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!

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 RESTORATION OF ANA McGUFFEY – Marilyn Armstrong

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.

TOYS – CEE’S FUN FOTO CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

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!

IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TRUTH IS, TRY ART – Marilyn Armstrong

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?

RDP #41 – VINTAGE STUFF – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP #41 – VINTAGE

Each time I get one of these “Vintage” things, I think I should post pictures of Garry and I. We are definitely vintage, though today has been a yeoman’s effort at house cleaning — or at least cleaning the kitchen, living room, stairs, and foyer.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – circa 1928

It would have been less strenuous if Gibbs has not thought this was a great time to go swimming in the water bowl. Each time I cleaned up the gallon or two of water all over the floor, I’d turn around and there was another gallon there. And of course, the water bowl was all full of mud and the VERY clean kitchen floor had his muddy footprints on them. So you could say we have a thrice cleaned kitchen and hallway floor.

Qing dynasty rice bowl, typically used by field workers. The blue chicken is a cultural thing. The bowl is almost 200 years old — and it isn’t even close to my oldest piece of pottery.

This was the day I moved cabinets to get behind them (ew!) and under the feet (double ew!). Next time I have the courage of my convictions, I’ll move the piece in the middle where I store the pots and pans, as well as the dog, treats et al. It doesn’t get moved because it’s heavy. There’s a lot unloading of other things before we even think about moving it. Not an easy job for a couple younger than we and a huge job for us.

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

There are an awful lot of vintage things around this place, even discounting Garry and me as the primary vintage couple.

See the pictures for other vintage items and wave to us as the vintage couple who seem to collect stuff even older than we are. Old, older oldest?