Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bird Seed Balls

I love birds.  Living in the deep-freeze we call Winnipeg, there's not many that don't migrate south for the cold winter months.  These hardy little guys have to contend with temperatures that are often around -30c plus a cold north wind.  I made these bird seed balls to help provide them with fat and nutrients.  I like to use bacon grease in mine (birds are tiny dinosaurs, after all!) but I'm sure you could adjust this recipe if you don't feel like saving a pot of stinky fat in your fridge for months.  Good substitutes for bacon grease would be lard or suet.  This recipe is very, very messy... but if you have all your supplies ready and laid out, and keep the mixture fairly cold, it can be made slightly less so.  I also suggest having some paper towel handy to wipe the mixture off your hands when you want to pop the bowl into the fridge to chill.

Bird Seed Balls
1 part bacon grease 
1 part peanut butter
2 parts vegetable shortening (softened)
berries or chopped fruit (I used wild cranberries)
wild bird seed
hemp cord cut into 12" lengths, folded in half

Mix the fats together.  Stir in the fruit, and then add enough bird seed to make a fairly stiff "dough".   Chill in the freezer for about 15 minutes or until hard.  Take about a tablespoon of dough and roll into a ball, squishing the hemp cord (folded end in the ball) into the middle.  Keep the two ends long enough to tie later.  If the mixture gets too soft, place it back in the freezer for a few minutes. Roll the finished ball in more bird seed and place in a plastic egg carton or other suitable container.  Freeze until ready to use.  
To hang these, simply tie a square knot in the hemp ends hanging out of the ball and place onto a twig or branch. 

Chickadees really love these.  It's neat to watch them hang upside down to eat!
I've also noticed that our red squirrel routinely makes off with at least one ball each time I put these out.  

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Customization Elation

I have finally become sufficiently excited about Blythe again to work on my dolls.  I'm not exactly sure what prompted this, but I think it may have something to do with all the lovely new models being released lately.  I figure if I'm actually using the ones I have, why not get another one?  Justify, justify...
Things have been going alternately well and ill, depending on which model I'm working on.  My AE (Syrie) has been the easiest to work with.  I've only done light changes to her, most working on her hair and sand-matting her face.  Her hair is... a challenge.  It looks great in photos, but is still frizzy if touched too much and feels, well, gross.  The sand-matting went really well, as it had for my RRe.  I find it to be one of the easiest and most dramatic customizations you can do.  It completely changes the look of your doll.  I use 800 grit sandpaper to take off the shiny finish, using light pressure while moving in a small circular motion over the entire head.  I prefer paper to the sanding pads recommended by Puchi Collective, but the tutorial on their site is excellent.  After sanding I always buff lightly with a clean cotton rag to get a semi-matte finish. 
Here's some before and after shots of  Syrie to show the difference.

On the other hand, Nouvelle, my RRe, has proven to be much more of a challenge. I wanted to change her eyelashes... which I decided I needed to open up her head to do. The RRe is an SBL model, which means this is a lot of work. The "traditional" method for opening an SBL head requires scalping the doll and then sawing the plastic dome inside to separate the face plate from the rest of the head. I had heard talk online that it's possible to open SBL heads without sawing, and decided to try the "new" method. Scalping was pretty easy. There was no glue to speak of and the flanges all came out completely in tact. However, pulling the flange out did snap one plastic bit of the gutter in the front - yikes. The next step is to release the eye spring (no problem) and remove the body (accomplished with a bit of work) then soak the head in hot water to soften the glue holding it together. Then you are to pry the pieces apart and go on your merry way. This was not how things worked out. After much soaking and even more prying, wiggling, and swearing, I still have a fused head. I am sorry to say that I did become rather impatient and put several gouges into the plastic along the seams prying with a screwdriver (I'm guessing that's frowned upon in dolly circles, ha,ha).   I'm hoping I can sand these out later. I did get all of Nouvelle's eyelashes removed, hooray, and I am still determined to perform the lobotomy. I just need to rest my tired hand muscles and rebuild my patience a little so I don't smash her open with a hammer.
I will call this "a learning experience", rather than "a clusterfuck" and move on. By which I mean buy more dolls.