The First of the Hopestill Clan

May I introduce you to Starr Hopestill? 

After making hand sculpted dolls for years, I decided to have a mold made of my antique Izannah Walker doll. How this came about - I was working on making my antique Izannah Walker doll  a new arm (not sewn to her directly) and a new foot (not yet attached - to be attached to clothing, not the antique doll). Anyway, as I was really studying Hope (my antique doll) so closely, I wondered what she might have looked like when new, with a different hairstyle, or skin color, etc. So I set off on a journey to have a mold made. Fragile Hope was NOT touched in any way with mold making materials - technology helped with that. It has been a years-long process to get from that thought to a reproduction doll, but I have completed that circle with this first doll of the Clan Hopestill. 

While I was painting this doll, with current events playing in the background, a classmate of mine from high school came to mind. I haven't seen or heard from her since high school (I moved away), but I remembered her as a beautiful spirit. When she smiled, she shined like a star. And so the name Starr. I will be keeping this doll for myself, at the advice of my friend Edyth O'Neill who is a long time doll maker and doll collector. But Starr needs sisters and perhaps a brother and some cousins. 

The Quirky Story Teller


The little wooden guy was found in a local antique store with the note, "from an attic in Searsport"...which tells you absolutely nothing about its age. He's very primitive, but he has a quirky little spirit. I asked for him for my birthday years ago. 

Who knows what his story is?  Maybe he was the first carving of a kid, or maybe he was created from an old float by an old-timer watching the shore. Or maybe he was created by an artisan inspired by old things. He's cracked and his arms don't go down anymore, so he always looks like he's telling a story. And maybe he is. This past year would include some doozies! 

For some reason, he always comes out on display in spring. 

Looking Back

 I'm going to be doing a Zoom presentation with the Dollology doll group. While pulling my presentation together, I searched through my blog for early works and when I did what. It was interesting to see how *busy* I was writing in the early days of this blog, and how infrequently I wrote in other years. In the quiet years a lot was going on with my kids before they both graduated from high school. Also, from 2009 on, Facebook got a lot of what would have been blog posts in a previous time.  This was a good activity to do on this gray Sunday morning in Maine, I got to see a timeline of the last 15 years. Here's a thumbnail gallery of some of the images of paintings and folk art dolls I saved to put in my presentation. In reviewing I could see the growth I've made over time as a doll maker and a folk artist. 

Designing a Match for my Izannah Walker Doll

For a while now I have been pecking away at making a matching arm and foot for my antique Izannah Walker doll. For the arm, I made a strap that goes across the shoulders, and the new arm is attached to that. My plan for the foot is to make a foot but have a stocking hold it on. We'll see. Anyway, in order for it to feel right, I've been tweaking the pattern. The tenth version got pretty close. I still see some things which could be tweaked, but I think I'm at the point of diminishing returns on this. I find when I keep needing to revert to an earlier numbered pattern piece that I've hit my mark in terms of design. 

The good thing about this process is when I am done I have a good pattern piece to use when making dolls inspired by my antique doll Hope. 

Chicken and Sausage Gnocchi Soup

 Chicken and Sausage Gnocchi Soup

The guys in my house like this and one of my son's friends ate 7 snack bowls of it. I use homemade broth. You can adjust depending on what you like.  I usually make this a day ahead, let cool, then reheat in a crockpot the next day.  It thickens up a lot. 


3-4 ribs celery diced

3-5 cups diced carrots

2-3 onions chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil 

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 tsp dried basil

1-2 tsp dried oregano 

12 cups chicken broth

4 to 6 cups chicken, chopped

2 precooked Old Neighborhood Hot Italian Sausage, diced and sautéed until browned 

1 can evaporated milk

(If you like it more milky, add another can of evaporated milk and reduce chicken broth)

Two 17 oz packs of potato gnocchi 

2-3 precooked red potatoes, chopped with skin

4-6 cups of rinsed chopped spinach

Saute veggies in olive oil until onions are translucent. 

Add chicken broth, chicken and dried herbs.

Cook on simmer for around 20 minutes.


Bring to boil, add gnocchi.

Take a little of the hot broth and stir into the condensed milk.This keeps the milk from curdling.  

Once gnocchi is floating on top, slowly add milk, stirring as you pour milk in.

Add chopped cooked potatoes with skin on. Simmer for a little while before cooling. 

5 minutes before serving, add chopped spinach, heat until it is wilted.  


2020 Holiday Spirit

In a past post on this blog in 2011, I shared this post about not feeling Christmas-y.  This is a tough year for so many people, for a million reasons. Discussions of lack of "holiday spirit" came up in a group I am in this year. People are really struggling right now. It's very hard. A few years ago, one of my sons started sneaking non-ornament items on our tree. Like Frosted Mini-wheats. And sugar substitute sweetener packets. Measuring spoons. Maybe sometimes adding some humor into the holidays helps?  

I jokingly said in the group, "Maybe we should hang tintype images of angry little girls as ornaments."  Humor can be a way to face challenges. Even in Christmas decorating. If you go to Pinterest and search "grumpy girl tintype" you can find some stellar images. 

Tales from the Molasses Swamp

Leslie from Happily at Home
graciously let me post this image.
Check out her archived sale here
for more images of this game.   

A repost from 2012:

Did you play Candyland as a child?  

My first memory of this game was playing it at a cousin's house back in the 60's.   It might have been a version very like this one, made in 1962.  I'm not sure what brought that memory to mind, but I was driving around town and could picture myself sitting in my aunt's living room on the floor of the shag carpet playing the game with my cousin.  

I was thinking how life is a lot like Candyland.  You can be hopping right along through the Gumdrop Mountain Pass and BAM  a few turns later you find yourself stuck in the Molasses Swamp, hanging out until you draw a blue card.   Sometimes all you can do is wait for that darn card!  In real life, I've been waiting for a few blue cards.  Nothing catastrophic, but stuff that slows me down none the less.  

Sometimes when we're waiting in the Molasses Swamp, we can choose to do something other than focus on the fact that we're stuck.  That's what the creator of  Candyland did. The Hasbro site states:  
Once upon a time, in San Diego California, a woman named Eleanor Abbot created a game. Ms. Abbot, a recovering Polio patient, decided to create an activity that would entertain children affected with the disease. So she submitted her board game to MILTON BRADLEY, who enthusiastically accepted it for production.
And generations of kids have played this game, all from the mind of a woman who used her Molasses Swamp time effectively.  Soooooooooo....I guess it's time to follow Ms. Abbot's lead....

I wish you all BLUE CARDS.  ;-)  
But in the meantime, use your swamp time well.


"Do not let what you cannot do
keep you from doing what you can do."

John Wooden


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