WINDOWS ON MY WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Windows On My World

My big windows on the world all need cleaning. the ones in the back are easy because you can stand on the deck and just wash them, but the ones in front of the house are two stories up. The ground in front of them is soft and muddy from the constant rain and someone stole our two-story ladder. Eventually, they will become sunglasses … or I’ll have to hire someone to clean them. Not this year, though. Or next. Too many other things need doing.

I am in the middle of a mental muddle.

I have a big collection (not, fortunately, as big as it used to be!) of antique Asian art and hundreds of dolls from the 1930s through 1970s, all in pretty good shape. Some are still rather new, tags and all.

No one wants the pottery, which is heartbreaking. To me, these are pieces of the past. I hold one of these pieces and I can see the world in which they were born. I wonder how many hundreds — thousands? — of people have held them and in how many homes they were things of beauty. But unless I can find homes for them, these irreplaceable pieces will disappear from the world forever.

When you get to my age and the age of my friends, no one is collecting. Everyone is trying to find homes for things because we are suddenly sharply aware that we aren’t going to live forever and those pieces of porcelain aren’t going to live forever on the mantel or the shelves or cabinets. The idea of all of these things going to some big dumpster makes me a little bit sick.

Seriously: if you know someone who wants them, free, no strings, please let me know. I’ve run out of local places with room for them and my friends are my age and don’t want more of anything.

Does is really matter if the world has one more Han pot or Tang horse? I don’t know.

What about all the dolls of youth. Toys represent the world in which we live more than anything except maybe books. They show how we viewed children, especially girls and their roles in the world. I would love to know they will survive!

SWEET SUE IN PINK – Marilyn Armstrong

American Character was never as popular a doll maker as Tony or Madame Alexander … or for that matter, Barbie or even Ginny. But American Character dolls had the sweetest faces of any dolls of that generation. They were all so lovely. In my house, they still are.

Their best-selling doll was “Sweet Sue” of which this is an original. She was extremely popular from the early 1940s until the end of the 1950s when high-heeled fashion dolls became the trend.

Okay, let me rephrase. The doll is original. Her hair is original, but her clothing was shredded. I bought her a made-to-order dress. I also made her a hat because Sweet Sue always wore a hat and usually one with flowers.

Quite a few of these days came through my world and most of them, I sold, but this one, because she was not as valuable (her clothing was not original), I kept for myself.

She lives on my dresser along with two Cissy dolls from Madame Alexander and one Princess Elizabeth (as the child Queen of England), also by Madame Alexander.

I have many other dolls in the room, but Sweet Sue is my favorite with her lovely face and gentle smile.

Also, the hat is pretty cool, isn’t it?

DOLLS IN FASHION – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Fashion

I have no fashion worth discussing — but my dolls are well-dressed! I need to take better pictures, but there are so many. I get discouraged looking at all of them.

THE CLEANSING OF THE DOG – Marilyn Armstrong

It costs $60 to get one of our dogs groomed. With three grimy dogs, that comes to a chunk of change and I couldn’t do it. Usually, I manage to find the money somewhere, but this time, there was no hidden money.

Really, we can only wash Bonnie because she is small enough to fit in the kitchen sinks (one end in each sink). Gibbs is too big and too crazy, while the Duke is completely wacko and also way too big. In any case, Bonnie is always the dirtiest of the three. Something about her relatively soft coat and its curliness, but it attracts mud and bugs and poop and things I can’t even talk about in public.

About a week ago, I pointed out to Garry that lacking the money, we were going to have to give Bonnie … a bath. He didn’t look happy. I’m sure I didn’t look happy either, but what must be, must be. This morning, pre showering, we put her in the sink and with a mixture of Dawn for cleansing, Suave for conditioning, the big kitchen scissors, my bamboo comb, and a big blue Turkish towel, we set to do it.

Bonnie was surprisingly calm. Maybe I got the water the way she likes it (tepid) and after all the kids I’ve scrubbed, managed to keep the soap out of her eyes, but she was surprisingly cooperative. The major problem was maneuvering her so the right piece of her could be scrubbed, conditioned, and thoroughly rinsed. Then I had to comb her.

I am not a groomer. When I meet a matte, I cut it out. Actually, I had to cut off a lot of her coat. She’s a Scottish Terrier and her resemblance to a small black sheepdog was purely coincidental. Normally, she gets clipped rather than cut. I do have clippers, but they aren’t the expensive ones like groomers use and they get too hot. Both of us got burned. So it was me and the scissors. I’m proud to say I got her ears looking more like Scottie ears than the groomers usually do … but the rest of her? Well, it is shorter and a lot cleaner. Is it neat and even?


Is it smooth and shiny?


Does she smell better? She smells so delicious that the Duke was filled with lust. Bonnie was not filled with lust and tried to remove his nose. The Duke decided maybe not. Gibbs was just really really happy it wasn’t HIM getting The Bath and I was happy it wasn’t the Duke in the sink. When I finally finished clipping and combing, Garry looked at me, suggested he should clean up the kitchen and I could take a shower. I probably looked about as slimy as I felt. I’m not sure that all the dirt on the dog somehow transfers to the human doing the washing, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

I did not, as they groomers do, preserve all of Bonnie’s very long beard. All it does it get full of food and mud (she’s a digger — head down straight into the mud). But oddly enough, she looks pretty good. I’m sure any professional would sneer at my efforts, but the odeur de doggue with which she normally imbues this household has been reduced by a good 75%.

And she looks clean and cute. No longer the kind of grimy mess that makes you wonder if it’s safe to touch her without rubber gloves.


I collected dolls for years. Collecting is easy. Restoring is more of a challenge. Before I gave up collecting, I learned to restore my old dolls.

Portrait of an old doll.

Up front, let me say that I’m not crafty. I can’t sew, crochet, knit, or carve. I can’t change the cartridges in my printer. I can write and I can take pictures. I can draw a bit. And I can cook. Otherwise, I’m pretty much a washout as a craftsperson. But I collected dolls for years. If you collect, there are things you need to do yourself because even if you have lots of money, finding someone else to do them is difficult … maybe impossible. I learned because I had no choice.

This is the best work I did. After Ana McGuffey, I pretty much stopped collecting and promptly forgot everything I ever knew. Use it or lose it.

Composition was the material favored by quality dollmakers such as American Character and Madame Alexander before the 1940s when hard injected plastic became the material of choice. The changeover from composition to hard plastic was gradual. Some composition dolls were produced as late as the 1950s, though not many.

Ana McGuffey – 1946 – Mme. Alexander – Doll’s faces are intended to embody the “adorable” factor of real toddlers.

Composition is basically sawdust, glue, varnish, and paint.  It is a very good molding material, but it disintegrates over time. Dampness rots it. Excessive heat will destroy it. Time will have its way with it. Many dolls I love are old composition dolls. Finding these dolls in pristine condition can be impossible. If available, they are costly. Lacking money, I decided to learn to fix them. Old composition dolls in a state of deterioration are not difficult to acquire. If you can repair them yourself, you can get rare dolls for short money … but you will invest many long hours of yourself.

Ana McGuffey 4

Ana McGuffey (of the reader of the same name) was one of Madame Alexander’s most popular character dolls for decades, from the 1910s through the 1940s. Although her face changed with the times, she always had her hair in braids. She wore a pinafore with a floral print dress. Stocking and buttoned shoes.

I finally got a 20″ Ana McGuffey. Half of each foot was rotted away. The paint on her face was chipped and faded and her wig and clothing were gone. She was in pieces and needed restringing.

I replaced her feet by modeling them using a clay-like epoxy material. This stuff is used for modeling all kinds of stuff. It’s difficult to use but forms a very hard, resin-like substance when it dries.

I restrung her, repainted her face — many failed attempts before I got it sort of right. I found a wig that looked like her original, though not the same material.

Her original wig was made of mohair. While you can get mohair wigs for restoring dolls, they are frightfully expensive and not particularly durable. I also don’t like the way they look, so I went with modern polyurethane. I made the dress and pinafore. This is not an area in which I excel, but no one was making clothing for this doll. It was me or no dress. I could easily get dresses that would fit her, but they wouldn’t look like her original clothing. I wanted Ana to look close to her original.

Ana McGuffey – 1948 by Madame Alexander

She also needed a flowery straw hat and I’d gotten pretty good at buying plain hats and decorating them. I found the stocking and shoes that sufficed, though they weren’t quite what I wanted. I haven’t mastered making shoes, but all things considered, I’m proud of this piece of work.

This is Ana McGuffey, Madame Alexander, circa 1930 – 1940. Restored by me.


Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Things People Play With

By the time you hit your retirement years, “play with” can take on an alarming tone. The problem is that our taste in fun has not changed, but we have. So even though we used to love formula racing, our aging bodies might not be up to the split-second timing required to handle them.

Some of us collect miniatures or just plain collect. Others of us see for a less perilous path to entertainment, foregoing mountain climbing, NASCAR racing, and deep-sea diving.

Then there are the rest of us who never did that in the first place. We have to give up other things, like powerful hallucinogenic drugs which don’t work well with pacemakers.

Fortunately, there’s a whole world of other stuff to try.

I play with cameras. Photo: Garry Armstrong

Garry plays with cameras, too

I play with Robbie.

I play with dolls

And we both play with dogs!


Weekly Photo Challenge: Work of Art

We have tons of art in the house. I like to think we also have a fair bit of truth, but if no one seems able to define truth, how in the world do you define “art?”

Is that the stuff which is just pretty but serves no “useful” purpose … or is it anything that has a certain eye-appeal, no matter what you might want to call it.

Monochrome with red dress

I collected dolls for years and antique Chinese porcelain … and for a long time, teapots and other oddities. Some people find the dolls creepy. I love them. We have paintings and photographic prints and small items that really are pretty, but currently (in this world) useless.

Is anything that makes you feel better about life not serving a useful purpose? If it makes you feel good, isn’t that enough?

I don’t know how people manage to live in houses without any art or pictures or prints. Don’t they need the color and the motion? Something to tickle their fancy?