Helen and Teacher

Helen and Teacher
The Story of my Life

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Charlie Brown Christmas

It's on tonight.  Remember the first time you saw it?  You might have been six, and tree smelled like pine, and the large bulbs glowed a halo into the room.  Your family was there, and there were stockings hanging, and carols filled the air everywhere you went. 

That isn't the case any more.  In this sad, dangerous, and dreary world, Charlie Brown and his friends mean even more to me.  In a year with no tree, or presents, and turmoil everwhere, the Peanuts gang brings back the happiness this season once brought.  I have to watch this and  the other specials, if only to be six again.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Big Eyes, "Big Lies," Walter and Margaret Keane

We didn't call them "Big Eyes" when I was little, we called them "Moppets."  I still have the paintings, prints, greeting cards, and dolls that featured the sad, big eyed children.  Other artists made them, too, I know, and some versions of these paintings featuring older children hung at Ben's, our favorite restaurant.

Sunday Morning today feature the story of the Keane's, and the fact that Walter painted nothing; Margaret painted and let him take the credit.  It was the early to mid sixties, and per "The Feminine Mystique" as Betty Friedan penned it, the credit for a woman's work went to her husband.  We call it fraud today, but really, this is more common than we know.

The dolls of Bernard Ravca were allegedly made by his wife, Frances.  She made a few smaller dolls on her own, but she is also supposed to be responsible for the realistic and fantastic needle sculpted and bread-crumb dough creations. Mme. Tolstoy heavily edited Count Leo's work, as told in Edward's "Sophia."  I have to wonder how much she actually wrote.  In the 80s, a California woman took the bar for her husband.  He had threatened her and placed her under terrible duress.  She dressed as a man, beat all the security, suffered because she was in the last stages of a difficult pregnancy, took the test, then had to go to the hospital.  She passed.

I remember writing an article for a magazine I and my then "insignificant" other both wrote for.  He hadn't finished his article, and pressured me into letting him take mine and put his name on it.  That was the begininng of the end.  No money was involved, and we weren't married, so I left.

Shortly after I came back home, before Walter Keane died, My aunt ran into him in hte Bay Area.  She was buying some cards by Keane, and he told her he was the artist. He signed them for her, and she sent them to me, so I have Walter Keane's signature, and his provenance that a lie was perpetuated.

Many dolls like Lonely Lisa were created in the image of the Big Eye kids.  I always thought they took after the Googleys, Kewpies, and Campbell Kids, but Margarate Keane didn't say this.  Besides, her children are sad eyed as well, where most ofhte Googleys are happy.

Still, I love my moppets, and can't wait to see "Big Eyes," even if the artist took being an "excellent woman" to such an extreme, but we do what we must to survive.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

New Book on Laura Ingalls Wilder

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography
A treasure trove of new details about the life and experiences of Little House on the Prairie creator Laura Ingalls Wilder and her pioneer family is offered in this book, edited by award-winning Wilder biographer Pamela Smith Hill and based on the author’s letters, manuscripts, and other documents from the time. Morris says, "Perhaps the biggest draw of Pioneer Girl is that it was written as more of a diary of memories, skipping back and forth as her mind saw fit, and it was not changed as the Little House ...more A treasure trove of new details about the life and experiences of Little House on the Prairie creator Laura Ingalls Wilder and her pioneer family is offered in this book, edited by award-winning Wilder biographer Pamela Smith Hill and based on the author’s letters, manuscripts, and other documents from the time. Morris says, "Perhaps the biggest draw of Pioneer Girl is that it was written as more of a diary of memories, skipping back and forth as her mind saw fit, and it was not changed as the Little House on the Prairie books were to add that little zing of which publishers are so fond. This is her story, stark, detailed, and wonderful, as she meant it to be."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Because Dolls Make Memories; Doll Collecting at About.com Newsletter

From Ellen Tsagaris, your Guide to Doll Collecting
A good part of the country has been blessed with early snows.  My heart goes out to the folks in Buffalo and elsewhere; be safe. This week,we have a variety of doll posts with all thoughts moving towards the holiday.  Soon, excerpts from "Creepy A** Humans; The Dolls Reply."  Happy Thanksgiving!  
Grodnertal with Provenance
Wooden doll provenance linked to Queen Victoria! The story of a doll once played with by the great Queen and Doll Collector herself.
Search Related Topics:  queen victoria  grdonertal  wooden dolls
In Praise of Souvenir Dolls
Great collections like Sam Pryor's, Laura Starr's, and Janet Pagter Johl's have been seeded by souvenir and tourist dolls, those small ambassadors of goodwill from faraway lands.  They are a worthy addition to any collection.
Search Related Topics:  international dolls  tourist dolls  souvenir dolls
Why not Everyone Collects Antique Dolls
You might be surprised at why some collectors prefer not to collect antique dolls, even when they admire them.
"Thrifty Treasures:" Discovering a Vintage Collection at Goodwill
A wonderful find gets better with great customer service. The dolls are now sorted and put away, some awaiting TLC, others ready for display. Thrift stores are still great places to find dolls, and buying them there does some good for others as well.
Search Related Topics:  shirley temple  gene dolls  softina

Related Searches
Featured Articles
Madame Alexander Doll Types
Social Media and Doll Collectors
Eight Hard Plastic Dolls
Christmas Dolls
Profile: The King of Dolls by Ljeposlav Perinic (1922-2005)

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Doll Collecting Guide
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Friday, November 21, 2014

Antique Doll Collector Magazine: Ho! Ho! Ho!

See below; is there a special Xmas toy or doll you'd like to share with use?  Please comment!

Antique Doll Collector Magazine: Ho! Ho! Ho!: Yes, it's nearly that time .  Many of us will be reaching for Antique Santas and vintage ornaments.  I'd like to share a few though...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Newsletter About.com

Those who get the Doll Collecting at About.com Newsletter; please be patient. There has been a glitch with publishing it beyond my control. You may read it on my blog, Dr. E's Doll Museum. at http://wwwdollmuseum.blogspot.com/ I am sorry for the incovenience. I did resend it, so you may get two copies.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Recent Memoir of my Own: Violets in October

Violets in October


I was walking to my in-laws the other day with my twelve-year-old son.  Always look down and up, I say, or you miss a lot.  In late October, there were violets growing and blooming along the sidewalk.  They are usually gone shortly after May; in fact, I used to populate my early May baskets with all color and kind of violet, and tried many methods of preserving them.  Seeing them this late in Autumn, all glorious purple in symphony with the red and gold leaves surrounding them on the ground made me uncommonly happy.  One of my best friends in the world was named Violet Ellen, no coincidence, I think.  Just the other day I took out a bunch of purple silk violets attached to a brooch to wear.  Something told me they were autumnal yet, and Mother Nature proved me right.


One never knows where inspiration will come.  My unlikely muse appeared this morning when I was watching one of my favorite shows, Sunday Morning.  Keith Richards talked about his life, and his phenomenal immune system and strong constitution.  Well, I supposed he would have to have one like that!  He began to talk about his lemon tree and gardens, and it turns out that he was “always planting something.”  I found that inspirational, and it made his music mean more to me.  Such a simple act, so fundamental and basic as planting to promote life, keeps people going and ties them together no matter who they are or what they do in life.  He, too, is an artist, and a craftsman, and a citizen of the world.


I dedicate this blog to my dear friend Francesca and her new husband Tracy.  They are a beautiful couple, and I’m very happy for them.  We, too, are now autumnal, but we continue to bloom as though we are in eternal spring.


My idea for the day is the Holiday cake.  I’ll start with Halloween, and move on to Winter, Christmas, even Valentine’s day [the latter is not my favorite holiday, but I love the color and trappings, the Valentines themselves, and the story of the Saint who gave the holiday its name].


For a Halloween cake, which I’m sure you’ve seen in cooking mags, and in Better Homes and Gardens and Good Housekeeping, start with a cake mix, usually chocolate or devils food, or use your own home made cake.    Then, use a dark fudge, chocolate, or smooth creamy frosting.  My husband makes fantastic frosting from scratch, but for “art projects” like this, I like canned, Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines, or your store’s brand, which can save money.  Look for sales.


For other ingredients, small gummi worms and bugs, any candy bugs or monsters, marshmallows, large, Lorna Doone’s, Pepperidge Farm Chessman, other squarish cookies like Vienna fingers, or even chocolate covered grahams or Fig Newtons, candy sprinkles in Halloween colors, food coloring, tubes of icing, cake decorations for Halloween, candy pumpkins, pretzels to make fences, etc.  Finally, chocolate wafer cookies are needed in large quantities.  You will crumble them, to make “dirt.” Think old-fashioned graveyard, ghosts, and tombstones.  My miniaturist friends and muses like Margaret Grace and Deb Baker, and the late Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Thorne would excel at this type of culinary activity.  Martha Stewart would have a few ideas, too.


Bake the cake in a large square or rectangular pan.  Glass works, and so do large, somewhat deeper cooking sheets, the kind used to make the layers of Yule log.  You’ve seen them on Julia Child and Jacques Pepin TV shows.  Bake according to recipe or directions. I leave the cake in the pan.  Let cool.  Ice with the dark chocolate frosting.


The, let the frosting set a little bit, and the fun begins!


You can use a photo or drawing of an old graveyard, or maybe you have a picture of a graveyard cake.  Arrange cookies like tombstones.  You can write names on them with the icing tubes.  Crumble the cookies and scatter over the frosting to make the dirt.  Create small fences, and maybe even a tomb or sarcophagus with the square cookies.  You can get creative and slice gumdrops for shingles or use candy corn or candy rocks here and there  to make paths and ruins and stone benches.  If you are artistic, you can make Marzipan figures and ghosts, especially for the tops of sarcophagi.  Talk to your friends who make gingerbread houses and terrariums.  Make ghosts by spearing or “impaling” [a nod to Vlad Tepes!] two large marshmallows together.  Arrange candy pumpkins in a pumpkin patch, and scatter gummi worms and monsters.  You could also use plastic and porcelain cake decorations, like the kind I buy made in France, originally made for New Years bread and cakes.  Voila!  Display.  This is a great project for the Blue and Gold banquet the boy scouts have, because there is always a cake contest.


If you want a vampire cake, use red velvet cake as the base and go whiled.  You could go very Goth with it if you like.


For Thanksgiving, there are tiny turkeys and pilgrims, or you can make them of candy or Marzipan.  Use food coloring to tint cocoanut to make “hay” to scatter and use pretzels to build cabins or make fences.   There are a lot of Native American art miniatures and little tables and pots and pans to create the first Thanksgiving dinner.  These can also be made of nontoxic bread dough clay, recipes on the net, or of marzipan.  Think Thanksgiving colors, if you can make little flowers, do it,  also, large bubble gum balls with some frosting or slivered almonds attached as “feathers” make good turkeys.


For Christmas, you could use any cake for a base, as you really could for Halloween, since the frosting will cover it, but I think that a red velvet cake with white frosting would be great for Christmas or Valentine’s day, even 4th of July depending on how you decorate it.  Follow same baking, cooling, frosting directions as above for Halloween cake.


For Christmas scenes, you can build graham cracker or tiny gingerbread houses, or use decorations like tiny bisque light up houses, great with an led candle inside, candy canes to build and make fences, [think Candy Cane lane], Dept. 56 or Lemax figures and miniatures to populate the top of the cake, mirrors or foil for little skating ponds, edible silver and gold dragee decorations, marshmallow and toothpick snow men with licorice gumdrops hats, all sorts of Christmas candy, doilies, or vintage cardboard houses.  Get some old Wilton cake decorating books, and if you are a lucky collector, Dennison crepe paper idea books to peruse.


For Valentine’s day, you can decorate with pink icing, tiny cake decorations, you can make stand up heart people with cake decorations or gingerbread magic.  Also, tiny cherubs and miniature marble columns made for wedding cakes, pink bridesmaid or Quincenera statutes, tiny Polly pockets in pink, etc, would make great toppers for a Valentine’s cake as well.  There are still candy Kewpies made and sold this time of year, as well as the great classic conversation hearts, which would make great pebbles for pathways or shingles.   Again, if you are good with marzipan, go for it.


For St. Patrick’s day, try a white cake colored with lime yellow or green food coloring.  You could also tint icing green.  Make a miniature Irish cottage out of graham crackers or gingerbread, and use the gold, green, and orange colors of St. Pat’s.  You can find all kinds of miniatures There are tiny pots of cold, and these could be made as well with a chocolate dessert cup filled with gold jelly beans of dragees.


For Easter, use any yellow, white, or pink cake, or use food coloring.  Tint frosting yellow or maybe lavender, and use the bisque light up houses and figures sold at Walgreen’s and dollar stores for Easter, or make your own as described above.  Miniature Royal Doulton bunnies are great additions to this type of cake decoration, or make bunnies of marshmallows and candies. Plastic and candy eggs abound to inspire you, as do miniature chocolate rabbits.  You could use Easter grass, or use cocoanut.  There are tiny baskets in craft stores and wooden ornaments, and even miniature Easter trees you could use.


For the 4th of July, use the red velvet cake, and white frosting, and look for Dept. 56 4th figures, miniatures of Uncle Sam, red, white, and blue Jelly Bellies and berries, make houses as described above, use marshmallows and tiny American flags. 


These cakes have become great family traditions, for us.  You could adapt the decorating ideas to cupcakes, or smaller loaf cakes, and they are great hostess gifts or pot luck contributions.  They are also good centerpieces.  You can make  them as complicated or simple as you like, and they are creative and can involve the whole family.


Other Holiday gift ideas for an handmade, thoughtful, but cost-effective holiday:


  1. Cut pictures from old cards to use as collage for new ones.  Punch a whole in them and use pretty colored yarn or ribbons to make a garland or individual ornaments.  They are also great to cut out as paper dolls, or to decorate gift wrap.
  2. For gift wrap, invest in some plain newsprint, which you can buy at Office Supply Stores like Staples or Office Max, and decorate with No. 1.  Or, use newspaper, B and W or the colorful funny pages and comics.  Plain brown paper decorated with dried flowers, bittersweet, holly, or evergreens is great.  Even fake florists picks work, and all the big craft stores have huge varieties already on sale.  Watch pets if you want to use  the bittersweet and holly.  The plain brown paper idea is also very Victorian.  Aluminum foil or Mylar paper is great, old wallpaper samples, and craft paper of all types.  Brown bags, either cut up, or used as decorated gift bags work, too.  Colorful or plain cellophane tied with pretty ribbons, especially silk, which can be recycled, are pretty.  I like to use lace as well.  If you are giving a large piece of linen or a towel, use it as a gift wrap and tie it all up with twine, raffia, or ribbon.  Save little toys and tiny ornaments to decorate packages.  Costume jewelry and beads work well, as do holly leaves and tried twigs glued on to look like winter trees.  I also like to make snowmen from cotton balls, a trick my mom showed me, and glue them on the package.   There are oodles of ideas for hiding gifts, or wrapping tiny packages within huge boxes to throw off the scent, as it were.  I also love gift baskets, and use all sorts of containers, especially pretty boxes or vintage tins.  You can also decoupage or spray paint what you want.
  3. Along the same lines, if there is a crafter in your family, go through your art/craft supplies, and create a craft box or basket for them.  I include pages from magazines I like to cut up and use, Victorian scraps, glue sticks, safety scissors, buttons, material swatches, little jars of beads and clay, small watercolor sets, colored pens and pencils, mini notepads, little sewing kits, pins, and needles, pincushions, you name it.  Most of these are things I have, or they are supplemented from the dollar store.  Etsy is also a good source for finding kits of these materials reasonably.
  4. Christmas ornaments with a lovely note or card are great office and hostess gifts.  Great Hanukah gifts are gold chocolate coins in boxes wrapped in blue Mylar paper.  Go to Marilyn Waters’ The Toy Maker site, just google it.  She has dozens of free printouts and projects for holidays, including easy boxes and favors for Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, you name it.  There are other sites for creating paper toys, cards, and book marks for Day of the Dead, Purim, Ramadan, Christmas, and Kwanzaa.  Waters also has plans for Halloween houses and toy theaters, as well as games and paper dolls, all in color, all printable.
  5. Select your favorite poems, write them, select images, and make a scrapbook for the holidays.  There are many images in public domain and clipart you can use.  Also, there are old magazine images and dozens of ideas from scrapbook stores or sites.  You can include recipes, or compile a cookbook, use family photos, etc.  You can also make calendars, albums or date books.  Kids love to do it, and it is a great alternative to the “Christmas Letter.”
  6. Go to the dollar store, flea market, or craft store, and look for sales like mad.  For about ten dollars, you can build a theme stocking or basket for a child or teen.  You can put together Nativities for older recipients, a neat purse with cosmetics or toiletries, a roasting pot with cooking utensils and mixes, a bucket with carwash and car care paraphernalia, etc.
  7. Vintage books, or dollar store books, stacked and tied with a pretty ribbon, also sold by the spool in craft stores and dollar stores, are wonderful for those of us who love to read.  They make great office gifts and contributions to silent auctions.  Check out Barnes and Noble, Borders, and  Walden, they are having more book and card sales than ever.
  8. Bake, and package attractively as described above.  Most of my gifts will be baked goods this year, made from my Mom and Grandmother’s recipes.  When I cook from their handwritten, hand compiled recipes, I feel like they are standing next to me, telling me what to do.
  9. Knitters and cricketers, do I have to say more?  Get moving!  Yarn is on sale everywhere, the dollar store has great deals.  You can do simple book marks for small gifts or stocking stuffers, edge hankies or doilies, you name it.  So, “Stitch and Bitch!”  You can combine knitting/crochet get-togethers with holiday parties, pot lucks, or tree trimming.  Kids can ge involved, too.  They can always make yarn dolls or ornaments wrapping yarn around Styrofoam.  Visit you local library book sales and stores for patterns, McCall’s Needlework and Crafts, and Martha Stewart Living magazines.
  10. Kits, all kinds of them, simple and complicated abound this time of year.  They can be made as is, used, or adapted.  Michaels has great one’s for kids.  Get them unplugged and teach them to use their hands.
  11. Having said that, there are digital programs and ideas out there, many free, for making family books and albums you “publish.”  You can also get these made at Walgreen’s and other photos centers.
  12. One of the best gifts I got from an office friend was a box of Christmas cards.  She knew I needed them, but did not have time to get any or make any.  See what someone needs, even if it is small like this, and help out.  Offer to decorate someone’s tree, or help with yard ornaments.  If you have the time, give an hour to baby-sit, promise to cook a casserole or covered dish [and do it!], take someone out to dinner, help with spring planting, etc., or with Holiday clean up if your recipient is hosting a gathering.  They will love you for it.
  13. Have a gift for everyone!  I mean it!  Drawing names is great in big families, so is limiting gifts to children, but you can always print a book mark, enclose a favorite photo in a card, fill a bag with someone’s favorite candy, gum, or mints, buy a box of twelve ornaments at the dollar store, and hand one out to everyone in your family at dinner.  I handed out collage jewelry and small ornaments as favors at my wedding.  Everyone loved them.  I also made candy bags one Christmas as favors, and included ornaments made and decoupaged from luggage tags.  People still talk about them, and I will do something again this year.
  14. Shop sales, shop all year, and put all in a plastic tub.  Think small, and use the prepaid post office boxes.  I go to all kinds of craft sales, rock shows, flea markets, and antique markets, and surf the net and old books for ideas.  I watch Create on PBS, and always have my radar on.
  15. duplicate the simple gifts in Little House on the Prairie, Little Women, and other vintage stories.  Include a copy of the book, or a Bibliomania or Web URL so that your recipient can read the entire story.


Even in a recession, the holidays don’t have to suffer.  It really is the thought, and a few well-chosen and printed essays on that subject, wouldn’t hurt to be included in someone’s stocking.








Tuesday, November 11, 2014

In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Inspiration Prevents Writers Block


            I suppose I’m a little perverse; I have the opposite problem most writers suffer.  I don’t get writers block.  Instead, I don’t have enough time or keyboard speed to write up all the ideas I have.  A good problem to have, I admit, in many ways.


            What prevents writers block for me?  I’m always open to inspiration. The whole world becomes my notebook.  For instance, my morning commute is about 25 minutes.

I use that time to think about writing projects, and to observe as I drive.  Last winter, while I waited to get on the bridge, I was treated to a sight I’d never seen.  On a cold, bitter January day, 4 coyotes crossed in front of my car.  They walked to the riverbank and crossed the frozen river, disappearing into the little island that dot the Mississippi in our stretch of the Midwest.


            I got a pretty good blog post for my blog on Green Living out of that one.


            I also like to listen to the radio.  I love all types of music, but I also like talk radio, NPR, old radio dramas, you name it.  For awhile, I had Sirius and luxuriated in the sounds of Marta Stewart Radio, Book Radio, The Halloween and Christmas Channels, and Neil Diamond Radio.  My girlfriend and I liked cruising down 23d Avenue just so we could listen to Howard Stern.  We went 5 miles out of our way for ice cream, just to listen to old Howie rant.  That gave me a lot of fuel for thought, too.  At one point, I wrote a post that was read on Morning Live.  My latest chapbook, Crazy Assed Humans: The Dolls Reply, was the result of an encounter I had with Tabloid TV and a book of poems I read on Kindle.


            Probably books and reading are my greatest inspirational tools.  I think I read ten books at once, and belong to two writers groups and one book group.  I never get tired of reading, and still like to go through the newspaper and magazines, even catalogs of all sorts.


            History books and historical novels get me to think, too.  I always second guess what I might have done if I were in that era.  Pretty soon, what I  think turns into a poem, or comes out of the mouths of my characters.


            By the same token, artists’ monographs are great places to get ideas.  Style, color, subject, all of them jar something in my writer’s brain.


            So, while I’d love to be The Madwoman in the Attic, tapping away, uninterrupted in my literary solitude, I know it isn’t possible.  My best ideas come from world interaction, and sometimes, I have to quit my books, to write my books.



Free Newsletter

Weekly Newsletter Doll Collecting at About.com;collectdolls.about.com.  It’s Free!!
I'ts a great idea to write a memoir around a favorite toy or doll, see, e.g., Madonna Dries Christiansen.


From Ellen Tsagaris, your Guide to Doll Collecting

 Happy Halloween Week all Doll Collectors and Enthusiasts!  There are lots of chances to find interesting dolls this time of year, I hope your spooky doll dreams come true!  Get out your witch, scarecrow, and Dracula dolls, and let the Pumpkin Heads Reign


Modern dolls sold at a farm auction. See what happened to the estate dolls I worked on earlier this year.

Search Related Topics:  auction  danbury mint  patsy


The Shelter for Misfit Doll is a wonderful site; I hope that The Little Dead Girl will refresh and add new material soon!

Search Related Topics:  shelter for misfit dolls  outsider dolls  folk dolls


Read about a doll club's pilgrimage to the ultimate doll store.


 An Amazing Portrait in Wax of the beloved queen and doll collector was a star in the not to distant past Theriault's auction.


Featured Articles:



Friday, October 17, 2014

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Miss Charlotte Bronte meets Miss Barbara Pym: Our Salute to More Excellent Women in TV Media

Photo: Antique Doll Collector Magazine
Miss Charlotte Bronte meets Miss Barbara Pym: Our Salute to More Excellent Women in TV Media: A quick salute to Aunt Bea, who could run the sheriff's house like a warden if needed, and still bake cakes for the church social, and t...

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Billy Idol's Memoirs, and Gone Girls

Scene fron Film Gone Girl; both photos are Public Domain Images
This morning on Sunday morning, Billy Idol discusses his new, "tell all" memoir.  I don't dislike the man and his music, but I could have guessed without the memoir.  Gone Girl's author Gillian Flynn got a lot of publicity for the new film based on her novel of the same name.  She also wrote the screenplay.   We have at home a large skeleton bride doll named Ophelia who sings "Fright Wedding" to the tune of "White Wedding."  It is too bad she does not have photo in Idol's book.   As for GG, I would like very much to see it.  Flynn's novels are really socio-biographical studies of the sociopaths next door.  Handy reading for us during our local election year.
Billy Idol, author of "Dancing with Myself"


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Of MMLA and Cincinatti

Cincinatti Museum of Art, photo by Ellen Tsagaris, 2012
I just returned from Cincinatti, where the 54th annual Midwest Modern Language Association Met. I was privileged to give three papers, one on Sara Crewe's Emotional and Financial Debts in A Little Princess, Rumer Godden's Debts to Children's Literature, and Debt as a Vehicle for Comedy and Entrepeneurship in 2 Broke Girls, Sex and the City and American Pickers. I will post papers and bibliographies here and on my other blogs. This was a clean, old world city, almost sparkling. I was through OH years ago, but did not get to spend much time. This time, we visited the Rookwood Pottery Factory and Museum, and the Museum of Art. We went to Findlay Market and literally entered another world, and found a real family owned Deli, and a privately owned Tea Shop. Small businesses abounded; it was really like being in a childgood neighborhood, only the corner stores sold goods from all over the world.

A few hints

As many of my readers know, I have been very busy with my work as an expert guid for About.com, collectdolls.about.com, and as social media director for ADC.  My plate is full, to say the least, and I love it. Writing and dolls are the two things I love most in life, and I am blessed that I have been able to combine them. Follow your passion, no matter what it is, and good things will come.  I had similar email conversations with my friend, the late Angela Wells, who was a writer for Mills and Boon and other publishers as well.  She was full of ideas, and one of the most talented and versatile writers I had ever met.

Below are some tips from ProBlogger, to which any can subscribe free on the web.  I like to use these posts in my writing classes, too.  I hope you get some ideas:\

Posted: 18 Sep 2014 08:50 AM PDT
There’s not much Darren hasn’t tried in the way of social media, and using it as a complement to his blog.
In this webinar (available in full to ProBlogger.com members), he outlines his method for success, as well as answering your questions about how to make the best use of this media.
Darren covers:
  • Where social media fits in your blogging journey
  • What hierarchy of importance social media should go in (because you can’t be across everything!)
  • How to find readers
  • How to build a presence
  • How often you should update your social media channels
  • Hints for scheduling your content
  • How much time you should invest in it
  • What your status updates should say
  • Case studies of status updates that really worked
And questions sourced from the ProBlogger.com forums as well as your inquiries on Facebook and Twitter. One not to be missed!
Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

Q&A: Your Social Media Strategy
Posted: 17 Sep 2014 09:26 AM PDT
Regular readers of ProBlogger would know that over the last 18 months, I’ve put a lot of effort into Facebook – particularly by building up the Digital Photography School Facebook page.
I’ve worked hard in that time to grow both the reach and influence of the page and while there have been ups and downs along the way, it has paid off in a fairly major way – with Facebook becoming the second-biggest referrer of traffic to Digital Photography School on any given day.
Dps facebook page
In the last year and a half I’ve developed a publishing rhythm on the dPS Facebook page that works really well. I publish five posts every day – two posts link to new tutorials on the dPS blog, while the other three link to posts from the archives (all from at least a year ago). Occasionally I throw in a discussion-related post but almost every post links back to quality tutorials on dPS.
Facebook seems to like what we do, as they seem to reward links to useful content. But more importantly to me, our readers seem to like what we’ve built with the page (which in turn helps Facebook like it too) and I’m hesitant to change up the rhythm too much.
I have experimented with more posts in a day from time to time, but five seems to be about right. When I’ve gone with more I get reader complaints that we’re posting too much.

Two Other Strategies Bloggers Are Using to Good Effect

At the recent ProBlogger Conference here in Australia, I had conversations with a number of Aussie bloggers who were also doing very well with Facebook and was interested to hear that my approach is not the only way to grow an effective Facebook strategy.
In fact I heard 4-5 bloggers say that they’d noticed that their page did best when they did a couple of things different to what we do:
  1. they post more frequently – while we post five times a day, some of the other bloggers I’ve been talking to publish up to 10 times a day (spread evenly through a 24-hour period) with little pushback from readers.
  2. they link out to other sites regularly – while at dPS we only really publish links to our own site, these other bloggers see increased reach and engagement with mixing up where they link to other people’s sites.
While I’m wanting to mess with the approach I currently have on the dPS Facebook page, I’ve been wondering since our conference how I could experiment with these approaches.

Why Not Start a Second Facebook Page?

Just over a week ago I was pondering the issue and wishing I had another site to experiment with Facebook on when it struck me – why don’t I just start a second Facebook page that relates to my site?
Most bloggers have a Facebook page dedicated to their blog – but what is to stop us from having more than one? Facebook don’t seem to have a problem with a user owning more than one page – so I began to wonder if there might be a benefit from having a second one to experiment with and potentially support my blog in a different way.
On the spur of the moment I decided to start one and quickly did so. I didn’t put a heap of thought into what to call it and impulsively decided to call it Do You Like Photography?
Do you like photography facebook
The idea was to brand it as different to ‘Digital Photography School’ but to be up front about the connection to the site.
I quickly set it up and began to post to it. This is what I’ve focused upon doing:
  • posing 6 posts per day – while only up by one on my regular page and not really much higher a frequency, I decided not to go with too many yet as we’ve been recovering from our conference and on a family holiday. I do plan to increase it gradually but will probably cap it at nine a day and watch how the frequency impacts the page’s effectiveness.
  • to this point all posts are ‘link’ posts that link five times per day to other people’s photography tips/tutorials. The 6th post a day links to an old dPS post. I want this page to be tied to dPS but to be more of a place to curate content from other sites. This has the benefit of being useful to followers but also build relationships with other sites.
Note: in many ways this second page is similar to what we’ve been doing on our dPS Pinterest page for a year now (it’s largely just us highlighting great content that we find on the web with a few pins to our own stuff too).
I linked twice to the new page from our main dPS page just to let our regular readers know it existed. I shared it with them saying that the page is for those who want more photography tips and tutorials in their feed that come from beyond just dPS. The response from these two shares was fantastic – I had many readers thank me for creating the page.
The new page has grown faster than I anticipated. It took just six days to hit 50,000 followers! Things have slowed down a little since then but we’re well on the way to 60,000. Obviously many of the initial likes came from our main dPS page but since those initial shares I’ve started to see other pages sharing our finds and there’s been some nice organic growth too.
I don’t have any real firm goals for the page at this point but really see it as a great place to:
  • experiment with a different strategies on Facebook
  • growing relationships with other bloggers in our niche by sending them traffic
  • expanding our own social reach/influence which will in turn send us some more traffic too
  • sharing different types of posts to see what I can learn that might inform our own content strategy down the track
The only cost of the experiment is the time it takes to update the page. At this point it’s taking about 15 minutes each night to schedule the next day’s posts. I’ve also seen some nice engagement and sentiment coming from followers and it has already sent some nice little spikes in traffic to my blog so for now – it’s an experiment worth continuing with.

Do You Have a Second Facebook Page?

I’d love to hear whether others have experimented with different Facebook pages? I’d expect that it won’t suit everyone but do wonder if there might be some benefits for some to do it – particularly for those with bigger followings who might have lost traction with Facebook in the last year? Maybe having a second page with a very different strategy might unlock some learnings for you!
Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

Friday, September 26, 2014

Memoirs of my Day in Hades

It is true, as I learned bitterly today, that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  And betrayals.  Perhaps I'll go back and fnish Part II of the Erzebet novel.  Perhaps I've had it with all the pretty little dollies.  I don't know. I'm beginning to understand about Virginia Woolf and the Queen's Doll House.  Ah, to be allergy free, and stress free, with all the world in the world and a big, roomy office, where I can write.  Alone. To be free.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog: Scenes from a Doll Show

Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog: Scenes from a Doll Show: Last month, I was able to attend a doll show I hadn't been two in over two years. I used to go regularly, since the late 70s. I found i...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Janet Coulter and Marie Fanakos

The 14th and 15th of August are bittersweet days for me. A young friend of mine, Janet Coulter, was killed on the 14th 40 years ago in a freak car accident. She had just recovered her health after being in the hospital nearly a year, and was riding home from her job in a fastfood restaurant. She was my next door neighbor's great niece; Charlotte, our neighbor, lived to be 106. Janet and I would write, and she would visit her aunt during the summer. She was from a little town in a very rural community. We talked about farms, and boys, and music. She still liked dolls, and the summer we were ten we played Barbies in twilight. We used illustrated books as backdrops for doll houses, some were books about dolls, and they made a great stage. We caught fire flies in jars, and let them go, and watched the sun set. I have a couple photos, her letters, and two necklaces her mother gave me, and the memories that are never far from my heart. My grandma Marie was born August 15th, a holy day commemorating the Assumption of the Virgin. She, my great grandmother Margo on my dad's side, and my friend, Rosemary, are the three truly good, guileless people I've known. They never lost their tempers, never were vain, never said a bad thing about anyone. Grandma Marie sufferred her whole life; as a child, she had no toys, and went to school at 11 to learn to be a seamstress. She wore black because her father died when she was a little girl. She sufferred from ill health, World War II, the deaths of two children, her mother, her mother -in-law who was her best friend, and the death of my Grandpa Steve. She taught me Greek, though she had no former schooling past age 11. She was magnificient with her crochet hook, creating her own designs and pictures, never using a pattern. She baked, but not Greek pastires, rather she made cherry pie and chocolate chip cookies. She loved poems, and cut them out with her pinking shears from Greek newspapers. She would make little books by fastening her poems together with safety pins. She married grandpa Steve through an arrangement, and they met in Paris. She had a complete French trousseau. After the War, they came back to Villa Grove, IL, and resumed their business, Fanakos Bros. Restaurant. During the Depression, when transients would come to beg for food, she would make them fried egg sandwiches and ask if they wanted mustard. She always crossed herself when she passed a church, and she heated our dog's meat scraps so he wouldn't eat cold food. Before I started school and everyone moved across country but for me and my parents, I stayed with her and grandpa Steve. It was the best time in my life. I helped her bake, and plant flowers. We took little walks, and she told me stories and sang. She never complained, even when she broke her hip in a car acccident the day before Christmas Eve that nearly killed all of us. No matter what pain she suffered, she never let on. She would just pick up a quilt, or her crochet hook. Grandma Marie was famous for disliking nudity. She cut the photos out of certain Nataional Geographics, and if I left a naked doll lying around, it would have dress sewn for it by morning. She asked my uncle, who was an artist, to paint outfits on the Greek Figures on the vases and plates my family collected. After the war, she and the rest of my family travelled. They brought back lots of dolls, and two of those started my doll collection. Grandma loved dolls, but never had any when she was little; she worked all the time, and they were too poor. She also wore pins on special occasions, and that started me wearing them, and collecting them. She died in 1981, and I miss her everyday. My grandpa Steve died in 1979. My mother, her sister,my great grandparents, two uncles, and that little aunt who died in infancy are with her. If there were prizes given for being excellent women, she would have won them all. I miss you, Yia-yia.