Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Hopes cruelly dashed.............

I have all but given up hope.

Imagine my excitement and anticipation this morning when the following popped into my inbox, courtesy of my daily astrological forecast.....

"A sizable sum of money could come your way today, Sandra, probably as a total surprise. This is definitely a significant day in your life. The money will open up new doors for you, particularly where creativity is concerned, so the situation definitely calls for a celebration. One caution: do NOT gamble, or consider any kind of investment other than gold, land, or blue chip stocks or bonds for at least two months. Instead, treat yourself! You deserve it!"

I eagerly awaited the post delivery, sure that my premium bonds had finally borne fruit. But alas there was nothing.

Each time the phone has rung today, I've breathlessly swept it up, convinced that some long-lost relative had popped their clogs and bequeathed me all their worldly goods, so their lawyer would be on the other end with the sad/glad tidings.

However it is now 9pm and I am losing faith.

The prediction was so emphatic.

So clear and straightforward.

I had even put a bottle of bubbly (cheap Cava) in the fridge in anticipation of the revelation.

Well, never mind. We've drunk it now anyway.


Still, they say good things come to those who wait..............


Even hotter today.

Hotter than the fires of Hades.

I'm hot and sticky and longing for a cooling breeze.

Have spent ALL day today doing my most unfavourite thing in the history of ever but finally completed my tax return online, which necessitated only two phone calls to the helpline to find out why I kept getting red error messages.

Anyhoo, it's all done and dusted, except for a bit for which I have to complete a supplementary paper form as they don't have the relevant section available online yet.

Which makes a bit of a mockery of the whole thing really.

In other news, there is still a lingering odour of stinky dog, despite my having subjected Small Dog to a rigourous triple shampooing after her indiscretion this morning. Why she had to choose the hottest day of the year for smelly shenanigans I don't know. We can hardly breathe as it is.

Still, it's nearly 5 o'clock so I'm ready to down tools and declare early yardarm. Might even fire up the BBQ while we wait for the heat of the day to subside.

Sounds like a plan.........

Monday, 29 June 2009


Good grief it's hot outside today.

Really, really hot.

With no cooling breeze.

Which makes the cool of the workroom a positive sanctuary, despite the chaos created by my usual 'end of the month' tidy up/clearout.

So that's where I'm going to be through the shimmering heat of the noonday sun until it cools down late afternoon, when I might just mosey out onto the patio with a glass of something chilled.

Always assuming that by then the workroom is pristinely tidy and gleaming.


Now I have shamed myself into producing an 'after' photo which shows an improvement.

I may be gone some time..........

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Home again, home again......jiggety jig

We had such a lovely time on our 'working away break' that we tagged on an impromptu extra day to take advantage of the wonderful weather and our superb pitch which gave us an unrivalled opportunity to get up close and personal with the plentiful wildlife.

By the end of our three days we were on particularly good speaking terms with a baby thrush, and two baby rabbits, and last night, as we sat outside at dusk, a badger bowled up bold as brass and snuffled its way into the rhododendron bushes a few feet away from us.

Despite feeling sad at having to pack up and come home today, the feeling was somewhat mitigated by the fact that yesterday afternoon a plethora of parents with kids descended on the campsite for the weekend. There's a lot to be said for going camping mid-week during the summer, at least before the schools break up, as there wasn't a single child on the site from Wednesday till Friday late afternoon.


And yes, I did even get a fair amount work done, despite all the bunny distractions

Anyway, here's a selection of our best bits..........

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Nailbiting wait.......part 3

Finally had a call from the garage to say that our little campervan was safely out of surgery and in recovery.

Which is more than can be said for us when we were presented with the bill.


However, the van is now roadworthy and MOT'd and we've thrown caution to the winds and booked to go away for a few nights on a *cough* 'working break'.

As camping is now so 'de rigeur' every Tom, Dick and Harry are now filling every available pitch, so we were a bit pushed to find a local site with availability, but at the 11th hour we have prevailed and will be travelling a mere 10 miles to a site we haven't visited before, taking workboxes and the bare essentials, ie food, wine, pair of shorts and t-shirt each, plus Small Dog's extensive packing list.

Whether or not we actually get any work done will depend on a combination of:
  • The weather
  • Entertainment value of our camping neighbours
  • Wine consumption
  • Vitally important stuff we've forgotten to take
As a fall-back position, if any or all of the above prevent us from hitting our targets, we will work through the weekend instead.

So no pressure there then.

In other news, I absolutely must visit this campsite...........

Nailbiting wait.........part 2

It's nearly 5 o'clock and still no call from the garage, where our little campervan is undergoing emergency surgery.

To say we're slightly worried is a massive understatement.

We had hoped to have it home and safely tucked up on the drive hours ago.

It doesn't bode well for the bill either....we've upgraded our expectation of the amount we'll have to fork out from 'OUCH' to 'HOW MUCH'???!!!!!

Lunch al fresco............

Finally succumbed to the glorious sunshine and have just had lunch in the garden accompanied by an ice cold beer.

Small Dog graciously joined us to partake in a soupcon of sliced ham, after which she did a bit of barking up the garden just to keep her paw in.

We've taken a vote on the 'working away' idea, and the ballot showed 3 in favour, none against so the vote was carried. Only problem is, the world and his half-brother seem to be camping this week so we're having trouble finding a reasonably local site with availability.


Nailbiting wait............

Had to be up especially early this morning in order to deliver the campervan for its surgery, which will cost us somewhere in the region of 'OUCH'.

We now have a nailbiting day awaiting the outcome, and the phone call which will inform us that our little van is out of intensive care and recovering nicely, so can we come and collect it.

In the meantime, I'm packing a workbox, with a selection of stuff to make, with the intention of taking a working break for a day or two before the weekend. It would be useful to take the van out and put it through its paces to see that everything is working as it should, and take advantage of the continuing good weather too. Not to mention getting some work done into the bargain, so hopefully a win-win situation all round.

Small dog has given this idea a firm 'paws up' and is packing her bag in anticipation of the trip.

In other news, my pullalong dodo is almost finished, and I'm on the umpteenth edit of my new pram kit instructions, so I'm in that lovely warm, virtuous space which opens up when work is going reasonably well.......for a change.

However despite making progress, my To Do list remains stubbornly long and unwieldy. No matter how many tasks I tick off, there are several more to take their place. It's like trying to empty the ocean with a spoon.

Perhaps a working holiday is just what I need. After all, one of the perks of being self-employed is having the flexibility to work wherever, whenever.


Sunday, 21 June 2009

The longest day.............Part 2

Despite the conspicuous lack of sun, on this the longest day, I am feeling a karmic connection with the whole summer solstice thing.

This may have something to do with the fact that PP's former brother-in-law (aka Greywolf) is Chief of the British Druid Order, and will therefore have performed a pivotal role in the summer solstice rituals at Stonehenge.

Yes really.

I kid you not.

You want proof?

OK, HERE it is..........

*hint* He's the one in the wolf cloak.

The longest day.............

So we are now past the mid-point of the year, and the longest day is upon us. From now on there is the inexorable slide into ever-shortening days and before we know it, it'll be only a few weeks till Christmas.

*barely repressed shudder*

However, despite the glowering grey skies outside, there are hopefully another 3 months of summer in which to revel, and we haven't had our holiday yet either, so woohoo!

Today got off to a good start, thanks to the truly wonderful Freecycle. Someone in Hastings was giving away a selection of china paints, of which we were the lucky recipients.

There then followed a brief period of displacement activity, before guilt kicked in and I decided that instead of faffing about for the whole day, I should really spend at least a few hours in the workroom, where several orders are awaiting my attention, not least a selection of pullalong toys including a giraffe, baby rhino and elephant calf.

And yes, I did make some progress on them, until I got distracted by an idea which has been fermenting in my brain for a while.........a pullalong dodo. So I have spent an amusing hour or two creating a rather supercilious dodo, wearing a frankly ridiculous hat, which is not helping to improve its mood at all. It has therefore developed an unflattering sneering curl to its bill.

I still have to finish it off and made the wheeled platform etc, but when it's done I'll post a picture. Of course I will only be able to make one at a time so that I can legitimately claim that it's the only one.

Displacement Sunday..........

And so my impromptu weekend of displacement activity continues. However thus far today I have been marginally more productive than I was yesterday.

Not in a cleaning the house, weeding the garden, cutting the lawn, tackling a kiln-load of soft cleaning, productive way.


No by no nonny no.

Nothing quite so useful.

Instead, I have been creating a new blog, which I was intending to keep under wraps for a little while, but after discussing it with the co-author, we have decided to reveal it to a very select group of people.


So if you wish to view the result of my displacement activity this morning..........

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Diplacement Saturday.........Part 2

Thus far, Displacement Saturday is going very nicely thank you.

Have just polished off two warm pancakes with maple syrup and am settling down in front of my laptop with a fresh cup of tea, as large grey, rain-laden clouds gather over a previously cloudless blue sky.

My first feast of displacement comes in the form of one of Small Dog's daily emails, related to Yorkshire Terriers and all their activities.

Yes, SD receives at least one Yorkie-related email a day in order to keep fully up to date with the latest fashion news, travel tips etc.

They're not always as slick as this one though...........

Displacement Saturday...............Part 1

This last week has been a doozer..........but not in a good way.

A whole series of unfortunate events punctuated the week including, in no particular order:
  • My spending a whole morning at A&E with a suspected DVT, confirmed by a positive D-Dimer blood test, but subsequently ruled out by an ultrasound scan. So evidence of clotting activity but no clot where the pain was. To be fair, I was seen pretty damn quick, with none of that hokey cokey,' in-out-in-out-wait- a -while- about' nonsense. It was standing room only in the waiting room and it seemed as if half of Hastings had come to A&E purely for a day out, nursing what looked like ridiculously minor, trivial injuries. Doesn't anyone know how to do first aid any more?
  • PP has 'done her back' and is walking around like a crab, rattling with painkillers, unable to bend, stretch or lift anything.
  • Small Dog traumatised by visit to vet, where she had her claws clipped, ear canals plucked and annual booster injection.....much to her clearly expressed disgust. Luckily we all escaped with only minor flesh wounds which didn't require a visit to A&E. She has also had an upset tummy all week, with predictably gooey consequences, and as PP can't bend, stretch or lift anything, it has fallen to me to perform the required decontamination procedures and wash SD's nether regions each time she returns from a dash to the garden.
  • Campervan failed its MOT which means it has to go to the motor equivalent of A&E next week for extensive surgery which will cost us an arm and leg.
  • My fantastic Ipod dock speaker system died suddenly last night, just two months out of warranty. I suspect it's the internal power unit. Visited some user forums on the net to discover that any number of other people have had the same problem, many of them within the warranty period. However the company's website is offline and apparently emails, letters, phone calls are all going unanswered. Further digging revealed that the company was bought out in May of this year and it is impossible to contact the new owner. Bugger!
  • For the first time in my life I have a dreadful case of hay fever. It's so bad that I can't breathe properly, despite taking maximum doses of anti-histamines.
I'm sure there have been other 'challenges' but that's enough to be going on with.

So I hereby declare today to be Displacement Saturday and intend to do absolutely nothing practical, useful or work-related, and instead dedicate myself to faffing about with mindless diverting trivia.

So there.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Nit-picking pernickity...........

Finally making some inroads into my epic To Do lists, both personal and business which is somewhat relieving my stress levels.

I've been working on a new toy pram kit today, making a components list and starting on the instructions.
I always approach instruction writing with a great deal of trepidation, as producing clear, unambiguous, easy to understand directions is both an art and a science and not to be undertaken lightly.

I can't be the only person regularly completely stumped by incomprehensible instructions seemingly originally written in Mandarin Chinese then translated into English by way of Swahili, Urdu and Inuit, losing clarity at each stage. Anything 'flat pack' is especially bad for this.

I like clear, numbered, step by step instructions, preferably accompanied by an uncluttered diagram, telling me exactly what I need to do, and what I need to enable me to do it. My heart sinks when I read something like.......

"Attach sub-section A to pre-assembled assembly D using a 7/16"positronic reversible widget (not supplied). Ensure that you remove the self-tapping rotating flange cap first......."

Or words to that effect.

However, so far so good. I've made diagrams and everything so I am well chuffed.

In other news, Small Dog has taken to her bed, feigning illness so that she won't need to go to the vet.

Great idea..............

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Yorkie longevity..............

Came across THIS heart-warming tale earlier and felt it was worth sharing.

In other news, our very own Small Dog is currently in a mighty huff as one of the tasks on my 'To Do' list for today was to make an appointment for her at the V.E.T. to have her annual booster injection, which has now been done and ticked off the list.

Hence tomorrow afternoon she will be literally dragged across the threshold of the vet's surgery for a quick check-up and vaccination. Hopefully this will be successfully accomplished within her brief 'goodwill period' which extends from the point at which she is placed on the examination table, right up until the needle hoves into view.

Our vet is a lovely chap, as are all the others in the practice, and she is undoubtedly much better behaved with him now than she used to be. But when she decides she's had enough it's everyone man/woman for themselves and PP and I have to grab an end each and hold on for dear life.

I usually draw the short straw and get the bitey end, although to be fair, she does always look very contrite afterwards. Who would think it would take 3 adults to subdue one Small Dog long enough for her various orifices to be explored and injection administered?

However, since I casually mentioned to SD that she would be going to the vet tomorrow she has been strangely silent..........can't imagine what's she's plotting.........

Written in the stars...........

For some obscure reason, lost in the mists of time, I have a daily horoscope delivered to my email inbox. I started it for a bit of a lark years years ago, and now I can't stop it. Not because I am an avid believer in my astrological destiny, but for the entirely more prosaic reason that I can't remember either the login or password required to switch it off.

Anyhoo, this morning I was mumbling and moaning to PP about my personal To Do list, (not to be confused with the business To Do list, about which the less said the better) which includes a plethora of Extremely Urgent Stuff, all of which has to be done and dusted by the end of this month. Complex, time-consuming stuff such as sorting out our campervan insurance renewal after seeking competitive quotes, completing and submitting my online tax return, assorted other financial gubbins etc etc etc.

The length and complexity of the list renders me transfixed and immobilised, rather like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming juggernaut.

So, I was more than slightly miffed by this morning's horoscope offering which reads as follows:

Hello Sandra!

Here's your horoscope for
Wednesday 17 June

If there's work piled up that is long overdue, Sandra, today will be the day to dig in. Added strength and mental acuity are in the air, and the projects you couldn't get to before will be readily accomplished. Make the most of the energy provided by the planetary aspects by not putting anything off. If you procrastinate, the pile will just get bigger. Do what needs to be done, and you'll feel great after.

Oh, just bugger off right now, Astrocentre!

What I DON'T need is to be told that I'm firing on all cylinders and will power through a list of tasks with consummate ease, when I know I'll patently not.

And yes...... if I did 'do what needs to be done' I'm absolutely sure I would 'feel great after'. Talk about stating the obvious.


I am now seriously disgruntled and even less likely to perform well today, thereby neatly confounding my celestial prediction and creating a reverse self-fulfilling prophesy.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009


Small Dog is devastated that she missed the canine event of the decade in London today.

Although she wouldn't have broken the record single-pawed, she is an enthusiastic barker, which is demonstrated by the way her front paws leave the ground with each woof.

I've just recalled her from the garden as she was getting into her stride, barking at some nocturnal squirrel or hedgehog........the neighbour's dog from two doors down sets up a stereo bark in a slightly lower register, which then sets off the dog on the other side of us and all three together create a symphony of sound akin to the Starlight Barking.

SD never willingly ceases this nightly ritual and usually has to be dragged back indoors where she immediately dashes to her water bowl to rehydrate her vocal chords then struts around with the air of a job well done.

Noisy little mutt.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Petite perambulators.........

PP and I have been hard at work during the past week, perfecting some new miniature toys to add to our range.

I've been working on new costumes for little toy dolls, and following the success of our 1/12th scale toy prams, PP has raised the bar even higher and produced some gorgeous 1/24 toy prams, one of which is pictured below, alongside one of my toy dolls and a thimble to show the scale.

These tiny wonders are the perfect size for doll's doll's dolls.

Or to put it another way, the dolls which belong to the toy dolls, which belong to 1/12 scale doll's house children!

Not content with these, PP has also made some lovely little toy cribs, which are even smaller!

For full details visit either Diminutive Dolls or Tower House Dolls websites.

In other news, the weather has reverted to type and we have swapped glorious sunshine and balmy temperatures for grey skies and relentless rain and drizzle. While this is good for both the garden and my work ethic, small dog is extremely disgruntled as she simply hates getting wet. Even the prospect of a squirrel chase hasn't been enough to raise her spirits and she has taken to her basket like a small, furry version of Camille.......all pale and quivering.

We are hoping that the weather will have improved by Friday as we're off camping again. I've been checking the forecast on a number of different online weather websites and am going to go with the most optimistic. However till then it's back to work.........

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Vintage Ventriloquists..........

More than 50 votes on the poll first thing this morning, so I seem to have captured the imagination of the dollclub members.

Voting so far is fairly evenly spread, but I was disappointed to see that nobody is interested in the vintage ventriloquist and dummy.

I have a certain morbid fascination with them.....they're quite strange and otherworldly and it takes no leap of the imagination to think of them having a life of their own, independent of their owner.

I remember seeing an old black and white film when I was quite young, about a ventriloquist (played by James Cagney?) and his dummy alter-ego. There's a scene where he has to subdue the dummy and lock him in a suitcase, with the dummy kicking and screaming to be let out.
Then of course there was that famous Twilight Zone episode in which Cliff Robertson plays the ventriloquist and is convinced that his dummy, Willie, is alive and evil.

While trawling for suitable images I also found this great blog post about vintage ventriloquists today, which has a wonderful selection of photos, many of which are quite unsettling.

Hmm...........perhaps on reflection, I can see why no one would want to recreate a vintage ventriloquist and his possibly malevolent dummy, in miniature.

Am I weird or what........?

Saturday, 6 June 2009


It's been a little while since our last Home Workshop Pack, which featured the delectable Mr Albert Lowther, the erstwhile proprietor of my toy shop.

We've been trying to decide on a series of projects to run from July through to the end of the year and have come up with a shortlist of 10 different characters, ranging from Miss Havisham in her decaying wedding finery, complete with rat-infested wedding cake and the cobwebby candlestick which caused her final demise, to a pretty young milliner at her work table, festooned with the tools and materials of her trade, putting the final touches to a wonderful creation. Plus a whole host of other unusual characters...........

As always, our home workshop packs will contain everything needed to complete a particular character/project, including the doll kit, assembly pack, materials, trimmings, wigging, all accessories as appropriate, patterns, illustrated step-by-step instructions and full email support.

To see the entire shortlist and to vote for your favourite(s) you must be a member of our online dollclub. It's free to join and you will receive notification of all our home workshop packs, special offers, sales etc, which are available only to members.

You can join the dollclub HERE

If you are already a member, you can access the online poll HERE. You will have to sign in to Yahoo Groups using the information you used to create your account.

The poll will remain open until Sunday 14th June and we will post the results on the dollclub forum.

The character with the highest number of votes will be featured as our next home workshop pack in July, with the second most popular in August, and so on, through to December.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

AIMing high........

The latest issue of the FREE online magazine, Artisans in Miniature is now available to view online.

As a member of the editorial team I've been a bit lax of late, due to real life rearing its ugly head and leaving me little spare time/energy/enthusiasm for anything other than the basics. However, despite the (temporary) hiatus in my series of Tales From the Toy Cupboard, I did manage a contribution to the latest issue, a show report on the Kensington Dollshouse Festival last month.

The current issue covers both June and July, and the theme is all things summer. August's theme will be nautical and the coast, then September (which will be compiled in August) will be my own specialist subject, miniature toys, bears and the nursery. I have to supply the cover shot, not to mention some of the content, so I'd better crack on with it otherwise August will be here before I know it.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Happy days..........

Despite the gloriously sunny weather the past two days, I have been cocooned in my workroom for much of the time, sorting through fabrics, trimmings and ribbons and organising my toy dolls workbox.

I found the merest snippet of a wonderful silver/rainbow hairstripe silk, from a piece I bought nearly 20 years ago. Because I have only a tiny amount left, I have been hoarding it, unwilling to use it as I know I can never replace it.

However yesterday I decided to throw caution to the winds, and used a piece of this precious fabric to begin work on these two little toy dolls, which I finished late this afternoon.

I am so pleased with them.........aside from the gorgeous silk fabric, which I used for the bustled jackets, I have teamed one with a very pale aqua, and the other a soft pale cornflower blue and both have accents of contrasting colours in the costume/bonnet.

Each doll measures less than 1 3/4" tall and has jointed limbs. The costumes are completely hand sewn, using a tiny needle only slightly thicker than a human hair. The diminutive shoes are made from tissue-thin silk and have real leather soles. The tiny jackets have six individual pieces. Viscose for the minute ringlet wigs is meticulously wound onto the finest piano wire..........

Every element of the costume, every painstaking stage involved in making these little dolls should have me tearing my hair out, but strangely, whenever I sit down to make one, I can feel the stress and worry of everyday life just drain away, and a sense of peace, calm and contentment enfolds me. I become lost in the creative process and the hours simply melt away, till finally I place the last silk ribbon bow in place and sit back to admire the finished doll.

Happy days...........