Mask Attire Thursday, Apr 30 2020 

Do you think this mask looks good on me? Does it bring out my eyes? Does it clash with my outfit?

Who could imagine that the #1 2020 wardrobe accessory would be masks? Every day, I’m at my sewing machine for a few hours sewing for my very large family. The masks aren’t particularly stylish, and likely, do clash with wardrobes. At some point, I may be able to make ones that are fun to wear or more attractive, but for the time being, the ones I’m making are functional and no-fuss with inserting liners. The option is to get at least one in everyone’s hands and on their faces.  

If you must shop for materials to make masks, be ready to hunt. Most fabrics and notions needed for mask-making are difficult to acquire due to high demand, limited inventory, store closings, and short-staff to fulfill orders. And be ready to wait weeks or months before supplies arrive, if you’re lucky enough to get them at all. Most frustrating, ordering often results in later notices that the item is no longer available after spending hours locating ones said to be in stock. If possible, order from your local family-owned sewing shops. You may have more success in getting what you want and will help to keep the business open.

Creativity with substitutions that don’t jeopardize the integrity of the masks is key. Tightly woven fabric, such as cotton quilting fabric, is recommended for the two outer layers. There are many suggestions online as to what can be used as a filter. Masks can be designed with a pocket to replace filters after every use or be fully machine washable and dryable after use. The object is to have several layers over the face without obstructing breathing.

It’s a good idea to watch a few instructional videos on YouTube before beginning. JoAnn Fabrics has several. Other videos offer ideas for substitutions.

A mask doesn’t take long to make, but it’s a tedious job. There are a lot of little stops and goes along the way. This is my favorite pattern. I use only quilters cotton fabric for the two outside layers and prefer flannel for the lining since I haven’t been able to get my hands on nonwoven interfacing.

I recently found that two layers of lining, which results when you fold your fabric in half as suggested, may be more protection but is too warm as the outside temperatures rise. I’m now cutting the flannel 7 ½ by 7 ½ and setting it in the lower half of the mask so when folded over, there is one layer plus a fold over to place the wire.

I sew a doubled piece of florist wire along the top to press along the bridge of the nose for a closer fit. I begin by folding an 8-inch piece of wire in half, then twist the two wires together, bend in the ends, and wrap the ends in a narrow quilt-marking tape that is like masking tape. The wire is placed in the crease of the fabrics folded in half and sewn around it to hold in place.

Ties allow for universal fit, but take a little longer to make, a little more effort to wear, and can get caught in long hair. The standard elastic ear loop is cut to 7 inches. 6 1/2 inches is a better fit for me and my daughters while many of the men in the family need 7 1/2 to 8, so make adjustments if you are making the masks for people you know.

If you can get them, purchase number 90/14 needles which don’t break as easily as others when top stitching. The thick, bulky pleats make it difficult for the needle to penetrate without bending or snapping. The best option I’ve discovered is to cut the liner about 1 ½ inches narrower than the outer piece, center it on the back of the outer fabric, and sew around all sides to hold in place. This eliminates having to get your needle through double layers of cotton plus the double layers of lining when pleating.

The process goes quicker if everything is pre-cut and ready to assemble before sewing. I line up my outside fabrics, liners, cut elastic, ties, and prepared wire before beginning. And I press often after stitching.

Once you do a few masks, the process is quick. I’ve made at least 50 in the last couple of weeks. I can’t say it is fun, but I also don’t mind it. The activity is meaningful, important, and like a little ministry providing a product needed by most everyone in this very unusual time.


Check out my last post on Midwest Mary, “Perfect Opportunity to Ponder,” and watch on my Author FaceBook page for upcoming virtual presentations.

Direct Sales: Your Business Your Way Monday, Apr 3 2017 

My husband, Marshall, used to say that sales is the one business that has no limits. You control your amount of income and the number of hours you want to put into your career.

When my children were young, I sold Avon and Tupperware. These companies allowed me to make some good money with the flexibility needed while caring for three little ones.

Today we have many home-based direct sales businesses to choose from. Along with some personal contact, such as home parties, most lean more toward the utilization of social media than door-to-door sales as Avon once did. But they all offer an opportunity to own a business, be your own boss, and make it as successful as you want it to be.

Every company has their own twist in this very competitive market. For example, Beautycounter offers safer cosmetics and personal care products. Pampered Chef is known for quality kitchen items. And my favorite, Young Living, carries a wide-range of pure essential oils. I promote Young Living while also pursuing my writing career, public speaking, and working as a trade rep for my publisher.  (If you decide to purchase or join Young Living, please use my full name as a reference – Mary Doyle Brodien)

Other home-based direct sales companies include Scentsy, Jamberry, Younique, tastefullysimple, 31 Bags, Norwex, Shaklee, Damsel in Defense, Stella & Dot, Rodan & Fields, Origami Owl, Lilla Rose, and Mary Kay.

Self-employment comes with as many challenges as there are rewards. If you’re interested in following the direct-sales path, here are some points to consider:

  • Will you be selling a product you personally use and value?
  • Is there a start-up fee or requirement?
  • Must you meet a certain quota?
  • Do you have friends, family members, and neighbors who you believe will be interested in what you sell?
  • Are you comfortable reaching out and talking up the products you sell?
  • Are you disciplined enough to market, sell, collect, and maintain records for tax purposes?
  • Do you want to work this business as your part-time or full-time employment?
  • If this is your sole income, can you support yourself when sales are low or non-existent?
  • Can you afford your own medical insurance?
  • Are the hours you hope to work this job doable with your current family/employment situation?

(To see my posts on topics relating to my book, go to Mary K Doyle Books.)

Essential Oil Pendants Wednesday, Sep 7 2016 


As you’ve read in previous posts, I’m a fan of high quality essential oils. They have so many uses to support health and happiness. I use them for everything from cleaning and air freshening to flavoring water.

One way to benefit from essential oils is by diffusing. Most often this is done with a small appliance that spreads drops of the oil into the air with or without water.

Diffusing is also done by placing a couple of drops of essential oils on cotton balls or a pendant and allowing the oil to penetrate into the air. Pendants made of clay look attractive and work particularly well. They can be made simply or intricately depending on your creativity.

I had fun making some of these pendents for gifts and myself. I kept the rejects-which were many-and hung them in closets, my car, lingerie drawers, the laundry room, and placed them in my handbag and luggage. They also can be worn as a necklace which offers a way to enjoy the fragrance of your choice all day long.

To make them, purchase clay that air dries, string, leather, or ribbon, and beads or stones of your choice. You also might want to look for stampers, but check around your home first for buttons, leaves, jewelry, or other items that can make a deep enough impression into the clay.

Begin by taking a small amount of clay and knead it until soft and pliable. Roll out to the desired thickness. Thinner pendants are easier to wear. Thicker ones are best for larger spaces like closets. Cut into desired shapes. Gently press stampers or objects into clay being careful not to spread the clay. Take a straw, chopstick, small doll rod, or other round object to push through the top of the pendant for a hole for the string.

Loop the string through the hole and then slide the desired beads onto the string. Another option is to glue a magnet on the back and use the pendant for an air freshener on the refrigerator door.

Allow the clay to dry about three days. Then slowly drop essential oils onto the pendant. Be careful not to let the oil run to the back which can mark your clothes or object you place it on.

(See my newly updated website, Mary K Doyle, my posts on Mary K Doyle Books and Saint Theodora/Mother Theodore Guerin and my Facebook author page.)



Sun’s Up Saturday, Apr 16 2016 


Finally, the sun is shining in the Midwest. We can have any weather in the spring-rain, sleet, snow, chilly, or warm-but these are the days we treasure. It’s in the 70s and everyone is running outside, waving to neighbors, driving with the windows down, and firing up the barbecue.

It’s also the time we get our first sunburn of the year because we forget about sunscreen. Actually, we should be using sunscreen year-round. We can burn even on a cloudy day since UV light passes through clouds.

Studies show that the daily use of sunscreen significantly slows the aging of skin and lowers risk of cancer. Broad-spectrum sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher is our best defense. Anything less only protects from sunburn.

The recommendation is to apply a generous amount of sunscreen to dry skin 30 minutes before going outside. Be sure to cover all exposed areas including the head if hair is thin. Reapply at least every two hours and immediately after swimming.

(Beautycounter Protect SPF 30 All Over Sunscreen uses non-nano zinc oxide, which is an effective and safe natural mineral sun blocker, aloe vera for hydration, and green tea and blood orange extracts for antioxidants. Find yours here on my website.)

©2016, Mary K. Doyle

Do You Like Me? Thursday, Feb 4 2016 

How much do you want to ‘Like” Me? I have 11 Facebook pages. Not only do I have a personal page and one for me as an author, I also have one for every one of my books as well as one for my Beautycounter business. Some posts are duplicated but most are targeted to specific groups.

Please “Like” as many as you find of interest. And comment and post! It’s very lonely to post alone. I need your feedback to know if I’m on track with my thoughts and words.

Here is a list of my Facebook pages and the content you’ll find there:

  • Mary K Doyle – My writing and work as an author/speaker
  • Navigating Alzheimer’s – Credible information on dementia and caregiving
  • Hans Christian Andersen Illuminated by The Message – Faith and fairytales, especially those by Andersen
  • Grieving with Mary – Grieving and Marian devotion
  • Young in the Spirit – Aging faithfully
  • Saint Theodora and Her Promise to God – Saint Theodora and children
  • Seven Principles of Sainthood – Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, also known as Saint Theodora
  • The Rosary Prayer by Prayer – The rosary and Marian devotion
  • Mentoring Heroes – Mentoring
  • Beautycounter By Mary Doyle Brodien – Beauty products, beauty tips, health
  • Mary Doyle Brodien – My personal page for close friends and family

©2016, Mary K. Doyle

Expressing Sympathy Tuesday, Aug 5 2014 

“We have no words to express our sorrow.” Really? There are at least a quarter of a million words in the English language. Did you actually run out of all of them? After a death, we wish to express our sadness and offer a bit of comfort to their close friends and family. We say some silly things because we just don’t know what to say. We don’t know how to make things better. One of the most common sentences in sympathy cards is, “You are in my thoughts and prayers.” If you’ve experienced the death of a loved one, you probably received a stack of notes with this sentence. These, and other common expressions such as, “I’m sorry for your loss” or “I’m sorry for your troubles,” are fine to start with, but you might stop and think for just a moment. Begin by thinking about the person you are writing to and the one who passed away:

  • Can you say something kind about your friend or their deceased loved one?
  • Perhaps you have a fond memory of them that you can share.
  • Can you remark on their outstanding reputation, personality, or generosity?
  • Did the deceased suffer a long illness or die suddenly?
  • Was your friend involved in their care?
  • Can you identify with your friend’s loss?
  • Do you know of a Bible verse, prayer, or poem that is appropriate?

Expressing a thought imperfectly is better than not saying anything at all. Go ahead and use those common phrases if you can’t come up with anything else. But taking one more minute to think before writing or speaking truly can offer a moment of comfort to someone who is grieving.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Powerful, Little Green Drink Friday, May 16 2014 



My son, Joe, and daughter-in-law, Ellie, gave me their juicer. I’m not sure how diligent I’d be right now about using it, but they also gave me bags of washed, cut vegetables that need to be used before spoiling. The bags contain dark leafy greens, a hard fruit such as apple or pear, and carrots or beets. These bags show me what I need to continue juicing.

Using the juicer is easy. I just push in small bunches of the vegetable/fruit mix. The fiber goes out one end into the pulp container and the juice into a pitcher. The machine needs to be immediately cleaned which only takes a few minutes, and then the juice should be consumed while fresh. I like vegetables, prefer them over fruits, so the taste is fine.

The juice does not contain fiber, but the pulp may be added back into the juice or used in cooking, such as in muffin batters, soups, or pasta and rice dishes.

Joe and Ellie believe the high dose of nutrients from the juice benefits us in many ways, and studies confirm this. Raw fruits and vegetables offer 95% of the vitamins and enzymes our bodies need. The daily recommendation is to eat two whole fruits and three to four vegetables a day of differing colors. Juicing offers the opportunity to consume many pounds in only one 8-16 ounce glass. It’s unlikely anyone would eat that amount of food.

Juicing is shown to facilitate weight loss, increase energy, strengthen immunity and bones, and may even reduce the risk of heart disease and cancers. It’s a more natural method of acquiring nutrients than by taking a synthetic vitamin.

Doctor Oz has information on his site as to the benefits of beetroot juice. It says that the juice is one of the richest dietary sources of antioxidants and naturally occurring nitrates. The juice also may lower blood pressure. Either red or yellow beets may be used.

Although there are benefits in consuming the fiber, the pure juice of the beet delivers the maximum benefit in regards to blood pressure. It allows 100% of the phytonutrients to decrease pressure. One to two cups of beetroot juice a day is recommended.

A good juicing machine can be pricey, costing several hundreds of dollars. But Joe pointed out that the better juicers are less wasteful. They extract more of the juices. He feels it is an important point to consider when purchasing a machine. It also could save us thousands of dollars in health care.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Nana Loves You Friday, May 2 2014 

Do you talk baby talk?

When I talk to my little grandsons, I speak in the Third Person. I say things like, “Look what Nana has for you.” I don’t know why I do that. I wouldn’t call myself by name with an adult. I’m not going to tell my husband that Mary wants to run to the store or say to an employer that Mary wants a raise.

Perhaps it is because I want my grandsons to know my name. Nothing warms my heart more than to hear them call me Nana in their sweet voices. But according to linguists, I shouldn’t do that. Babies need to learn to use the pronouns “I” and “me” correctly. Language is confusing enough without us speaking incorrectly.

Talking in high-pitched voices though, is OK. Babies seem to respond positively when we speak to them in happy tones more so than in adult language. Elongating consonants and vowels in what is known as “parentese,” such as saying, “Heeeeeloooo there hooooneyyyyy,” and all the bright, happy facial expressions we use, actually makes an impression on their brains. Studies show that it helps them learn the words quicker.

Mostly, we just need to keep talking to them while smiling and making eye contact. That’s how they learn to imitate the sounds they hear. They also like repetition. Repeating common words such as “mama” and “dada” helps to spur language development. We also can imitate the sounds they make. In general, the more we talk to them, the faster they will learn.

Some people get carried away and use that “goo-goo, gaga baby talk” to their children. Experts say that although talking down to them in a silly way does not help them, it won’t prevent or delay their speech either.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle


The Art of Gift-Giving Tuesday, Apr 29 2014 


Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, Sweetest Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, anniversaries, hosted events, – so many gifting occasions.

Giving the perfect gift is a pleasurable experience for both the giver and the receiver. However, the wrong gift can be more damaging to a relationship than no gift at all.

Gifts have a psychological component that we naturally consider. A present that is overly generous or obviously cheap, tacky, or inappropriate promotes hurt and resentment. Receiving an extravagant gift can make us feel as if the giver expects more in return than we are willing to give back. Too little of a gift can make us feel unappreciated. And on occasions such as Christmas and Hanukkah when we receive gifts in groups, everyone becomes uncomfortable when the balance of gifts is drastically different  for one person.

Much is said in recent years about re-gifting, the act of giving someone else a gift we’ve received but do not want. It’s never OK to offer the gift as one we’ve purchased for that person, especially if the gift is damaged or opened.

Some studies have shown that men are more price-conscious and practical with gift-giving while women give gifts with emotional significance. This can get many a spouse in trouble. Few wives want a vacuum cleaner for an anniversary but a husband may be perfectly happy with a lawn mower.

Giving without expectation of anything in return is psychologically healthy. It’s also rewarding to see a receiver excited about a gift we’ve given them. The gift doesn’t have to be expensive; it only needs to be desirable to the recipient. Often the best gifts are very simple and inexpensive, like a bottle of bubbles for a 14 month-old or a special garden tool for a gardening enthusiast. The trick is in finding something we think the receiver would like.

When selecting a gift, we can ask ourselves a few questions about the recipient:

  • What are their interests and hobbies?
  • What makes them smile, relax, or excited?
  • What are their needs?
  • Is there an item that they would want but not feel they should purchase for themselves?
  • Is there something that can be personalized or designed especially for them?

And don’t forget about presentation. Pretty paper and bags, ribbons, and bows make even a simple gift feel special.


After all of that, there isn’t any guarantee the person will want the gift we finally select, but they will know we cared about them. The time and effort to think about them and their happiness, shop, and wrap for them will be evident. They will feel loved, and that is the best gift of all.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Shop the World Monday, Mar 17 2014 

In the middle of a major sewing project, my sewing machine’s light bulb went out. To you non-sewers, this might not sound like a big deal, but it is when you need that light to continue. I have a 40-year-plus-old Singer machine, so finding the correct bulb could have been a challenge. Fortunately, I drove a couple of miles down the road to a fabric store that carried the correct bulb and was back to work in an hour. Had I ordered one online I would have waited days to continue my project.

Living close to all of the major department stores as well as quaint boutiques offers a lot of shopping opportunities. Most of us enjoy a leisure day at the mall where we can see and touch items before purchasing. My guess is that there are fewer returns when we shop this way because it is clearer as to what we are getting. And if we don’t want our local shops to close, we need to frequent them and make purchases there so they can afford to remain open.

However, there is no doubt that online shopping has its perks. The ease and simplicity of shopping on tablets and smart phones is fun in a different way than in person. We can compare prices across a wider variety of items while comfortably in our jammies, if we so wish, avoiding crowds and saving gas and taxes. We also have those online reviews to help us make the best choices.

But those benefits don’t come without precautions. Here are a few steps to keep the experience safe and prevent costing us more than the price of our purchase:

  • Use familiar websites.
  • Look for the lock. That little icon of a locked padlock indicates a SSL(secure sockets layer) encryption.
  • Check the address. Secure sites start with HTTPS:// (not HTTP://)
  • Never email credit card information.
  • Never give your social security number.
  • Check your credit card statements throughout the month.
  • Keep your computer security up-to-date.
  • Never turn off your firewall.
  • Encrypt your home wireless connection.
  • Use strong passwords. Microsoft recommends 14 characters using a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Use different passwords.
  • Don’t put an unknown flash or thumb drive into your computer.
  • Hold down the SHIFT key when you insert a drive into your computer.
  • Think carefully before opening attachments or suspicious emails such as ones that say they are from ATT or Yahoo and instruct you to click to update but do not address you by name.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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