Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Twixmas Part III - Wiiiiiiiiiiiiii!

I mentioned toys (plural) in my last post.

Perfectionist Partner was the lucky recipient of a Wii (pronounced 'wee') games console, Fit board and various games.

What they never tell you when you get these things, is just how difficult and time consuming they are to set up and that a PhD in electronics is a minimum requirement.

We unpacked the various boxes and identified the various components and multifarious cables along with the voluminous instruction manuals, one of which was optimistically titled 'Quick Start'


Even Small Dog got in on the act and offered to help, but she was just as bamboozled as we were.

PP almost put her back out, dragging our television out of the corner so we could more easily assess just which plugs went where. I would mention here that the back of our tv resembles nothing so much as knitted spaghetti, with wires and leads all over the show so making any sense of it was hard going.

One hour later, after I'd unearthed the tv instructions we discovered a set of plug sockets we never knew existed, on the side of the tv would you believe?

Some time after that, while we were convinced it was all connected properly, and all the little lights which should be winking at us, were, we were still unable to find a channel on the tv which showed the Wii welcome screen.

More perusal of the multitude of button and switches which festoon the tv suddenly produced the correct channel/screen but of course, having been pressing every conceivable combination of buttons for 10 minutes, we had no idea which particular buttons press and in which order.

Anyhoo. No matter. We were connected and firing on all cylinders.

One of the things you have to do first, is create your own little virtual character, called a Mii (pronounced 'me'). You get to choose a face, hair style, hair colour, all manner of clothing and accessories, give your Mii a name etc.

It's all very Twii

Impatient to get started, bearing in mind it had been several hours since we opened the box, we chose a generic Mii and started to play.

A further several hours later and we'd had a go at boxing, fishing, shooting, table tennis, and a whole host of games designed to help you get to grips with the remote control thingy, which controls the movement of your Mii.

Predictably we were complete rubbish at almost everything, except I discovered a hitherto latent skill at riding on a knitted cow going at full pelt, knocking down scarecrows and jumping over fences. You will just have to take my word for it that the game is hilarious. This is mainly because the cow steers...........well..........like a cow.

However, despite that, for some reason I seem to be quite good at it.

Careering round the course at top speed, riding bareback on a knitted cow, scattering scarecrows in my wake, avoiding (mostly) various obstacles, and flying gracelessly over gates and fences seems to be what I was born to do.

Indeed I was so taken with the whole thing that I couldn't resist yelling 'Yeehaaah!!!' at the top of my voice at every available opportunity throughout the game.

I think I may have found my forte.............

Twixmas Part II - Canon can...........

And so the limbo period between Christmas and New Year limps on, and with it, that strange lethargy which pervades the air at this time of year.

In an attempt to dispel the urge to simply curl up on the sofa with either a book or the TV remote control, we have been setting up our new toys.

Actually, mine isn't really a toy. More a business necessity, bought the week before Christmas and which has been languishing in its box in the workroom waiting for a window of opportunity to install it.

A brand new printer!

It's sitting on the desk in front of me right now. All black and sleek and shiny, patiently waiting for me to request it to print. Which it does first time, every time, smoothly and quietly with absolutely no fuss or messing about.

But best of all, it's connected directly to my laptop so I am freed from the huffs and sulks of the main printer, which I have to access via a wireless network and which can take up to five, finger-drumming minutes to decide to cooperate. The main printer and I have never really seen eye to eye. It is an all-in-one effort, with scanner/copier/printer functions.

Well notionally anyway.

I can only ever get it to print, unless I laboriously unroll a 3 metre long printer lead and connect to it manually.

And even then it's touch and go.

I will still use it for basic printing - letters, invoices and the like. But I just know that it regards the usurper as its mortal enemy, so the fact that I am flirting outrageously with it will mean that the old printer will probably revoke all my network printing rights and sit sulking and shuffling its ink cartridges when I attempt to send anything to print. I just know that anything even remotely complicated like double sided printing will be a complete no-no and I will have to persuade and cajole it for ages, and even then it will mess up and spit sheets of paper at me in a vitriolic rage.

So the plan is that the new printer will be kept for best. Special printing, high quality stuff for games and toys etc.

The old printer is a jack of all trades, master of none.
The new printer is supremely good at what it does. Printing pure and simple.

It was recommended to us by several graphic design people who know what they're talking about, as being in a class of its own for print quality. It has not two, or even four, but 5 ink cartridges, which it doesn't feel the need to shuffle around every few minutes like the old one.

I am smitten.

Saturday, 27 December 2008


And so, with the Christmas festivities fading into memory, I approach the end of the year with the traditional mixture of feelings.

Relief that yet another year has passed without anything too terrible coming to pass, give or take the odd collapse of the financial system worldwide.

Hope that next year will bring new opportunities and the chance to build on past successes.

With just 3 days left of 2008, I am still hopeful that I will be able to make a start on my toy shop basement, so that perhaps by this time next year it will be completed and sitting resplendant under the toy shop *cough*

Of course before I can even think about assembling it I have some major surgery to perform on the frontage, to enable me to install windows and a door. However inspiration has still to strike as to the how and what, not to mention the where to get them from.
Also I have to think about the well-being of the inhabitants. Upstairs in the main shop, Mr Albert Lowther, the proprietor, is quite comfortable. I'd hate to think of the basement as being a dark, dank, damp place, so I will have to add some creature comforts.

As well as housing the toymaker and dollmaker's workrooms, I'm hoping to make space for a small office area. This may require some major restructuring of room partitions etc, all of which still has to be decided upon.

I can feel some lists coming on..............

Monday, 22 December 2008

Kind thoughts at Christmas.............

Apologies to avid readers of the blog for leaving you on tenterhooks with my last few posts. Nothing like a bit of a cliff-hanger to keep everyone on their toes.

As is to be expected at this time of the year, Real Life has been taking up rather more of my time and energy over the past week than is reasonable.

The good news is that our central heating and hot water have been restored to full working order by a very nice man from British Gas, who breezily arrived in a short-sleeved T-shirt and seemed amused by our chattering teeth, blue-tinged fingertips and ears, and suggested that we go outside as it was warmer outdoors than in.

That aside, he did a sterling job of coaxing our recalcitrant boiler back to life, and duly checked out the innards of various other bits of electrical gubbins closely related to the heating system, all of which were declared (more or less) fit for purpose.

The bad news is that our boiler is apparently obsolete (after only 10 years!!!?) and spare parts are becoming increasingly difficult to come by. Not only that, it is obviously hopelessly inefficient to the extent that setting fire to a pile of £10 notes would provide more heat, more cheaply, than running the boiler. I'm paraphrasing here but you get the gist.

In other news, our business computer is also on a life support system, and is currently on the waiting list for a motherboard transplant. Yes we did replace the power supply unit which had been couriered to us in a box not dissimilar to those which carry human organs for surgery.
The power supply replacement was almost as tense as a real operation, as we laid the patient on its back, and one by one disconnected bundles of wires from its brain and vital organs, then repeated the process in reverse.

We said a small prayer (to Geoff the god of poorly computers) and pressed the switch which in a parallel universe somewhere, restored the machine to life and everyone lived happily ever after.

Unfortunately in THIS universe, the patient was declared DOA and a further phone call to tech support confirmed that despite our best efforts, there was nothing else for it but to recall the PC for a full body makeover.

Our timing, as ever, is pants.

Obviously there is nothing to be done until the holiday festivities have subsided, at which time the entire base unit will be couriered to the PC equivalent of intensive care.

Aside from all of that, we have been in the vortex of the usual pre-Christmas mayhem, of which a free-floating sense of panic and anxiety is the primary symptom. We have various family members arriving over the next few days and only one of the three spare rooms are either accessible or presentable.

I won't even start on the price of turkeys this year. Have you seen how much they cost?!!! I don't believe it. £30-45 for a turkey!

Daylight robbery!

Which is exactly what we may be forced to commit unless we can find more reasonably priced birds. I've been eyeing up pigeons in the garden but have been persuaded against taking drastic action. Small dog has helpfully suggested roast squirrel. However her squirrel-chasing forays, although undeniably enthusiastic, have, to date, yielded not one actual catch. In any case, I doubt my ability to make a squirrel look like a plump turkey, although the tail would make an attractive table centrepiece if sprinkled with a string of festive fairy lights.

And before anyone complains about cruelty to wildlife etc, in my defence, I have gone a bit mad.

Which is par for the course at this time of year as legions of women around the country can attest.

Ok, enough of this displacement activity. I'm off to finish writing my Christmas cards (AND YES I DO KNOW THEY WON'T GET THERE IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS!)

Monday, 15 December 2008

Oh no............!!!!

Small dog is disenchanted.

It has been soooooo cold today that we have worried that it may come to this..................

Cold snap...............

It would appear that our central heating system has come out in sympathy with the computer, and is resolutely refusing to turn on.

Despite spending several hours yesterday trying to identify the problem, we gave up in the end and are now awaiting the arrival of a heating engineer, who will hopefully be able to fix the problem and restore heating and hot water.

As there has been no heating since yesterday the house is now completely stone cold, and in spite of wearing several layers of clothing, we are all chilled to the bone. Small dog, muffled in her warmest jumper, has gone back to bed, and I would dearly love to join her. Getting out of an electrically heated bed this morning was sheer purgatory in the absence of any ambient heat. Washing in icy cold water isn't much fun either.

The workroom feels like the Siberian steppes and the bathrooms......well let's just say they're a tad chilly.

I'm off to wrap myself around mug of tea in an effort to keep warm........

Friday, 12 December 2008

Blinking computer..........!

Our new computer is on the blink. There is never a good time for things like this to happen, but now is most definitely NOT a good time.

The problem lies with the power switch which only actually works 1 in 10 presses. If it doesn't switch on first time, then there invariably follows an increasingly stressful period of holding the button in till it goes dead, then trying again and again and again.

It should switch on first time every time.

I've been in contact with the supplier, as it is under warranty, and they duly sent us a new on/off switch, along with a helpful, step-by-step instruction email with photographs and everything.
So yesterday morning we girded our loins and set about taking the case off the desktop unit to replace the 'faulty' switch.

This is what it looks like inside, which is quite scary.

Also scary was the amount of dust and debris lying on the floor of the case. I didn't probe too deeply but I assume it was made up of dust, dead skin cells, and in all probability, various particles of small dog.

Anyhoo, 30 minutes later, after carefully noting the relative positions of the various plugs etc, we had replaced the switch, cleaned out the debris, re-assembled the case,reconnected all the electrical cable gubbins at the back and with a certain amount of trepidation switched it on.





So while PP spent a further 20 minutes getting it to start I phoned tech support again to consult the oracle who suggested that perhaps the power supply is at fault.
So we are now twiddling our thumbs waiting for the imminent courier delivery of a new power supply, which is apparently a much more difficult item to replace.

If that doesn't solve the problem then the whole base unit is going to have to go back to the supplier for major surgery.

Oh joy.............

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Christmas cheer.................

We decided to undertake phase 1 of our Christmas decorations yesterday evening.

Phase 1 is the easy bit......... decorating the tree. Some of the glass decorations are almost 100 years old, having belonged to my grandmother when my mum was a little girl. Each year I hold my breath as the decorations are unearthed from the loft, hoping that these increasingly delicate and fragile baubles will have remained intact. Thankfully this year there were no casualties and the tree is now resplendent.

Phase 2 is the much more tricky bit, decorating the hall. Which involves entwining greenery garlands and twinkling lights between the banisters on our winding staircase. Each year I think I will remember the best way to do it, and of course, each year, with the passing of 365 days, I forget.

This invariably leads to a fair amount of unseasonal language, especially if I happen to tread on one of the lights, which is an occupational hazard.

Small dog has thrown herself wholeheartedly into the decorating frenzy, and even dressed up for the occasion. She is blissfully unaware that hanging on the tree, hopefully beyond her reach, is a tiny, wee stocking, stuffed with a few of her favourite gravy bones for Christmas morning.

Ho Ho Ho

Monday, 8 December 2008

Fair report..................

I have finally emerged from a zombie-like exhausted state following the Kensington Christmas Festival on Saturday. Those 17 hour working days really take it out of a girl!

It was great to meet so many blog-readers, dollclub members and loyal customers, although sadly small dog (aka Business Mascot) could not accompany us to bask in her acclaim. Which was probably for the best as from the point at which the fair opened until right up to the finish, we were frantically busy and she would have felt completely neglected.

I didn't even get the chance to have a wander round, which was good in that I didn't actually spend any money, but disappointing in that I had a shopping list of things I wanted for my toy shop basement. One of the great things about Kensington is that it is a rare opportunity to see so many top miniature artisans together under one roof, and I had been looking forward to visiting several exhibitors, via a carefully planned route, assiduously worked out on my layout plan.

However, we had a lovely grandstand view of the Great Hall from our position up on the stage, and had a really fantastic day, selling out of all our new exotic pullalong/ride-on toys, loads of little toy dolls, all but one of Perfectionist Partner's new Jack-in-the-Box toys and much, much more. So for us it was the best one day fair we've attended in many years and left us feeling delighted that our special tiny toys were so well received.

Fortunately we took a few photos of our stand, and part of the Great Hall before the fair opened and the crowds poured in.

By the end of the day, despite continually replenishing our display, it was looking very sparse, so it's good to have a record...........for the record so to speak.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Blast from the past.............

I am now officially off duty.

Stock packed - check
Stand dismantled -check
Route map printed - check
Lunch and 'refreshments' in fridge - check
Clothes ready - check
Alarm clocks set - check

So as a little 'wind down drink' you'll NEVER guess what Perfectionist Partner has just brought me.

No, it wasn't like that when I was a lass either!

Elfin safety..........

I have been much amused by the story of a winter wonderland Christmas theme park. In fact, when I read the press report online this morning, I laughed so hard I snorted tea out of my nose.

It was THAT funny.

The website for the attraction boasted amazing real snow effects, reindeer and huskies, an ice skating rink, fabulous nativity scene, bustling Christmas markets, an enchanting Santa's grotto and all manner of festive festivities.

Predictably, in these straightened times, the reality fell far short and after paying £25 each for entry, visitors found themselves up to their ankles in mud, queuing for hours to see a tawdry collection of tatty decorations and painted backdrops. Not quite the glorious Lapland experience they had been expecting.

As a result, tempers flared and a former security guard at the site reported that staff were subjected to violent outbursts by irate customers, including Santa being attacked and one of the elves being "smacked in the face and pushed into a pram".

I expect that post-traumatic stress counselling will be offered to the child who had to be comforted after arriving at Santa's grotto to find him puffing a cigarette outside.

Sadly the website has been withdrawn following the closure of the attraction, but you can get a fairly good idea of the story from the following press article

*"Furious parents attack Santa and his elves .............."*

You just couldn't make it up, could you? Priceless.

Ready to go..............

And so today, it only remains to finish the final bits and pieces of packing and make sure everything fits into our very small car.

I'm sure that tomorrow will pass in a blur of activity, from getting up at 5.00 am (yes that IS the middle of the night) till getting back home, hopefully around 9pm.

If you're heading to the Kensington fair tomorrow, do stop and say hello. We're in the Great Hall, up on the stage, right next to Jamie Carrington, one of the best known dollmakers on the planet, so no pressure there then.

On display we will have many new miniature toys and games, as well as a sneak preview of our new home workshop project, a Victorian Toy Shop Window, which will be available from January 2009.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Happy Birthday Blog....!

Today is my blog's second birthday!

Two whole years of toy shop highs and lows, life's ups and downs and the sheer gorgeousness of Small Dog constant throughout.

Originally set up to track the progress of my toy shop build, it has evolved organically into a virtual diary, charting our business successes and failures, lightened by a healthy dose of irreverent, whimsical and sometimes downright bizarre observations on life, the universe and everything.

So what's next..........?

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Shop till you drop..........

Amidst the chaos of preparations for Kensington on Saturday, we took a few hours out of our busy schedule to visit the new Tesco superstore which opened on Monday. This cathedral of conspicuous consumer consumption is a veritable behemoth, massive in every sense of the word and the latest state-of-the-art jewel in Tesco's glittering crown.

As it occupies the site of the old store, which was demolished early this year and is just half a mile from where we live, we have had to schlep way across town for shopping and petrol. So to have a shiny new store re-open feels like Christmas has come early.

However, Monday was most definitely not the best day to visit, as the unbridled curiosity of everyone within a 20 mile radius meant the crowds were 'solid state'. In fact, after a brief shuffle around we abandoned the attempt and returned late afternoon, when the crowds were marginally less and we could replenish our stores with the plethora of special opening offers.

Our joy is tempered by the fact that it will henceforth take several hours to do a weekly shop, due partly to the unfamiliar store layout and partly to the fact that we don't want to miss any bargains, so trailing up and down EVERY endless aisle is essential.

And finally, partly because, with Christmas just around the corner, the store is blinged up to the eyeballs with seasonal stuff, accompanied by an endless playing of the obligatory "20 Christmas Songs You Never Want To Hear Ever Again"

All together now.........."Oh I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day..........So Here It Is Merry Christmas............ Last Christmas, I Gave You My Heart...............

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Obscure reference apology..........

It has been brought to my attention that readers MAY think that the answer to the toy doll's name in the AIM competition MAY be an anagram of Rumpelstiltskin or something to do with Rumpelstiltskin.

That is not the case.

The reference to Rumpelstiltskin was because the heroine of the tale had to correctly guess his name in order to save her child. This was one of my favourite fairy tales when I was a child, mainly because of the illustration of the gory denoument as the enraged dwarf tears himself in two.

Great stuff in the tradition of the best of scary fairy tales.

In any case, good luck to anyone who is going to enter the competition!

Artisans in Miniature.............

As a member of the editorial team for Artisans in Miniature, and wearing my official AIM Press & Communications Officer hat (which, incidentally, is a very fetching poke bonnet worn at a jaunty angle) I am pleased to announce that the bumper double issue of the AIM magazine in now online!

A click on the cover will transport you instantly to the magazine..........

As well as a free marotte project, I have also contributed a Christmas/New Year competition which is free to enter and has a gorgeous toy doll as the prize. Full details available by clicking on the photo below........

CLUE: The answer is NOT Rumpelstiltskin.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Expletive deleted..............

In the words of Emo Philips, some mornings it's just not worth chewing through the leather straps.

This homily is particularly pertinent to the last few days, when whenever could go wrong, has.
My to do list has been pared down to within an inch of its life, which means that the remaining tasks are VERY IMPORTANT.

One of these VITs is to print out copies of our shiny new catalogue, which has finally emerged from draft form through a process of blood, sweat and tears. Regular readers of this blog will know that I wage a continual war with the printer, which for reasons best known to itself has declared a jihad on every document or photograph I try to print.

This weekend it has excelled itself, by enlisting the help of the print spooling application program, the result of which is that whenever I try to send a file to print, a large warning box pops up telling me that Windows has encountered a problem with the Spool Application thingy and can't fix it. Then my whole system grinds to a halt and I have to reboot the laptop.

This sort of underhand behaviour is what I have come to expect from the printer but it has really excelled itself this time. Having spent 3 hours yesterday trying to fix the problem, I was hopeful that having had time to reflect overnight, the printer might have repented of its wicked ways and go out of its way this morning to be helpful. However my optimism has proved to be unfounded. Not only is my network printing still skew whiff, Perfectionist Partner's computer, which is connected directly to the printer, is also having problems.

It's going to be a l-o-n-g day......

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Cold feet.................

The recent spate of very cold, icy, frosty weather has been playing havoc with small dog's dainty little paws.

After only a few minutes outside she is pleading paw frostbite and has to resort to a warm human lap to warm them up.

We have suggested fur-lined paw warmers, which met with a very cool response. Apparently paw-warmers are tantamount to animal abuse and small dog was not to be moved on the matter.

In fact she presented the following evidence in her defence.............


I seem to have overcome my inertia and have been working like a demon for the past few days.

My 'friendly' countdown timer informs me that there are just 10 days to go so I'm belatedly moving up a gear and ticking off items on my resurrected to do list with abandon.

There have been a few sticky moments........most notably when we decided to check whether our lovely new display stand would fit into the back of our very small car. You may remember that we designed and built the stand it for Spring Miniatura, which we attending in our campervan, so the height was not our foremost consideration as we have lots of headroom in the van.

However, it will most definitely NOT fit easily into the boot of our car, backwards, forwards or upside down. As a result we have had to dismantle it, and even then it's a tight fit. We might have to resort to sawing 6 inches off the bottom of the sign 'legs', which is not ideal, as that will mean re-drilling screw holes to attach it to the shelf arrangement............ don't you just love it when the solution to one problem immediately spawns a whole collection of new ones?

That aside, we are making some progress. I am doing well with my traditional Victorian toy shop window display, which will form the basis of a series of home workshop sessions early in 2009.

So if I can just keep up the momentum for the next week, everything will be done and dusted.

*look of complete and utter 'Oh, really???!'*

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Procrastination is the thief of time.............

With just 14 days till the Kensington Christmas Festival, I am raising displacement activity to undreamed of new heights.

Having revised my 'to do' lists, and whittled them down to only the most urgent tasks, instead of cracking on and actually completing any of them, I got it into my head that clearing out the cupboard area behind my chair in the workroom was far more important than anything to do with fair prep.

Now, granted. Those cupboards were a mess and had been crying out for a tidy-up for ages, but as I opened the doors and started clearing off the shelves, even the displacement goblins were screaming in my ears...........


By the time I came to my senses of course, and realised the folly of my actions, four cupboards had been emptied and the contents lay strewn across the desk, worktop and floor.

I could have wept.

What WAS I thinking??????

Of course there was nothing else for it. I then had no option but to sort everything out, dispose of the rubbish (0f which there was a fair amount) and re-organise the cupboards.

The upside of this is I have now liberated half a cupboard, cleared out a load of junk, and used the remaining space in a much more sensible manner.

The downside of this is I am now so disastrously behind on my to do list that I have been forced to jettison yet more tasks, which I have no hope of completing.

This of course may have been my subconscious intention in the first place. After all I now have four tidy cupboards, and pruned my to do list in the process so there may have been an element of method in my madness.

As a footnote to this disclosure, my horoscope this morning, read as follows:

"You may be conflicted today between your high ideals and the practicalities of your current obligations. If you have let your chores pile up, you may not have the luxury of taking time off to enjoy your weekend. Complaining won't help. Don't procrastinate; just stay focused and get as much done as possible."


Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Global slip-up............

Much of my time over the past few days has been taken up in searching the planet for some tubs of porcelain slip tint.

And when I say planet, I do mean, planet.

I have emailed distributors worldwide, in an effort to track down the most elusive of colours in the slip tint pantheon......California Sunrise.

I sense blank looks and puzzled shrugs, so let me explain.

I work in porcelain. Well not IN it, obviously, but it is the medium in which I create the little toys and dolls. The raw material is porcelain casting slip, which is specially formulated for high-fire bisque dolls. It used to be available, pre-mixed in gallon tubs, in a wide range of 'flesh' tones, from Brown Velvet African-American skin tones, through Oriental, and American Indian to very pale Pink Blush tones.

However a few years back, the U.S manufacturer changed from selling pre-mixed tubs in the full range of colours, to selling predominantly white slip, in conjunction with small 4oz pots of slip tint, in all the colours, which could be mixed with the white slip. The obvious advantage to this was not having to keep stocks of the bulky tubs in all the required colours. I could just have a few tubs of plain white, and a selection of tints, and mix up small amounts as required. After all, a gallon tub of say, Brown Velvet, would last me for years and years, while other colours might only last a few months. The cost differential between a gallon of slip and a small pot of tint was also substantial, so it made good financial sense to embrace the new system.

Now, strictly speaking, I don't make dolls. I make miniature people who live and work in doll's houses, shops etc, so the normal very, very pale 'doll' colours were too pasty and washed out for me. So I chose California Sunrise as my flesh tone of choice. In spite of the name, it isn't a perma-tan orange tone, but a softly sun-kissed, healthy colour, and after years of using it, I have boxes and boxes of assorted limbs, bodies and heads all in the same flesh tone.

So far so good.

However, when I got down to my last pot a month ago, I rang the one and only UK distributor to find she was out of stock! Not only that, she'd had it on back order but her latest shipment from the US didn't include it.

No matter. I thought I'd go straight to the source and placed an order for 6 pots from the manufacturer. Only to receive an email informing me that they had no idea when they would be replenishing stocks.


Hence my trans-global distress messages over the past few days. I'm getting desperate now as I'm down to my last few eggcupfuls of slip, with no prospect of easily finding more.

And no, sadly it's not as easy as changing to a different slip tint. This is because it took me years to find the perfect colour, and also because I have substantial stocks of limbs which wouldn't match with a different colour. Which would mean that I would have to make hundreds more limbs in the new colour to go with new heads and bodies.

Not a problem I wish to have to solve.

So my slip tint search continues............watch this space............

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Micro minis..........

I have just finished painting a batch of very tiny babies. When strung they measure just under 1". Painting their faces is a very painstaking process.......trying to get the tiny irises and even smaller pupils just right is a real challenge. Just the slightest slip and they end up looking cross-eyed and I have to start all over again.

I am used to working in very small scales, including 1:144, which is the correct scale for a dollshouse to go inside a 1:12 scale house. I have a working train set which is 1:900, for which I still have to create the landscaping.

However, this really takes the biscuit for pushing the boundaries of what is achievable in small scale.

Absolutely incredible! *shakes head in disbelief*

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Pleats plus............

When in the midst of chaos, I always find that doing a calming task helps relieve work-related stress and anxiety.

Pleating is one such task.

The rhythmic, repetitive motion of pleating silk ribbons is most definitely calming. Not only that, it is one of those lovely tasks where after a set period of time you can actually see what you've done and experience a warm sense of achievement. A whole pleating board covered with rows of neatly pleated, colourful silk ribbons is like a balm to the soul.

Small dog agrees. No sooner had I spread out a drift of multi-coloured ribbons than she suddenly appeared like a small hairy genie, and leapt up onto my lap to observe the process. I think she finds it calming too and we both entered a trance-like state as row followed row.


Yes you're right.

I need to get out more.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Catalogue of errors............

The closer we get to the Kensington Christmas Festival, the more frenetic becomes the activity for preparation. Now we are working 7 day weeks, up to 12 hours a day and it will remain like that till 5 December.

It was in this mode of 'positive work ethic' that I sat down with my laptop after dinner last night, in order to begin work on a long overdue 'hard copy' catalogue. The magazine article has produced a flurry of phone calls from collectors who don't have internet access and who would like a paper catalogue sent by post.

In principle this is fine and dandy.

In practice, as I found last night, there are a whole host of problems challenges.

For example, we never repeat exactly the same piece. I may make three tiny dolls dressed in shades of pink, but the costumes, wig styles, bonnets etc will all be different. Similarly our little porcelain toys, such as Humpty Dumpty will all be painted in different colours with different facial expressions. This means that it would be practically impossible to create a catalogue showing every variation on every toy or doll.

Then there is the matter of the format of the catalogue itself. What size, how many pages, what layout............

I started off optimistically enough, having finally decided on an A5 booklet, containing 8 pages. I found a Publisher template which I (mistakenly) thought would be easy to customise to my requirements and set to with enthusiasm.

Two hours later my enthusiasm for the project had completely evaporated and my laptop screen looked like an explosion in a Spirograph factory, littered with dozens of cut and pasted empty photo frames, grouped objects, text boxes........absolutely nothing right and such a mess that my only option seems to be deleting the whole thing and starting again.

In the cold, hard light of day this morning, upon opening the document to review my progress (or lack of it) it was blatantly obvious that the two hours spent last night were a complete waste of time. The only saving grace is that I now know EXACTLY where I went wrong, and when I summon up enough energy and enthusiasm to revisit it, I will (hopefully) be able to crack on and put all to rights.

However, even when the catalogue is done and dusted, there is still the small matter of having to print it out.

Double sided and everything.

Which as I well know, is not as easy as it might sound, given that the printer and I are engaged in a long running vendetta.

But that is a challenge for the future. For the present I'd be happy if could just get the catalogue under control and underway..............

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

The clock is ticking........

Needless to say, with a mere 25 days till Kensington, stress and panic levels are rising exponentially and the workroom is a vertitable hive of activity.

The 'creative chaos' has now spread into the dining room, rather like a black miasma, as I am trying to lay out our display stand and plan where everything is going to go. This effectively renders the dining room out of commission for the duration, as boxes and display materials start to pile up.

In amongst all of this I still have to re-design our information brochure and update it with new pictures, as well as getting a mini-catalogue sorted out, which is long overdue.

Not to mention completing my little shop display window, of which more anon.

I have given up on with my extensive volumes of 'to do' lists, which rival 'War and Peace' for length, weight and incomprehensibility. Instead I will reconnoitre towards the end of the next week and see what I've missed *worried look*

Small dog has beat a hasty retreat from the melee and is hiding out in her basket, only occassionally wandering into the workroom if she spots a cup of tea being carried in, which she hopes may be accompanied by a biscuit or two.

As is always the case, I am sure that we WILL be prepared, packed and ready to by late evening on the day before the fair, but at this point, it is hard to see beyond the chaos to a time of peace and calm.

I only hope that all this work turns out to be worth it, and the fair is a runaway success.

Ok, back to the salt mines for me...........

Friday, 7 November 2008

28 days later........

No, I'm not talking about the post-apocalyptic science fiction/horror film, but rather the fact that we have just 28 days till our final exhibition/fair of the year.

Here, at 'Miniatures HQ', the pace is stepping up a gear, and even small dog has discovered a positive work ethic and relinquished several naps today in favour of 'helping'.

This dedication on the part of small dog is much appreciated and it is heartening to know that she takes her directorship seriously. There has been much banter in recent weeks of her status as 'sleeping partner' but today she really has knuckled down and given 110%.

Indeed, so grateful were we for her input that, after lunch, with the sun shining from a clear blue sky, we set off for a jaunt in the woods, with the prospect of a slight detour for a spot of geocaching.

Ten minutes in, and the skies darkened ominously. Then as we trudged up a hill, a wall of water came rushing towards us in the form of a torrential downpour. Our initial attempts to shelter under the trees proved futile, and within minutes small dog was soaked to the skin. We decided to beat an ignominious retreat and scurried back along the path which was now ankle deep in mud. This meant that small dog was knee deep in mud and looking like nothing so much as a very mucky drowned rat.

As if that wasn't bad enough, on our bedraggled return home, small dog was summarily dispatched to the shower, hosed down, shampooed/rinsed (twice), towelled off, then released to whirl through the house like a cartoon Tasmanian Devil.

There is probably a moral to this tale. Something along the lines of 'let sleeping partners lie', or 'don't help out lest you get rewarded with something you don't like'.

Or words to that effect.

Either way, small dog has graciously forgiven us. This may have something to do with the delicately cooked chicken she had for dinner, or the fact that she is currently curled up, warm, snug and fast asleep, on a cushion on the sofa.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Technical difficulty............

I don't know why I persist in tormenting myself with seemingly impossible technical challenges.

Like setting minute handmade glass eyes into tiny dolls.
Or deciding to produce a jointed tiny doll with a fully articulated head.
Or both.

The doll in question is just over 1 1/2" tall. So the body cavity is really, really small. So the network of stringing required to joint arms, legs and head is a real technical problem.

Having spent several hours today struggling with various methods of achieving this miniature feat I can report that it is possible.


But maddeningly, infuriatingly, frustratingly difficult.

My prototype has demonstrated exactly where I've going wrong, and I'm sure that I can improve on it in terms of simplifying the construction, but each doll is going to take 10 times longer to create than my normal little toy dolls, which have jointed arms and legs and painted eyes.

So I have to ask myself, is it worth it?

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

History in the making............

Feeling a bit bleary-eyed today after staying up till stupid o'clock this morning watching the momentous events unfolding across the pond.

It felt like one of those pivotal moments in history which engender a sense of belonging, and witnessing a ground-breaking achievement.

Except if you're a Republican of course.

Small dog kept me company into the wee small hours, falling asleep once or twice but immediately rousing at the prospect of a warming mug of hot chocolate, or a biscuit.

I think the whole 'clean sweep' concept of the night must have percolated into my sub-conscious, because this morning I spent quality time clearing my side of the workdesk, and generally tidying up the chaos which is a permanent feature of the workroom. This mess is always much to the annoyance of Perfectionist Partner, whose own side of the workdesk is immediately recognisable as it is usually possible to actually see the surface of the desk itself.

This is in stark contrast to my side, which is normally several inches deep in ribbons, dolls, sewing paraphernalia, half-finished projects, scribbled notes and ideas.........the list goes on and on. I don't actually like working in such a mess but somehow, no matter how hard I try, my attempts to maintain areas of clear workspace are always doomed to failure.

However, no matter.

It is impossible not to feel a renewed sense of enthusiasm and positivity, and the thought that maybe, just maybe, all may be well with the world in due course.

Small dog was keen to do her own little bit of flag-waving today so here is her suggestion for a suitable contribution to the historic occasion...........

Tuesday, 4 November 2008


It has arrived!

I've been stalking the postman for the past two mornings, aided and abetted by small dog, who is always keen to ambush the poor chap as he hastily pushes our post through the letterbox, quickly removing his fingers as letters are deftly pulled from his grasp.
Thankfully once the mail lands on the doormat small dog immediately loses interest in it so there is never any imperative to race her to the door to prevent some creative paper tearing.

However this morning, as I raced her to the door, she sensed more than a usual degree of excitement at the arrival of several letters, one of which I immediately identified as containing the latest issue of Dolls House Magazine.

Had I mentioned that it contains an article on my toyshop, with a cover shot and everything?!

After poring over the cover, I turned to the contents page to discover a photograph of small dog in all her glory gazing photogenically into the camera lens. As a result she is now completely insufferable, strutting around like a prima donna and convinced that fame and fortune are just around the corner, seeing as how she is now an international superstar.

Modesty is not one of small dog's foremost character traits.

The article itself is spread over four pages and features loads of great photos of the shop interior, as well as a beautifully written article.

I am just soooooo chuffed.

Permission has been sought, and granted, to put up a link to the article on this here blog, so you can now view the cover HERE and the entire article HERE.

Tips for viewing PDF files.......It's best to right click on each of the links and open them in a new window or tab, otherwise you'll be whisked away from the blog and might not find your way back.

Heaven forbid!

The files contain lots of photos so be patient while they open. You can enlarge the pages to read the text more easily by using the zoom control (use either the little + button or the the % box on the toolbar at the top!) Also there are two x two page spreads to view so scroll down to read the second page.

If you can't view the files or have any problems, please contact me and I'll try to sort out any glitches.

How's that for efficiency!

Monday, 3 November 2008

Wild Goose Chase...................

In the temporary absence of my (hopefully) complimentary copy of Dolls House Magazine, I set off into town this afternoon in the sure and certain knowledge that I would find the latest issue in WH Smith.

So we ventured out in the fog, rain and cold only to find every other magazine EXCEPT the one I was looking for, stocked on the shelves.

To say I was not a happy bunny is a gross understatement!

However, thanks to a fellow miniature artisan (thanks Bea!) I now at least have a copy of the cover featuring my toy shop.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

My 15 minutes..............

A big THANK YOU to everyone who has commented or emailed to congratulate me on having my toy shop featured in the forthcoming issue of Dolls House Magazine.

After publication I will then have free rein to post loads of photos of the interior, which have, as some of you have pointed out, been sadly lacking.

Exciting stuff.

In other news, winter has arrived in East Sussex. We were warned to expect snow overnight last night, but thankfully, right down here on the coast, we escaped the worst of the sub-zero blast.

However small dog, who has minimal resistance to cold, has dug out her warmest winter jumper, which very aptly has a snowflake pattern. She has also been working on her Christmas list and I notice that she has added 'heetid kooshun'

Spelling is not one of her special talents but I get the message.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008


Have had it confirmed today that my toyshop, which if you remember was the inspiration for this blog, is to be featured in the December issue of Dolls House Magazine.

Not only that........it's been selected as the cover shot!

Woo and indeed hoo!!!!!

I haven't seen it yet, as the publication date is early November, but I am now officially very excited!

Monday, 27 October 2008

Trial by vet...........

Small dog is traumatised.

Much against her better judgement, she permitted us to take her to the vet today, for a routine rabies injection to keep her pet passport up to date.

However, it turns out that she also has a slight ear infection, which necessitated having the hair plucked from her ear canals using forceps, then ear drops inserted to deal with the infection.

In addition, she had to have her front claws trimmed.

Not to mention the injection, which was the point of the exercise in the first place.

So all in all, she was not a happy bunny and is currently recuperating in her basket, in a mighty huff.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Daylight robbery.................

The clocks went back one hour at 2am this morning. Aside from allowing an extra hour in bed today, it also means that it will be dark by about 5.30pm.

So we are now in freefall towards winter, with gloomy, grey days and dark early nights. My least favourite time of year.

I think that hedgehogs, dormice and like, have the right idea. Find a warm, cosy nest, snuggle down and go to sleep till spring, neatly bypassing winter, and waking re-invigorated and refreshed in late March, when the clocks are put forward again and it is still light at 7pm, with the promise of warmer, longer days just around the corner.

Can't wait...........

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Inaugural mobile workshop outing.........

At last my plan of spending time in the 'mobile workshop' has come to fruition. We set off in the campervan on Thursday afternoon and have spent two nights away, on a lovely little campsite, set in the woods, not far from home but blissfully internet/telephone/interruption-free.

Not only that, we did both manage to get a full day's work done yesterday, which is a bonus. Not to mention clearing the creative log jam and setting the ideas flowing again with notebook and pen, rather than on my laptop, which inevitably leads to displacement activity of one sort or another.

Not only that, the woods themselves were full of ripe sweet chestnuts, which were quite delicious after they'd been roasted. Needless to say, small dog had a wonderful time, mooching around the woodland paths, watching out for squirrels, rabbits and other assorted wildlife and generally immersing herself in the camping experience. While we worked she either kept a lookout at the windows, or curled up on her fleecy blanket to catch up on her naps, so the experiment was voted a success on all counts.

Looking forward to the next working trip now............

Monday, 20 October 2008

High maintenance............

And so another weekend bites the dust. This last one was spent busily putting our house in order for the winter, and battening down the hatches, much in the manner of the three little pigs.

Only without the straw and sticks.

Having already repaired our shed roof the previous weekend, there still remained the job of replacing a pane of glass which blew out in a recent storm. This was successfully accomplished with only the minimum of cussing at the point where, when trying to fit the new pane, one of the others fell out and narrowly avoided smashing to smithereens on the flagstones.

DIY........dontcha just love it?

However the major job, which we had been planning to tackle since the start of this year, was repainting the front of the house, outside the dining room, which is clad in softwood, and so requires high maintenance repainting every so often. As it faces south, and downhill, it takes the brunt of the weather... sun, wind and rain. Not a huge amount of wood to paint, but as with everything DIY, preparation is all.

So, as Saturday was warm and sunny, we reluctantly girded our collective loins and set to, scraping, sanding and mousing all the flaking, peeling paint.


Yes, well, we have a small electric sander in the shape of a mouse. That is, pointed at the front and bigger at the back. Sort of triangular shaped. In the way that a mouse is sort of triangular if you look at if from above. It's supposed to get easily into cracks and crevices and the like. Again, very similar to a mouse.

Small dog perked up her ears at the mention of mousing, and sat attentively waiting in her basket, which we took out front so she could relax in the sun while we were hard at work. She was sadly disappointed when the mousing activity yielded nothing but clouds of dust and lots of noise.

Strangely however, the racket did not deter her from enjoying a lengthy nap soaking up the sun.

So, all the prep, scraping, sanding and filling took about 3 hours. And the first coat of paint took 1 hour. After which we were fit to drop but at least we could see where we'd been, which is always a bonus.

Yesterday (Sunday) was much colder and windier, but nevertheless, the second coat had to go on. Due the drastic drop in temperature, small dog declined to join us outside and stayed in the cosy warmth of her basket indoors, while we, bundled up in jumpers, battled the elements to complete the job, swearing under our breath as gusts of wind deposited tiny specks of dirt over our pristine paintwork.

Still, it's finished, apart from a few bits of touching up, so all in all a job well done.

So hopefully, even the worst of the winter storms won't huff, and puff and blow the paint off the front of the house.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

361 days to go.............

I've just put another countdown timer on my desktop.

This one counts down to 16 October 2009, when THE film of the century will be released.

G-Force will star Nicolas Cage, Penelope Cruz and Bill Nighy as some of the voices of a team of trained secret agent guinea pigs that takes on a mission for the US government. The squad of guinea pigs is dispatched to stop a diabolical billionaire, who plans to taking over the world with household appliances.

Abso-bloody-lutely brilliant and I CAN'T WAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, 17 October 2008

Best laid plans...............



The mobile workroom failed to get its first outing today, due to a combination of pressing things which got in the way........ having to wait in for a delivery, appointment in town, stuff to deal with.........

You know how it is.

However, I made a virtue of necessity and did several hours of casting, having belatedly realised that as of tomorrow, there are just 7 weeks left till Kensington. This means that I have just two weeks to get a last batch of casting in progress if I have any chance of having the porcelain completely finished, ie bisque fired, strung and painted, in time.

In other news, small dog has rolled in something disgusting but unidentifable which smells very much like rotting fish. So she is shortly due her second bath this week.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Mobile workroom...........

So having had the cunning plan of setting up a mobile workroom, or 'a campervan with a view', we have been waiting for a day of clement weather to try it out.

The plan that is.........not the van.

Tomorrow is forecast to be just such a day, with lots of sunshine, so all being well we will pack a workbox and set off for a day of work by the sea, picking up a delicious lunch en route.

Might not even feel like work.

And in an major eBay coup this week I snaffled a lovely little 12v mini iron, just perfect for pressing mini seams, which will run on the van electrics without us being hooked up to the mains. A steal at 99p.

And I don't even LIKE ironing!

The joy of research...........

Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my dalliances with the displacement goblins.

Sometimes it's out and out displacement activity pure and simple. However more often I start out by trying to find some specific information, or image, or source of supply etc.

This morning, on a foray to find information related to a particular historial period costume, I came across this little gem, entitled Women in Art.

Aside from being technically amazing, it is also a very useful pictorial record of styles of hair and headgear through the ages.

Thus it in no way counts as displacement activity.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Flying squirrel............

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a big, fat squirrel in possession of a large nut, must be in want of a chase from small dog.

Thus this morning, as I made a cup of tea, I happened to glance idly out of the kitchen window, to see a huge squirrel sitting right in the middle of the lawn, tucking into a sizeable nut.

Our garden backs onto ancient woodland, which is alive with all manner of creatures, especially squirrels. At this time of year, when they're frantically storing nuts for the winter, the top of our fence which runs from the back of the garden, all the way to the front of the house, resembles nothing so much as a squirrel M25. Sometimes there can be so many squirrels ferrying nutty booty up and down the fence that they have to wait in line, nuts in paws, till there is a gap in the flow.

Anyhoo, back to the squirrel in question, which I can only describe as morbidly obese. In fact, it had so much fat laid down that it could tuck into its store of nuts with complete equanimity, safe in the knowledge that it could probably last several winters on its own fat reserves alone.

Now small dog likes nothing better than a good squirrel chase. If she's indoors and sees a squirrel running along the top of the fence, or catches a glimpse of one in the garden, she sets off at top speed, letting out squeals and yelps of excitement at the thrill of the chase.

This morning, she happened to stroll nonchalantly into the kitchen just as I caught sight of the squirrel on the lawn.

Me: Oh, you're up are you? Well.... Shhhhh......... SQUIRREL!!!!!

However, instead of setting off with her usual unearthly battle cry, she zoomed outside silently, picking up speed across the patio and up the steps to sail over the wall onto the lawn.........where still sat the squirrel, oblivious to the small furry ball of quantum velocity heading its way.

As she literally flew over the top of the wall, small dog caught sight of the squirrel, and although already travelling at a zillion miles an hour, moved up a few gears until she was a mere blur.

Caught by surprise, the squirrel belatedly took to its chubby little heels and ran up the garden as if it were pursued by the hounds of hell, which, in a way, it was.

It couldn't half shift for a fat squirrel.

Disappearing under the hedge, followed nanoseconds later by small dog, it must have escaped by the skin of its teeth. Small dog re-appeared straight away, squirrel-less, but with the air of a job well done.

So, here is a photo of a more slimline model of squirrel. Yes, hand on heart I can honestly say that the squirrel in question was FATTER than this one, but sadly this is the fattest squirrel I could find, courtesy of Google Images.

Now I'd best get back to work before I fall prey to the displacement goblins


Monday, 13 October 2008

Back to work............

Just under 8 weeks to go till the Kensington fair so it's back to work today with a vengeance. I've taken an executive decision to cull my 'to do' list as it is no longer inspirational........rather a source of dismay and simmering panic!

However, our trip out in the campervan yesterday, did yield the germ of a plan.

A cunning plan.

A plan so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a fox.

"Awayday workdays".

Cunning AND simple.

It works like this. I pack an awayday work box, with everything need to do a day's work....scissors, glue, sewing equipment, tiny undressed dolls, silk ribbons and trims etc. This box has to be stocked with duplicate equipment so I'm not forever dipping into it for things and forgetting to replace them, thus rendering it's usefulness obsolete.

Once packed, it lies in readiness for a day of good light (full sunshine might be a bit too much to hope for) whereupon it will be packed into the campervan, along with a delicious lunch and small dog.

We then drive to a nearby stretch of coastline with unrivalled sea views........this could be either clifftop or beach side and park with the front window facing the sea. The cab seats swivel round, and the van's folding table fits neatly between them, making the campervan into a comfy workroom with excellent light and superlative views.


No displacement goblins to distract me from the task in hand. Unless you count the miles of beach and sea spread out in front of me, with an ever changing panorama of people walking dogs, fishing, digging for lugworm, or just strolling along the waveline.

Naturally small dog gives this plan a firm 'paws up' as it combines three of her favourite activities. Camping, beachcombing and comfortable napping.

So now I'm off to stock a workbox to leave in readiness.

I just love it when a plan comes together.............

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Summer's Last Hurrah................

So summer reappeared for a brief encore this weekend. The sun shone from cloudless, blue skies, temperatures soared, and it was hard to believe we're almost into the third week in October.

We should have gone camping, taking advantage of the weather and the last few weeks before many campsites close for the season.

Instead yesterday we re-felted the shed roof. An unglamourous, but essential task involving cold bitumen and several yards of mineral felt.

However, today the sun continued to shine so we packed a picnic lunch into the campervan, and along with small dog, set off to an unspoilt bit of beach to find a geocache.

This was no ordinary cache..........it's title "Wait For No Man" gave a clue to it's location, on top of a groyne post only accessible at low tide. In fact the cache itself is elsewhere, only the final coordinates are on top of the post so it's a two-part clue.

We arrived and parked up an hour or so before low tide, so sat on the shingle, enjoying lunch and watching small dog amass a veritable mound of treasure, including a seagull feather, bit of old seaweed and a large shell with a hole in it. Having deposited these finds by our chairs she then stretched out in the sun for a nap.

As low tide point neared, we set off across the beach to the groyne we thought carried the clue, only to find that the base of the posts was still under water, rendering them unreachable without either waders or beach shoes, neither of which we had.

Small dog, unleashed, was mooching around the sand, when suddenly she disappeared from view, having accidentally strayed into a suddenly, deep pool. She resurfaced and valiantly struck out for land, a mere three frantic doggy paddle strokes away, a look of complete shock and surprise on her face. Once out of the pool she insisted on having her lead re-attached and sat forlornly, shivering and whimpering.

Perfectionist partner had to decide whether to get wet, or trudge back along the shingle to retrieve wellingtons from the campervan. As the top of the groyne post was 10 feet above the beach, to get to it involved a climb up barnacle and seaweed encrusted wooden spars, which looked very precarious and in any case we had no way of getting to it from dry land. Eventually, the returning tide took the decision out of our hands and we left clueless, vowing to return another day with proper equipment.

However, despite leaving empty handed, it was a lovely afternoon, although it took some time for small dog to recover from her traumatic dunking.

Anyhoo, here's a shot of the beach this afternoon, and another of small dog before her impromptu swim..............

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Collectively speaking.............

I have been involved in a fierce debate today over the correct collective noun for a gathering of Santas.

Initial thoughts were, in no particular order:

* a dash
* a grotto
* a sack

Further research (please note that this was official research and NOT displacement activity) threw up another, less savoury collective noun......a snog of santas.

Any better suggestions?

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Pure Genius...........

Ok, so here's the deal.

I have worked today, despite suffering what can only be described as 'a very, very bad cold'.

I've done 3 hours of casting and a further 2 hours of doll stringing, not to mention struggling with a recalcitrant printer which resolutely refused to copy at high resolution and instead got stuck on 'shoddy quality'. All while coughing, sneezing, having the headache from hell and running a temperature.

If I were a man, I'd have been lying in bed, drinking Lucozade, eating dippy egg with hot buttered toast soldiers, and watching old black and white movies on daytime TV.


But no, as a woman, I am of course immune from 'man cold'.


My shiny new work regime has fallen at the first hurdle this week as I've been laid low with a lurgy which began on Sunday with a tickly sore throat and has progressed over the course of the week to a full blown chest cold.

Thus, despite having a gorgeously husky, sexy voice not dissimilar to Marlene Dietrich, the effect is rather diluted by being accompanied with a hacking cough and mucousy sneezing, not to mention trailing wafts of Vicks chest rub and Benylin fumes.

I suspect that I am also single-handedly keeping the manufacturer of both Day and Night Nurse afloat in these precarious financial times.

Not only that............Small Dog has proved to be a great disappointment in the 'healing paw' department. She can normally be relied upon to maintain a constant ''duvet top' vigil when either of us is ill, and to be fair, she has put in the odd appearance when I've forsaken my workroom to have a lay down on the sofa in the afternoons. However, as soon as I'm convulsed in paroxysms of coughing and spluttering (which is roughly every 3 minutes) she gives me a long suffering look and stalks off to find a quieter place to rest.

And so, I remain alone, lying pale and wan, not dissimilar to my other screen heroine, Greta Garbo in her famous death-bed scene from Camille, which entirely coincidentally has formed part of my daytime TV viewing this week.

You know..........the one where after having lived a dissolute life as a kept woman, she is finally fading away from consumption. In the final scene, her beautiful but wan face is framed by her pillow - she rallies to get out of bed when she learns her lover (Robert Taylor as Armand) has come.
She hauls herself out of bed and painfully makes her way to a chair. There, her nurse brings her camellias to pin to her lap, and brushes her hair. Rapturous, impatient, and hoping to look perfect, Camille begs: "I'll be beautiful again when I'll be well again, won't I?"
In an exquisite, classic deathbed scene, she makes a great effort to stand and greet Armand as he enters. Her eyes and face are joyous and bright for their reunion. But in moments, she is exhausted and debilitated - he sweeps his fragile love into his arms as she falls. He babbles to her about his reaffirmation of love and promises to stay with her forever - now that he understands her love-as-renunciation. He plans for their happy future together, beginning with a trip to the country where she can get well. She gains sustenance and power from his ardor and support. She falters however, and goes limp and cries that she isn't strong enough. After he calls for the doctor, places her in a chaise and kneels at her side, she experiences sadness for a love that she has lost forever in the temporal world. But she's not self-deluded - her death will release them from an untenable relationship into a more spiritual, mystical relationship: "Perhaps it's better if I live in your heart, where the world can't see me. If I'm dead, there'll be no staying of our love." She signals death when her eyes burst open once. She crumbles and falls lifeless, but remains tranquil with a gentle smile on her face. Armand looks at her and notices she has already passed away. He is horrified that this is the end. He buries his face on her breast, weeping. The film ends with a final fade-out, close-up shot of Marguerite's lovely, radiant face - imperishable in death.

Ok, ok...........so I only have a cold, but it is a very bad cold *sniff*.
And as for looking wan and debilitated, I can do that.
In fact if you disregard my red, runny nose, sleep-deprived bloodshot eyes, wild Abyssinian guinea pig hairstyle, hacking cough and extended snot-filled sneezing sessions, I could pass for Camille any day of the week.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008


Bit of a professional coup this month.......... Doll's House & Miniature Scene Magazine (November issue) has published a glowing review of our vintage toy doll kits.

Not only that, today they've granted permission for me to put the review on our website!

With pictures and everything.

I am soooooo pleased.

You can read the review here! Please be patient as the file may take up to a minute to download.

Deadlines looming..........

As we nose into October, and with just 67 days till Kensington, I am reminded that the deadline for our ad in the show catalogue is at the end of this week. So, after a peremptory business breakfast meeting this morning, Perfectionist Partner drew the short straw and has spent many hours today designing and executing the ad.

Not only that, she presented me with a variety of options, in different colours, in a range of formats, from which to choose.

Hope I've made the right decision.............

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Geocaching virgins...........

It was Perfectionist Partner's birthday a week or so back, so in the pursuit of the Perfect Present I bought a selection of geocaching gadgets and a book.

In the intervening time, PP has been perusing the instructional book "Geocaching For Dummies", practicing with the waypoint finder GPS thingy and looking on the geocaching site for details of caches in our area.

We were astounded to discover that within just a 3 mile diameter of our house, there are 39 caches! So off we set today, small dog in tow, to try to find our first ever cache.

After scrambling around in the undergrowth on the cliff top for 40 minutes we did eventually find it, hidden in the fork of a tree, so after completing the log, swapping some geoswag and flushed with success set of to find a second, only a mile or so away down the coast. This proved more difficult to locate, as the cache was contained in a very small film canister (microcache). The second location was also much busier and we attracted quite a bit of bemused attention from passers-by as we surreptitiously tried to poke about in the undergrowth, trying to look as little like potential terrorists as possible. Even small dog eventually tried to disassociate herself from us by hiding behind our backpack on the ground.

Eventually though, after a further 30 minutes, PP found the tiny, camouflaged canister, which we took down onto the beach to investigate further, log the details, then carefully return to its hiding place.

For those of you who have absolutely no idea what geocaching is (which is probably most, if not all), the easiest thing for me to do by way of explanation, is to point you here.

So, great fun in the great outdoors. The thrill of the chase, the satisfaction of the find, and views to die for...............

The view from the cliff top near our very first geocache find!

Going Global................

Regular readers of this blog will remember my penchant for maps (Wagons roll......post on 1 April 2008). It's probably a bit nerdy but give me an atlas, or a map, the more detailed the better, and I'm happy for hours..... days even.

Since adding the nifty little gizmo which shows on a map where my blog readers reside, I've been following the progress of the rash of little red dots with growing amazement.

Apparently people have been logging on to read this tosh literary offering *ahem* from some of the most unusual and exotic places on the planet.

Such as the shores of Hudson Bay, the foothills of both the Andes and the Himalayas respectively, the red centre of Australia, the desert heart of Saudi Arabia, the forests of Malaysia, the southernmost tip of South Africa (hello Margaret!), Russia, China and Japan, not to mention the mid-Pacific island of Hawaii!

So, in order to satisfy my cartographic curiosity, I'd be grateful if some of my further-flung readers would post the occasional comment to let me know where they're from so I can plot them more accurately on my wall map.

Note to self - as the new 'work regime' officially starts tomorrow, this does NOT count as displacement activity.
Addendum to note to self - even Mon-Fri this could legitimately count as 'research'


PS.... while engaged in perfectly legitimate research to find a suitable map to illustrate this post I found one which superbly demonstrates my fascination with maps, even fanciful ones.....
I particularly like the 'Here Be Anthropomorphic Dragons"

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Countdown to Kensington...........

The friendly countdown timer on my laptop screen now informs me that there are 70 days remaining till the Kensington Fair.

For some reason best known to itself, it has also added the time remaining in hours, minutes and seconds. Hence at time of writing I have exactly 1662 hours, 24 minutes and 59 seconds...no 53, erm 44..........well you get the gist.

I am not sure whether I find this comforting or worrying.

70 days is, after all, 10 weeks. So plenty of time to finish the dozen or so projects coming through the 'research and development' stage. To say nothing of the gargantuan list of new ideas I'm trying to work my way through.

Then there's the small business of actually earning a living in the midst of all the fair preparations. So what it all boils down to is having to initiate a new regime, starting Monday.

The regime, will work like this.

In theory.
  • Mon-Fri - be at work desk by 8am each morning, following brief breakfast appraisal of what has to be achieved each day.
  • No time wasting messing about on the internet, except for research purposes *ahem*
  • All tea breaks limited to 10 minutes max. However chocolate biscuits will be deemed compulsory to combat potential dangerously low blood sugar levels.
  • I will, absolutely, categorically, definitely and without fail, TIDY MY WORK AREA at the end of EVERY day. Admittedly, I do see the point of this, as it will save me much valuable time looking for stuff which is always hidden at the bottom of the pile. Yes, it goes against my whole creative chaos grain, but needs must.
  • Consorting with small dog must be kept to a minimum during working hours. Any attempt by her to engage me non-work related shenanigans must be ignored.
  • Set a list of achievable work targets week-by-week. This is of course easier said than done.
Well that's enough to be going on with, for the time being. Time now for a glass of something chilled methinks..............