Saturday, 31 October 2009

Halloween shenanigans........

We were supposed to be away camping this weekend, but the combination of a gloomy weather forecast and being way behind on work have put the kibosh on our plans.

Which means that for the first time in several years we will be at home for Halloween. This year we are battening down the hatches and refusing to open the door to the hordes of trick or treaters who will descend as soon as it's dark.

Hopefully, the fact that we haven't been here for the past few Oct 31 will mean that there is no expectations of us being here tonight, and we will be overlooked in the Halloween frenzy.

It's our own fault.

We had become victims of our own success.

The first few years we were here we did the whole nine yards....... making up bags of scary sweets, dressing up in horrible masks, draping a black sheet over one of us so that only the mask was visible, lit from underneath by a small torch, atmospheric scary soundtrack (beating heart, creaking door, terrified screams etc) playing loudly as we opened the door and silently held out a black-gloved hand with the requisite number of treat bags.

Some of the younger, more impressionable trick or treaters are probably still traumatised by the memory.

Anyway, word of our dramatics spread like wildfire round the Halloween community and year on year we had more and more visitors until we were spending a small fortune on liquorice worms and snakes, gobstopper eyeballs, witch claw chews etc, not to mention the hours then spent bagging them all up and scarifying the entrance porch.

Tonight we will be closing the blinds, locking the door, switching off the porch lights and resolutely ignoring the doorbell.

I intend to to be the Halloween equivalent of Ebenezer Scrooge

Bah humbug............

Friday, 30 October 2009

Flu party.............

I had my seasonal flu jab this morning.

Having an immune system that is intent on destroying itself has few advantages, and queuing up in our GP's surgery for a flu jab certainly isn't one of them.

However, this year I noticed that a special effort had been made to inject some party spirit into the proceedings. Brightly coloured posters festooned the windows and walls, and cheery bunting flags decorated the reception area, all extolling the virtues of having the vaccination.

The party atmosphere was augmented by the fact that everyone was wearing 'easy access' straps seductively slipping off the shoulder tops.

Even the men.

We formed a reasonably orderly queue and the cheery nurse jabbed each of us in was just like being back in school except we didn't get a lollipop afterwards.

I also enquired about the swine flu jab, as having MS puts me in the priority group for that. I'm a bit nervous about being in contact with thousands of possibly germ-riddled visitors to the two fairs, so wanted to ensure that I had the vaccination before next weekend, if at all possible.

However Hastings must be right down the bottom of the immunological pecking order for swine flu vaccine deliveries, as GPs won't get their deliveries until the 11 November. So I'll just have to take my chances till then.

Incidentally, apparently scientists have successfully created an anthropomorphic representation of the swine flu virus in order to fully test the efficacy of the vaccine...........

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Tiger, tiger, burning bright.....................

I've been a bit obsessed by tigers lately.

This is probably due to working on a couple of Indian and Snow Tiger pullalong toys this week, which are finally nearing completion.

Not to mention further trying to hone my video making skills by producing another short video for my current Ebay listing. They're still taking an age to do, and there are still many, many things I could do better, but Rome, as they say, wasn't built in a day.

So here is my latest effort...

Clicking HERE will take you straight to the Ebay auction. I'm planning to list a different miniature toy on Ebay every Sunday till Christmas, all starting and finishing around 7.30pm BST.

In other news, worryingly, my fairs 'to do' lists don't seem to be diminishing at all, no matter how many tasks I manage to tick off. Prep will likely go right to the wire next Friday, by which time whatever isn't done, isn't going to be.

*heartfelt sigh*

Right, it's 5 o'clock, almost pitch black outside, so time to down tools for the day.

PS - I haven't forgotten about the little 3-D theatre and will try to make a showcase video tomorrow.

Story of my life.........

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Lions and tigers and bears......Oh my!

It's been unseasonably warm and sunny today.......uncannily like a summer's day.

Whilst walking Small Dog in the woods we strayed from the path in pursuit of newly fallen chestnuts, and within minutes we were completely lost.

Not just a little bit lost.

Completely lost.

Instead of doing the sensible thing and retracing our steps, we decided to press on, further into the woodland in the hopes of coming upon one of the many narrow trails which criss-cross the area. However after 10 minutes of clambering over fallen trees, wading through muddy streams and negotiating thickets of brambles and thorns, we had had enough.

Strange noises seemed to press in on us from every side. Startled squirrels, also in search for windfall chestnuts, chattered loudly as they scampered up into the tree canopy.

Then silence.

The sun, which had been glinting through the trees suddenly disappeared and we were plunged into a Stygian gloom.

Small Dog, who had previously been busily scurrying along in front, enforcing her rigourous 'stop and sniff' policy, suddenly re-appeared quietly at our feet, looking up at us with what can only be described as a worried expression.

It suddenly became quite Blair Witch-ish.....

An edge of mounting panic settled upon us. My admittedly vivid imagination produced images of us still lost as night fell, and having to spend the night in the forest till rescue arrived.

Or we were eaten by wolves.

Whichever came first.

I chose not to share these thoughts, but all three of us simultaneously decided to change tactic. As we were trudging along the bottom of a valley, we all thought it seemed sensible to strike out upwards, towards the light, up a very muddy, leaf-lined, slippery slope which we reasoned would eventually lead us back to the main footpath.

A further 10 minutes later, bramble-scratched, sweaty, panting more than Small Dog and covered in mud from the knees down, we emerged blinking onto a path that we thought we recognised and the panic gradually subsided.

Just goes to show that even familiar territory can quickly become unfamiliar territory. In future we will take the geocaching gizmo and set regular waymarks, so that if we get lost again (as if?!) we can easily find our way back.

Just a slightly more technologically-updated version of leaving a trail of bread crumbs...

Curtain up..............

Despite the current postal chaos, an order I placed late yesterday afternoon for a number of tiny electric light bulbs to illuminate my little toy theatres, arrived promptly at 9am this morning.

Admittedly it was delivered by courier, but nonetheless, I was impressed.

So, today I will be finishing off the two theatres currently awaiting their lighting, then hopefully progressing with the prams and pullalong toys.

If I work really diligently today, with absolutely no slacking off for displacement activity, I might... just might, get to within a gnat's whisker of completing almost everything on my work desk.

Now that's just tempting fate, isn't it................?

Monday, 26 October 2009

The times, they are a-changing.....

Feeling a bit discombobulated this morning.

I've put it down to the clock change ritual over the weekend, which always throws me out of kilter for a few days.

Relished the 'extra' hour in bed yesterday morning, but since we didn't change every clock and watch at the same time, I spent the day in a state of diurnal confusion, having to constantly check the time on my laptop which was the only reliable timepiece in the house.

Woke at stupid o'clock this morning (which is very unlike me!) and was surprised to find how light it was. Of course at the other end of the day it will be dark at 5 o'clock, which makes me want to hibernate.

Must crack on today as I have sooooo much to do and I am determined to end the day with a multitude of tasks ticked off on my 'To Do' list.............

Time and tide and all that.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Creative chaos........

I have been hard at work all weekend refining and improving my little 3-D toy theatre and in the process I've even added lighting to it to properly illuminate the interior!

I am SO pleased with it and will make a little showcase video of it this week so I can share it with you.

Of course all I need to do now is make a few more for my next fair in two week's time so absolutely no pressure there then.

That's in addition to completing all the miniature toys which were in the making last week when I decided to have a go at the theatre, including several little toy perambulators and some whimsical pullalong toys.

However, before I do anything else I am going to have to sort out my desk, which currently looks like this........

How I ever manage to find anything, let alone actually work in that mess is a complete mystery even to me.

Eventually, when only a few square inches of clear space remain, I have to take time out to tidy it all up and put stuff away.

Then the whole process begins all over again.

I try to put a positive spin on it and describe it as 'creative chaos' but even I have to admit that it's not a sensible way to work.

So if I can spend the next hour or so tidying up in the workroom then at least I can start fresh again tomorrow.

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

Friday, 23 October 2009

Memory lapse............

In all the excitement this week I completely forgot to showcase my second Ebay listing featuring my fledgling video skills.

I'm gradually exploring various different features in my admittedly rather basic video editing software, and this week advanced to adding sound and titles within the video. The whole thing still took far too long to create, considering it's less than a minute and a half long, but I'm learning lots of new stuff so it's all good.

You can view the Ebay listing HERE. Only two days to go before the listing ends!
I'm planning to list a miniature toy on EBay each week from now till Christmas, including a new exotic animal pullalong, elaborate wicker toy perambulator, an exclusive Christmas marotte and perhaps even a 3-D toy theatre setting, so do keep checking back to see what's new over the coming few months.

These listings are currently one of Ebay's best kept secrets so it's possible to snap up a real bargain if you're lucky!

OK, back to work for me. I'm going to have a go at the new and improved version of the toy theatre today as the clock is ticking..........

Thursday, 22 October 2009


Despite the relatively inauspicious start to today, it has ended on a relatively high note as I have successfully completed a prototype 3-D theatre room box.

Having made every conceivable mistake in the prototype, the next version can now be adjusted to create a perfect little theatre. I'm really quite pleased with it, and am already thinking of how to improve it, perhaps even installing a tiny micro light!

That's the problem with prototypes.......they inevitably spawn bigger and better ideas. Or perhaps in my case that should be smaller and better ideas.

Now all I have to do is refine and improve the prototype in time for the first fair next month.

Just over two weeks away

No pressure there then...

Incidentally, while I was engaged in some research earlier today, I came across this little gem from the 1920's.


Seconds out......round 2!

Feeling marginally less sub-human today, thanks to an ad hoc, and probably inadvisable, concoction of neuropathic painkillers, carefully calculated to deal with the worst of the pain without rendering me incapable of coherent speech or giving me a gait like Lurch from the Addams Family.

So, I am currently girding my loins for another session with the scanner in an attempt to further refine the elements of my new 3-D toy theatre.

A fellow blogger, who knows about these things, suggested that the scanning settings were all to pot, hence the large scan size, slow speed etc. I have no doubt he's right. However I am absotively, posilutely certain that I had selected the correct settings. In fact, when scanning to print, which was the case yesterday, it is only possible to scan at 300dpi. Not only that, I didn't even have it on photo setting, as I was scanning a coloured line drawing/illustration.

I have come to the conclusion that not only is the printer/scanner incompetent. It is also malicious and possibly possessed.

I'll give it another go today and if it doesn't cooperate and repent of its wicked ways, I've decided I'm going to have to 'rehabilitate' it.


Wednesday, 21 October 2009

3-D specs............

I should have stuck to my intention of updating our brochure and leaflet today. That would have been a relatively simple task, easily achievable and and it would have engendered a sense of success in a job well done.

But no.

I decided instead to work on an idea I've had for some time of a little 3-dimensional children's theatre in the Victorian style. A few years ago I designed a Punch & Judy puppet theatre so I have all the basics of the theatre itself. Then a few months back I acquired a very, very old book of theatre backdrops and scenery which I thought I could use in conjunction with my toy theatre to create a multi-dimensional, recede-into-the-distance' diorama.

In 1/12th scale.

I don't know WHAT I was thinking.

First off, as I needed to carefully resize the scenery, I had to engage with the scanner. Regular readers will know that the scanner/copier/printer and I have a chequered past. Our mutual animosity was made worse earlier this year when I was able to justify a lovely new extra-high quality printer which is sleek and silent and obeys my every whim. Unlike the old machine, which is chunky and clunky and is forever shuffling its ink cartridges and going off in a sulk.

However the new printer only prints. To do any copying or scanning I have to curry favour with the all-in-one, and relations today have reached breaking point.

I thought I might have problems by the way it narrowed its little blinking LED lights when I sat down in front of it. Casually, I ignored this and lifted the lid to carefully place my theatre cutouts on the glass. As soon as I closed the lid and turned to the computer to pull up the scanning software, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of the printer metaphorically folding its arms, and pretending it was really, REALLY busy doing something extremely important by going through one of its endless cartridge shuffling sessions.

Undaunted, I continued setting up the scanning parameters then hit the preview button.


Tried again.


Closed the program, re-opened it, set up the scanning stuff again and decided to forgo the preview and go straight for a scan.


Checked that the printer was connected to the PC, even though I absolutely, certainly knew it was. Switched the printer off and on again, hoping to wipe its memory of every ruckus we'd ever had.

Still nothing.

Eventually, after about 90 minutes of faffing around, and perhaps sensing that if it didn't relent and cooperate it would be drop-kicked out the window, the printer seemed to suddenly notice I was there and after a few more minutes of shuffling, began to scan.

V---e---r---y, v---e---r---y, s---l---o---w---l---y.

So slowly in fact, that I could have drawn the scene by hand, strolled round to the shops for a pack of crayons, strolled back and hand-coloured the whole thing in less time.

It was THAT slow.

The resulting scan was so big it took our state-of-the-art, super speedy PC a full 3 minutes to render it viewable.

I have another 6 pieces of scenery still to scan but I have lost the will to live. I'm sure I am not imagining that the printer is sniggering.

So instead of a gorgeous 3-D toy theatre diorama I have one solitary piece of scenery which took me most of the afternoon to achieve.


Isn't it yardarm yet............?

Spanner in the works...........

I just knew that the fair preparations were going a little too smoothly.

That my ambitious work 'schedule' was ticking along just a tad too productively.

I should've kept my premature back-slapping congratulatory smugness to myself.

One of the daily routines which practically every person I know who has MS performs upon waking, is to do a quick roll-call of their body parts to check what's working and what's calling in sick. In my case this entails a quick whistle-stop tour of my body, particularly the outlying limbs, to see what neuropathic delights might be in store for me on any given day.

This is rather like looking through a kaleidoscope, as I never get the same pattern twice.

Over the past few weeks, aside from the odd episode of 'icy fingers' stroking down my face, and random patches of numbness/tingling in my right arm, I've felt remarkably well. Not exactly pre-MS well, but not far from it.

However mainly what I noticed was the absence of pain.

Absence of pain is an actual sensation all of its own.

It feels reassuringly warm and light and it is accompanied by a sense of positive well-being and energy which is increasingly fleeting and elusive.

It was in this pain-free state that I blitzed the house recently, tidying and cleaning and preparing the winter nest. It felt just like old times.

However, this morning, my lovely, cherished, absence of pain had gone, to be replaced with presence of pain.

Presence of pain can be cold and heavy.
Or it can be high-voltage, hit-and-run, electric shockery which takes your breath away. Literally.
Or it can be a leaden numbness, overlaid with patches of searing pins and needles, which move erratically across the skin like a multi-legged scuttling creature.
Or it can be a combination of all of the above.

Mostly presence of pain is exhausting and wearing. The random nature of the pain and where it might attack means that I am constantly tensed, either coping with the actuality, or anticipating the possibility.

I know that today I can't do any delicate work primarily because the pain in my arms is accompanied by tiny tremors. So cracking on with my batch of exotic animal pullalong toys will have to be put on the back burner. It's hard enough to manipulate tiny pinhead crystals with tweezers at the best of times!

Fortunately, there are lots of alternative tasks to do.......updating our brochure and leaflets or writing my next article for AIM magazine.
Perhaps I can even dust off my languishing book (which should have been finished by now!) and carry on with that.

However I am feeling rather desolate. I had become used to the relative absence of pain and too quickly forgot the alternative and how habituated I had become to the presence of pain. Sadly that habituation will have to be regained, slowly and.........well.......painfully.

MS sucks.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Hello Dollies..........

Was alerted to the repeat of this TV programme by a fellow AIM member just minutes before it started earlier this evening.

It's mostly about relatively 'high-end' collecting and is worth watching for the exquisite work of Mulvany & Rogers, as well as Caroline Hamilton's wonderful doll's house collection.

Watch it HERE!


Slow cooked dinner update

The chicken casserole was absolutely delicious. As predicted the meat just fell off the bone and was so tender and succulent.......

Small Dog had a small chicken drumstick with her dog biscuits and barely even left the pattern on her dish, so we reckon that's a firm 'paws up' from her.

We've cut up the rest of the chicken with the intention of making a chicken and vegetable soup tomorrow. I'm planning to use potatoes, parsnips, swede, carrots and onion, garlic and herbs to make the soup (also in the slow cooker), adding the already cooked chicken in the last half hour of cooking. Served with crusty bread and a glass of chilled white wine I think it should be just the thing for a cold October evening meal.

I am now a complete convert to the ethos of slow cooking and will be shopping for some stewing beef later this week to have a go at Beef in Ale. Another comfort-food winter warmer.

Beats thermal underwear hands down.....

Early doors...........


That's it!

I'm downing tools for the day having been hard at it with no breaks since this morning.

Also it's really cold and dismal so I've just clicked the heating on a bit early and am looking forward to a deliciously warming chicken casserole courtesy of our new slow-cooker. Hopefully the chicken will just fall off the bone having been cooked very slowly for 6 hours, spreading a mouthwatering aroma throughout the house all day. I've even been exceptionally frugal and cooked enough for two meals with the intention of freezing some for a future date.

Small Dog has been snuggled down in her basket, occasionally venturing out to accompany me into the kitchen to assess the progress of the casserole. If she is VERY lucky she might just get some with her dog biscuits later........

Monday, 19 October 2009

Fishy business.........

Have been hard at work today, following a lovely, relaxing weekend spent with friends which included a superb lunch at Webbe's Fish Cafe in Rye, where we attended a fish cookery demonstration followed by a truly wonderful 4-course luncheon.

I'm normally a bit trepidatious when it comes to fish, following a traumatic childhood experience when I got a large fish bone lodged in my throat, which then swelled up till I could hardly breathe (my throat swelled up, not the fish bone!) Had to be rushed to the doctor who extracted the bone with a pair of forceps which to my young eyes seemed to be about a foot long. I can still recall crying and gagging at the same time as he manipulated the forceps down my throat to grip the offending bone and pull it out.

Unsurprisingly, I wouldn't touch fish (not even fish fingers) for years afterwards, and on the odd occasion when I had no option, I would have to forensically dissect each mouthful so thoroughly that I would invariably finish my meal at least an hour after everyone else.

I have become somewhat more adventurous, fish-wise, since meeting PP, who having always lived by the sea has a love of all things piscine. Therefore I have been gently introduced to all manner of fishy dishes which I would never have dreamt of trying out before.

However, the cookery demonstration on Saturday, was of three of the dishes which we were later to eat for lunch, and if I'd known what they were beforehand I would have been traumatised.

First course/appetiser was lobster, to which I am not averse in the slightest. So far so good.

Second course - soused mackerel, which to my dismay was raw, steeped for an hour or so in a sweet/sour marinade.

Mackerel? Raw??

Third course - flounder.


However, it is a testament to the skill of the chef (Paul Webbe himself) that the expert filleting skills he demonstrated left not one hint of bone. And the various dishes he created, and which were subsequently served, were beautifully presented and set off with mouthwatering silky sauces and accompaniments.

I can now tell the difference between a flounder and a plaice. I know (in theory) exactly how to fillet either of them, then cook them to perfection. I also know how to humanely dispatch a live lobster, then dismember it, and how to prepare a fresh mackerel for sousing.

I'm also delighted to discover that the Webbe empire has recently expanded into Hastings, and he has a cracking new restaurant at Rock-a-Nore, only yards away from where the Hastings fishing fleet lands its catch every morning.

We're planning to have our Christmas 'office party' there in December! Who knows, I may become even more adventurous in my choice of fish ........

Friday, 16 October 2009

Halloween horror............

Finally got round to visiting the wondrous new Poundland shop in Hastings the other day, a cornucopia of delights, none costing more than £1.

Obviously, in the run up to Halloween, a whole section of the shop was given over to 'ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night'. I was particularly taken with some excellent 1/12 scale skeletons (3 for a £1) and some uncannily realistic spiders, just the right size for LARGE 1/12th tarantulas. Get them while you can.

There is a real dichotomy between the largely imported, saccharine coated, trick or treasty, pumpkin-lantern style of Halloween peddled for the kiddies, and the more visceral origins of the festival which date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain

This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night of October 31, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred.
It was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth wreaking havoc and damaging crops.

Anyway, all that aside, one of the best things about the run up to Halloween is the plethora of horror films on TV. I prefer the vintage Hammer Horror films to the modern gore-fest shockers in vogue in recent years. My personal Hammer favourite is Masque of the Red Death with the redoubtable Vincent Price and a virginal Jane Asher whose acting left something to be desired.

As a young teenager, Hammer Horrors used to be routinely screened late on Friday nights, and I used to stay up to watch them, with the lights off, armed only with a cushion to block out the scariest bits.

This fascination with fear has never left me, although I am more circumspect these days. However thanks to a fellow blogger I have discovered an interesting purveyor of fear through the medium of photography.

My favourite from the portfolio gallery on his website is this one, which panders to my well-documented fear of clowns and is disturbing on soooooo many levels.........

In addition, his blog details how the photographs are created. Fascinating stuff......

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Flushed with success.........

Well it's now gone lunchtime and thus far today I haven't done a stroke of work.

This was primarily due to spending all of this morning in and around Ore, collecting various Freecyled bits and making a visit to B&Q to return cistern fittings.

Earlier this week a bit of plastic flange spigot thingy inside our downstairs loo broke, rendering it unflushable.

Well ,unflushable using the handle, which just flopped around uselessly. It was still possible to flush by removing the cistern lid and manually pulling up the bit which empties the water. This was both inconvenient and annoying.

Not to mention very probably unhygienic.

Anyway, a quick trip to B&Q yesterday elicited the information that it was impossible just to buy the plastic flange spigot thingy bit which was broken.

No by no nonny no.

Apparently we had to buy a new handle with all the fitments INCLUDING the flange spigot thingy. Which we did. Only to discover that it wouldn't fit through the hole.

So back to B&Q today to return said handle, then on to a trade plumbing suppliers to see if we could find one that did fit.

Lo and behold, the extremely knowledgeable chap behind the counter knew just by looking at the broken flange spigot thingy exactly what make and year of cistern we had and after a only a few minutes rummaging round the back, produced the perfect handle, complete with pristine heavy duty flange spigot thingy.


Not only that, theirs was cheaper than B&Q.


The icing on the cake was that within 10 minutes of returning home, I had replaced the handle and plastic flange spigot thingy with the aid of a pair of mole grips and some pliers and not even one expletive deleted.

So we now have a fully functioning flushing loo, but I've lost a morning's work.

Hey ho......

Monday, 12 October 2009

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

Having just spent the entire weekend exhausting myself on an autumn 'spring-clean', today has dawned bright and sunny after the relentless grey drizzle of the past two days.

Tackled the workroom this morning, which is always a mess no matter how much tidying up and/or clearing out I do. At least it's now moderately tidy, which is as much I can hope for for the foreseeable future, especially in the run up to two fairs next month.

Having forsworn all displacement activity for the duration (cleaning is not displacement activity. Neither is ironing *sigh*) I decided to get properly organised for the working week ahead, and do a proper stock check, which seemed like a good idea at the time.

And yes, it is a good idea. Except it is spawning yet more good ideas, the foremost of which is the necessity of creating a spreadsheet, which will instantly calculate quantities, cost totals etc, and let me see at a glance exactly what I have in stock and what I still need to make.

Which in itself is a very useful tool.


Excel and I don't exactly see eye to eye on many things. We had a falling out a while back and although we've reinstated an uneasy truce, a full rapprochement clearly isn't on the cards.

It all stems from my dyscalculia, which basically means I'm pants with numbers. Excel knows this and takes unfair advantage of it at every opportunity.

For example, if I want it to add A & B then deduct C, I confidently write the formula in the cell and click enter, waiting in excited anticipation for the answer to magically appear.

Excel then smirkily announces #VALUE! Usually in bright red.

That's all. Just #VALUE!

No help or suggestions about where I went wrong, or a reassuring hug and cup of tea.

So small wonder that whenever I try to do anything in Excel it usually ends in tears.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Thanks Joyce....!

Perfect way to cheer up a dismal, grey, dreich, drizzly Sunday afternoon.

Click on the image to see more photos........

Good to see guinea pigs getting the recognition they deserve........

Autumn nesting makeover.............

For me, somehow autumn seems to be a much more appropriate time for a 'spring clean' than spring.

The coming of the long nights and cold weather always make me want to snuggle down and nest, and it was with this in mind that I cast a critical eye over the house last week.

Working from home has many advantages, but a major disadvantage is that 'work' tends to spread through the house like a miasma. If every surface in the workroom is covered with work in progress, it is so simple (and tempting) to start an overflow area just about anywhere else. Up until a few weeks ago the dining rooms was full to bursting with doll molds and casting gear.
One of the spare bedrooms is also chock-a-block with work related stuff.

So in the spirit of our ongoing downsizing, and having the benefit of an uncharacteristic surge of energy, I set about a major clearout and cleanup starting yesterday. The lounge was looking very unkempt and unloved and the dining room was just plain messy. Although the many boxes of doll molds have gone, there was still lots of other stuff which needed to be rehomed or cleared out.

I spent all day yesterday and several hours today, systematically clearing and cleaning, and generally making the house feel more like a home again, rather than a storage facility.

Gone is all the clutter which gradually accumulates in any home.
Gone is all the dust and debris (much of the blame for which can be laid at the paws of Small Dog)
Gone are all the boxes of 'stuff' - either sorted through and recycled/binned or rationalised and put away.

It's like having a whole new house. And having restored it to a relatively pristine state, I can see more clearly what is needed to complete the makeover. So I've been doing a little shopping list to aid my winter nesting preparations.

First, lighting. I've decided to replace the uninspiring floor and table lamp in the lounge with something more........mood-enhancing.
Second, soft furnishings. Small Dog likes to snuggle down on a cosy blanket of an evening, so we have a couple of fleecy throws which take the chill off the leather sofas in order to protect her paws from hypothermia. When we bought them we thought they were the perfect colour.

But they're not.
Not at all.

In retrospect they're quite a boring, depressing shade of dark red, when what we need is something lighter and brighter, more crimson or arterial blood red.

Ditto scatter cushions - ours are now sadly outdated, and although two of them were bought because they were reminiscent of the fur of an Abyssinian Guinea Pig my daughter had when she was young, they're now definitely past their best.

Third, occasional table. We have a ratty, tatty old thing which weighs a ton and looks horrendous. However, we've attempted to replace it several times before and hated just about every table we saw.

And we saw many.......but none of them quite fitted the bill

Too modern or too old fashioned.
We don't want anything with glass in it.
It's got to be light enough to move around easily without causing a hernia but not so lightweight that it's flimsy.
Not too big and not too small.

Suggestions on a virtual postcard please.........

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Think calming thoughts.......

That's my mantra for today.

Think calming thoughts
Think calming thoughts
Think calming thoughts

Not that it's working. Or perhaps it is and I should be wailing like a banshee without it.

I have spent ALL of today in an increasing spiral of frustration and annoyance.

Damnable technology........

OK, I'll take some deep breaths and start at the beginning.

Up bright and early this morning full of enthusiasm for an idea I had during the night while tossing and turning and trying (unsuccessfully as it transpires) not to disturb Small Dog, who decided to settle herself across my ankles then fall into a deep sleep, snoring her head off.

When disturbed from her nocturnal slumbers, Small Dog becomes feral and immediately goes growly. I suppose it harks back to when she was a puppy and still in her sibling pack. She was the runt of the litter (yes, hard to believe I know) and had to endure no end of bullying from her brothers, one of whom was appropriately named Thug. I expect that all the puppies would snuggle down together initially, then gradually the bigger pups would push the smaller ones out of the way, or lie on them, or frogmarch them out of the basket altogether.

Anyway, something traumatic must have happened to Small Dog in early puppyhood because if she is disturbed when she's asleep, she immediately goes on the defensive, stares at you accusingly as if you'd just taken a stick to her, then stalks off in a huff.

But I digress.

Back to this morning.

My idea seemed simple enough. I allocated what seemed like a reasonable period of time to see it through.

2 hours start to finish.


After 2 hours I hadn't even begun to plumb the depths of despair to which I would eventually descend.

The idea?

Make a video of a rather lovely new little toy doll I made earlier this week.
Upload said video to YouTube
Embed said YouTube video into an EBay listing.
Upload EBay listing

Like I said. Simples! (sadly I can't make Alexander meerkat's 'simples' clicking noise but you get the idea)

Bloody technology!!!!

Now, I'm no Luddite. I think I do pretty well for a woman of reasonably advanced years.

I blog.
I've created and manage a website.
I'm comfortable with manipulating digital images.
I have been on the interweb for over 15 years.
I've created video tutorials.
I can use Bluetooth.
I can find my way round HTML and have a working knowledge of FTP.
I use advanced programs for word processing, spreadsheets, databases, presentations.

In short, I am reasonably au fait with technology and its applications.

Which is why today was such a bummer.

I'll gloss over the whole video debacle.... setting up my little mobile lighting studio, getting everything ready for filming. All I was aiming for was a 1 minute clip for goodness sake.

I'll refrain from describing the video editing software fiasco. Well I haven't used it for a while and it's not exactly intuitive, despite what it says on the box.

I won't linger on the havoc wreaked on my sanity by trying time and time again to use EBay's Turbo Lister to prepare the listing and upload it. I haven't listed anything for sale on EBay for 18 months, and today I remembered why.

I've spent 9 hours today (9 HOURS!!!!) making a 1-minute video and embedding it in an EBay listing.

That's 9 hours of my life I can never recoup. Although to be honest it's 9 hours I'd rather just put down to experience, forget and move on.

And the results of my labours..........

You can view it HERE.

I am now overdue a VERY large glass of super-chilled Sauvignon Blanc and a lie down.


Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Box of memories.............

Cast your mind back to last week when I was creating a little toy doll to donate to the 'Box of Memories' auction in aid of the Breast Cancer Campaign.

Well I've only just received these photos of the finished box, courtesy of Celia Thomas, organiser of the wonderful Thame Dolls House & Miniatures Fair.

For full details of the box and auction click on the link or either of the photos.

Doesn't time fly...........?

I feel slightly abashed that having dangled the promise of technicolour moving pictures earlier this week, there aren't now hours of stunning video adorning this blog.

However, in the way of things, I've been forced to raid eBay for a large capacity SD memory card for the new toy. Annoyingly, the onboard memory supplied is pitifully small and can cope with only about 10 seconds of HD recording before it has a fit of the vapours. Hopefully new memory card will arrive today and enable me to experiment more thoroughly.

Also, it has been brought to my attention that my first attempt at video was not exactly action-packed, and apart from a quick tongue flick and a few eye blinks, Small Dog was remarkably unanimated.

I have to point out that she followed the script to the letter.


I only wanted to be able to switch the gizmo on, focus and zoom.

That's all.

Purely to have something brief to attempt to get onto YouTube via the new software.

So getting Small Dog to lie still for 23 seconds, with minimal movement while I recorded a tiny snippet of video, was a major undertaking.

You should have seen the outtakes........ Small Dog walking on her front paws, 10 consecutive backflips, a jaw-dropping 30 second mime version of Midsummer Night's Dream in which she played all the parts including a hilarious Bottom .....

Sadly, as the onboard memory would only support a tiny amount of relatively low quality VGA recording, all of the above ended up on the metaphorical cutting room floor.

In other news, I've been uncharacteristically productive thus far this week. Which is just as well, seeing as how we have less than 5 weeks till our next exhibition.

Back to the salt mines for me then.............

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Testing, testing, 1 - 2 - 3 ...........

My new toy arrived on Friday, so I was able to take it away and peruse the various instructions, familiarise myself with functions, buttons etc.

Naturally, these things take time to get to grips with.


Here is my very first effort.

Yes, I know I'll not be in line for any major cinematic awards any time soon, but I'd only just switched it on and this was the very first clip I took.

23 seconds to film, 4 1/2 hours to get onto You Tube, although much of that time was spent upgrading firmware (no I don't know what that is either) formatting SD cards (no, nothing to do with Small Dog) installing software, persuading my laptop that the new gizmo was not a clandestine interloper and was perfectly entitled to interface via its USB port.

Then finding my way around the 'intuitive' software *ahem* and finally uploading the clip, waiting for YouTube to render it etc.


4h 30min 23 sec well spent I think you will agree.

Suddenly a whole new world of opportunity for instructional video tutorials, product marketing and all manner of business related ideas presents itself.


Did you say something?

Displacement activity??!!

How very dare you.............!

Autumnal camping.............

Have been absent without leave for the past two days as we decided late on Thursday afternoon that if we didn't get out of the house for a few days we would probably succumb to a fit of the screaming abdabs.

Unfortunately, leaving it till the 11th hour meant that any campsite worth it's salt within an hour's drive of home was fully booked, so we were left with 'the others'.

Took a chance and booked at a little campsite 14 miles away which has recently changed hands and has had some good reviews on UKCampsite. Not a bad little site, although when we arrived it was like the Marie Celeste, and we parked up in a huge field with lovely views, completely on our own, the breeze whistling eerily through the trees.

Undaunted we set up, erected our little awning tent, put out our camping chairs, and settled down to a lovely al fresco lunch complete with a glass of something cheering. Small Dog carefully assessed her surroundings and quickly found a bit of rabbit fur (thankfully not attached to a rabbit) which kept her amused for a while, as did a party of rooks (or crows.....I can't tell them apart) who spent their time walking purposefully up to a point just 12 inches from the end of SD's tether then veering off just as she launched herself at them.

They're quite big close up.........rooks or crows or whatever they were. I kept getting flashbacks to that scene in The Birds where they're all congregating on the climbing frame in the playground. Fair play though, Small Dog's rookwatch was remarkably successful and fortunately she didn't get pecked once.

Shortly after lunch, relaxing in the warm sunshine, we were jettisoned from our chairs by a piercing train whistle, followed by the chuff-chuff-chuff of a vintage steam train, which pulled away from the nearby station and puffed its way along the perimeter of the campsite.
Small Dog went ballistic and had to be physically restrained from attempting to run off and grab it by the funnel.
We had a really lovely afternoon, walking in the woodland, strolling down to the railway crossing/station, watching the comings and goings of the steam trains, preparing a BBQ dinner and sitting out watching the most amazing sunset........
Just after dark, some fellow campers arrived and erected an enormous tent, illuminated by their car's headlights. In no time they had a roaring BBQ fire going, so we didn't feel quite so isolated.

Yesterday morning started off ok, but by mid-day it was blowing a gale. The campers down the far end of the field decided to call it a day and took their tent down before it blew away. We hummed and hawed about ours for a while longer but the wind was so strong it was pulling our heavy duty 8" storm pegs right out of the ground, so we followed suit and took it down too.
Felt sorry for the campers though, as once their tent was down, they had to sit in their car to watch the trains (the chap had binoculars and was obviously a keen train spotter) whereas we were able to snuggle down in the campervan all warm and cosy, while the wind buffeted from all directions.

High winds make Small Dog go a bit mad, so when she was taken out for walk at the height of the gale, she made it half way down the field before deciding she'd had enough and headed straight back to the van where she tapped on the door to be allowed back in. She came in like a rocket and leapt right up by the front windscreen, where she had a panoramic view of the windswept field and was able to alert us to the arrivals and departures of the trains in a wind-free spot.

Today of course, brilliant, warm sunshine again, but we were homeward bound. Still, twas good to get away for a brief break. Change being as good as a rest and all that.

Back to work tomorrow, but in the meantime I've been playing with my new toy...........

Thursday, 1 October 2009

October issue of AIM magazine...........

New month, new issue of the free online AIM magazine..........

Click on the front page and enjoy.