided tape, but it was so dried out it just flaked off its sticker sheets. Oops.

Even with all these sorts of nit picky complaints, we enjoyed this puzzle quite a lot. There are other 4D puzzles available for major cities worldwide, such as London, Paris and Tokyo. I think if we were to take on one of those other puzzles we would apply our learnings from this kit and probably be more satisfied. So, if you attempt one of these 4D Cityscape puzzles, I recommend the following order of assembly:

  1. Assemble the base layer by color but do the edges last.
  2. Organize the foam layer by regions but only assemble the pieces in general sections.
  3. Break out the landmark pieces and organize them numerically.
  4. Insert all the landmark pieces and then assemble the foam pieces into the top layer.
  5. Stick the foam layer onto the base layer if desired.