Thursday, 29 April 2010

Nothing to see here.... move along

Perspicacious readers of this blog may have popped along to the Tower House Dolls website to check out its new home.

If this is the case I must apologise profusely for the lack of said website in any other than a single page capacity. This is due to the fact that we are taking advantage of the opportunity of transferring it from one host to another to completely redesign it.

This make take more than just a few days.

However if anyone has an urgent need for doll kits etc, just drop me an email or leave a comment and I'll get back to you.

Normal service will be some point.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Tempus Fugit.............

I can hardly believe that yet another week has flown by since my last post.

During the past 7 days I have been camping in the bucolic countryside of East Sussex, had a birthday, several birthday parties, been indulgently over-indulged, got minor sunburn, put on 3 lbs, laughed till I thought I'd have a conniption fit, enjoyed the company of friends and generally had an ace time.

Of course, time and tide wait for no newly 'one year older' woman of a certain age and I have had to hit the ground running since my return on Monday.

Aside from the usual 'chores to do on the return from camping', ie trying to find the bottom of a seemingly bottomless email inbox, catching up with orders, placating a truculent Small Dog who is always grumpy for days post camping etc etc, there was also the rather pressing task of changing our website host, which we've been putting off for some time.

However the renewal is due on Friday so today we took the bull by the horns, put our shoulder to the wheel and bit the bullet in order to get it all sorted.

Miraculously, it has all gone much smoother than either of us could have dared hope. We are with a shiny new hosting company, with 24/7 tech support (which we have already tested and found to be exemplary), saving a small fortune in the process. We now have a wondrous 'back end' with a control panel which has more bells and whistles than you could shake a stick at.

Speaking of which, it's Hastings Jack-in-the-Green Festival on Monday Bank Holiday, when Morris Dancing troupes from around the country will converge on Hastings, along with over 30,000 bikers for the annual May Day Bike Run. Surprisingly the two events seem to co-exist alongside each other in a good-natured symbiotic relationship.

So yet another short working week in prospect.

Heigh ho.......

Wednesday, 21 April 2010


Yes, I know it's been a while since my last post but it's been one of those weeks.

Only I could choose the week of major disruption of the world's airlines to produce a flurry of orders all bound for 'forn parts' and which therefore have been stacked up in piles all over the show.

I finally cracked yesterday and took two enormous bags full of carefully packaged orders to the Post Office, where I was nearly lynched by the maddened mob in the queue behind me.

Ditto today.

However I have at last cleared the decks in advance of my birthday camping trip tomorrow.

So yay and hooroo.

The weather forecast is for sunshine all weekend so I'm even anticipating the first camping BBQ of the season. As is Small Dog who has a penchant for Tesco Finest Sausages in all the various permutations of taste and texture.

My birthday's on Friday.

St. George's Day.

Which is a bit of a bummer for a Scot, but I must forbear.

Dongle permitting there may (or may not) be photographic evidence of the frivolities in due course. However the rest of today will be given over to sorting out the van, doing the food shop and generally getting organised for a few days R&R.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Thinking aloud.........

This post is purely by way of organising my thoughts into a coherent pattern, so if you're not interested in the intricacies of craft storage then I'd advise you to just pass on by.

Move along, nothing to see here.

For the rest of you storage junkies I have been mulling over A Plan for the past few months, which I have now decided to put into action.

The recently advertised 'major downsizing' is well underway. I've cleared shelves and shelves of books all over the house and the big storage unit in the workroom is beginning to look echoingly hollow and empty. I'm determined to whittle down the contents of the workroom to the bare bones of what I will need to move forward to a new phase of the business, away from character dollmaking and into the brave new world of tiny toymaking.

Currently I have a foot in both camps as an interim arrangement, but very soon I will be casting off the last of my ties to the shores of miniature dollmaking and setting sail for the wonderland of miniature toys.

See? Allusion and everything.

Anyways, my vision is to have everything work-related fitting into a stylish storage armoire. Initially I was smitten with the Original Scrapbox, as seen here........

However, on reflection, there is much about it I don't like.

  • The price. It weighs in at an eye-watering £1000 plus £70 delivery from the UK supplier.
  • The size. It's 3 feet wide by 3 feet deep so it sticks out like a sore thumb. Yes it has masses of storage, but much of it wouldn't really be what I need. It's designed for scrapbookers, so the folding trays are quite flimsy and the sizes aren't quite right for my purposes.
  • The configuration. Opened right out it measures over 9 feet wide. If I had that much space to play with I would just shelve it and be done with it. OK so you can sort of fold the doors into a U-shape around you as you work but I don't want too feel like I'm sitting in the Black Hole of Calcutta every day.
  • The construction. It comes as a flat-pack in about a zillion pieces. This is a time lapse video of a couple putting it together. It took around 10 hours with breaks. He looks like quite a handy chap (if a little long-suffering) and he has all the right tools. I'm no stranger to flat-pack but I'd hazard a guess it should take longer than 10 hours. Not to mention the inevitable time out for bandaging cuts and flesh wounds, relationship counselling and trying to find Small Dog who will have left home with all her wordly goods tied in in a spotted handkerchief.

  • The construction #2 - Its made of chipboard. Lots and lots of bits of chipboard. Not sure what the inside sections are made from but they look quite thin and flimsy. In the promotional video on the website when the chap sits on the desk the whole thing shakes and shimmies. £1000 is an awful lot of money to pay for something which is made of compressed sawdust and glue and takes over a day to assemble yourself.

In thinking all this through, I decided to see if I could have something similar built, but better, in that it would be to my specifications.

There are some good design points to the Workbox, and it's younger sibling, the Craftbox which is more streamlined but only because it has no storage inside the doors.

I also came across THIS on t'internet, which also has lots of good design ideas to incorporate into the project.....

The ideal would be to take the best bits from all the available options and combine them into one stylish piece of furniture, with a shabby chic facade.

Inside it would be a veritable Alladin's Cave of 'stuff'. Proper-sized cubby holes for stripwood, hooks for hanging tools, shelves for my mini power tools, containers in perfect sizes to hold tiny wee dolls, fabrics, silk ribbons, viscose, paints,.... all my miniature toymaking paraphernalia within arm's reach.

If it's being built from scratch it can incorporate lighting, access holes in the back for integral electric socket strips. The more I think about it, the better it gets.

Now all I have to do is find the woodworking magician to turn my dream into reality. Feelers have already been put out on the Hastings grapevine and suggestions have been rolling in.

And out there in the blogosphere, if any of you have any ideas or suggestions to add to the melting pot do please feel free.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Ex Libris Sandra...........

In the spirit of major downsizing I have made the difficult decision to part with another bookcaseful of my books.

I started selling my collection of a quarter of a century's worth of books last year. Those were the easiest ones to sell as they were primarily purely work based on dolls and dollmaking. However the most recent candidates for finding new homes have been much harder to decide upon, as many of them have an emotional attachment for me.

Nevertheless, I've just finished listing over 70 reference books on Amazon. They cover a wide range of non-fiction subjects from costume history to old doll's houses, related books on architecture, social history, traditional crafts, several on doll/figure sculpting in polymer clay, miniature needlecrafts, miniature furniture and lots more.

Ones I bought from new are still in mint condition. Others which are long out of print, and difficult to find, which I obtained second-hand, are in at least 'good' or 'very good' condition. Several are really quite rare and are priced accordingly.

Most are hardback and consequently expensive to post so I am willing to put aside books for collection in person if that is possible thus saving YOU the expense of shipping and ME the hassle of packaging and posting them. Win-win situation!

You can view the entire current list HERE.

I have been uploading photos of front covers to Amazon, but they seem to be slow to appear in the listings, so if there is any book on which you need further information or photo, just let me know.

Hopefully they will all find good, loving and appreciative homes in due course.

I WANT ONE....!!!

No lover of tiny houses could fail to be smitten by this.......

Allegedly the smallest house in the world you can read all about it HERE...

And for your further delectation there are even some moving pictures

Absolutely gawjuss.

And I soooooo want one.

If you're up for an hour or so of vicarious displacement activity you could do worse than visit the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company website which is chock full of fascinating information and videos.

Of course I would probably need a pantechnicon trailer behind to carry all my 'stuff' but regular readers of this drivel shimmering prose will remember that PP, Small Dog and I are currently engaged in a mammoth downsizing exercise, which is proceeding in fits and starts.
When completed, and we have a newly streamlined, minimalised, pared-down lifestyle, we will then be able to proceed to the next stage of our Two Year Plan.

Moving house.


*pause for the enormity of this statement to fully hit home and for the palpitations to ease*

Yesterday, PP got the bit between her teeth, (possibly as a result of the horse racing frenzy on Saturday) and got stuck into the big wardrobe in the front bedroom. One of the problems with living in a house bigger than you need is that there is a lot of space to keep 'stuff'. We needed overflow wardrobe space in the first year of living here, so loads of clothes got relegated to the big wardrobe in the front bedroom.

And were promptly forgotten about.

Over the intervening 6 years, and zillions of calories later, only a fraction of the clothing actually fits us any longer. I subscribe to the theory that some form of Narnia-style 'back of the wardrobe' virus has infiltrated and shrunk everything by exactly 2 sizes.

Not to mention PP is bereft and distraught because her favourite old bears, who have been living in a sort of bear maisonette in the wardrobe, have got moth and are currently awaiting incarceration in the freezer.

In other news.....

Well you'll have to wait till my next post for the other news as I absolutely must crack on and get some work done.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Don't Push It........!

Went to a lovely party yesterday afternoon, hosted by two of our best friends, on the theme of 'A Day At The Races'. Everyone dressed up and fully entered into the spirit of the thing... there was a virtual Claire Balding, a couple of stable lads, a lady 'owner' and her trainer, several toffs in top hats, several fillies in stunning hats, and even one plucky person in a horse costume (on the hottest day of the year so far!)

We were all given £100 (monopoly money) and could bet on four actual races, running at Aintree yesterday, culminating in the Grand National.

We also all entered a sweepstake on the final race, each betting £1 (real money) and picking a name from the hat at random.

In between chatting, drinking, laughing, drinking, socialising, drinking, eating, laughing etc we all watched the races live on TV. 'Winnings' were paid out after the end of each race, which meant that we could place further bets if desired.

In the second race, I won a princely £15, which I added as an accumulator to my bet for the Grand National.

To be honest, I don't really like horse racing. I don't mind racing on the flat, but steeplechasing seems a bit barbaric. The Grand National course is famous for its huge jumps and some years several horses have to be euthanized after falling and breaking legs. Jockeys are also often injured but they choose to participate so I don't have much sympathy. The horses have no choice.


At the start of the big race, everyone crowded into the sitting room to watch. A room full of 30 or so women is fairly noisy at the best of times but with the excitement of the big race the noise levels were stratospheric and I couldn't hear a word of the TV commentary.

It was only in the final few furlongs that I thought I heard the name of my horse, "Don't Push It" being mentioned, but assumed that he'd fallen or something equally dire. It was only after the race was finished, and everyone was asking who had won, that someone who had obviously been paying much more attention than the rest of us said 'Don't Push It'.

I 'won' £330.

In play money.

If I'd backed it for real, with genuine coin of the realm, I'd now be £330 better off.


Slippery slope Sandra.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Tax doesn't have to be taxing........

In addition to reams of pre-election ‘bumph’ in the post this morning, there was also a buff envelope from HM Revenue and Customs, gently informing me that I have, by law, to send them a tax return for the year 6 April 2009 to 5 April 2010.

I was, of course, already aware of this. It has been niggling away in my hindbrain for the past week. The actual filing of the tax return is a piece of metaphorical cake. I do it online and it takes approximately an hour, give or take the odd break for a cup of tea and a Kit Kat, or to bang my head repeatedly on the desk.

However, in order to be in a position to do my tax return, I need to 'do' the accounts for the whole of the past year.

Sounds simple doesn't it?

But it is at this point that I descend into a hopeless, helpless spiral of despair......

  • In order to 'do' the accounts I need to sort out my paperwork
  • In order to sort out my paperwork I need to get to the big plastic box containing the aforementioned paperwork.
  • In order to get to big plastic box I need to shift half a ton of 'stuff' which is blocking the desk cubby hole (wherein lies the big plastic box) in the upstairs bedroom.
  • In order to shift the 'stuff' I need to clear enough space in one of the other bedrooms to put the displaced 'stuff in'.

So far, so frustrating. And this is just stage one. In order to get to the big plastic box I have to create a level of chaos upstairs akin to pandemonium and bedlam all rolled into one.

Having located, and extricated the big plastic box, and lugging it downstairs hopefully without mishap, I then come up against the next law of diminishing return.

  • In order to sort out the paperwork, I need lots of room on the dining room table to lay out the paperwork in piles. One pile for April 2009, another for May 2009 and so on, all the way to March 2010.
Am I going too fast for you?

  • In order to lay the paperwork out in piles, I need to remove all the boards full of greenware body parts awaiting firing.
  • In order to remove the boards, I need to load the kiln.
  • In order to load the kiln I need to move the table back, pull out a large section of heat-resistant board, manoeuvre the kiln into position, locate the kiln props and shelves and prepare the kiln for loading.

Time for a cup of tea and a Kit Kat. I'm exhausted already just THINKING about it.

Having loaded the kiln and cleared the dining table of the greenware boards, it's time for the descent into the next level of hell.......

  • In order to achieve 12 neat piles of paperwork, relating to each of the constituent 12 months of the year for the business, PLUS the ancillary piles related to my personal finances, I have to sort though the big plastic box.
  • Despite the fact that each tax year's accounts are kept in separate files, my admittedly maverick approach to filing means that I have to search around in carrier bags, dog-eared envelopes and wads of elastic-banded receipts etc to locate the most recent tax year's paperwork.

Eventually, I will end up with, say, 20 piles of paperwork (business and personal) plus a separate, larger pile, which we will call, for the sake of simplicity, MISCELLANEOUS.

This pile is a whole level of hell in itself and though it is tempting to surreptitiously feed it into the shredder this would be A Bad Thing.


Each piece of paper in the MISCELLANEOUS pile must be scrutinised and a decision must be made upon its destination pile.

  • In order to allocate all the pieces of paper in the MISCELLANEOUS pile, I must first finish the ironing. (NB - while this is not, strictly speaking, essential, I find that doing something even more distasteful than the job in hand, does help put things in perspective)
  • In order to finish the ironing I must start the ironing.
  • In order to start the ironing I have to find the ironing board.
  • The ironing board is in the front spare bedroom behind the big pile of 'stuff' moved from the the front of the desk in the back spare bedroom in order to get to the big plastic box containing the paperwork.
And so it goes. The spiral of despair.

Piles of paperwork awaiting attention can remain on the dining table for......ohhh, ages. Anything up to a month. Or more.

Especially if I have a lot of ironing to do.

As you can see these things are often not as simple as they first appear and I do not feel that HM Revenue & Customs quite understands this.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Plans are afoot............

It cannot have escaped the more perspicacious readers of this blog that 2010 has been officially designated Year of New Stuff Happening.

OK, so it might need a snappier title but give me a break, it's only just April.

As well as the publishing project, which is progressing nicely, we have decided to totally redesign the Tower House Dolls website in preparation for the autumn launch of both The Book and a whole new range of miniature goodies.

The website was originally designed by a very good friend (you know who you are!) and has developed organically and sometimes haphazardly over the past 10 years. If you fancy a stroll down memory lane you can revisit some of its earliest incarnations HERE.

However, a bit like its owners, it's showing it age and could do with a radical makeover. So several hours today have been allocated to brainstorming the way forward and trying to come up with workable, feasible ideas which best represent the new image we want to present.

This was also the cue for some essential displacement activity research into websites we like, in terms of overall design, colour, layout, navigation, features etc etc.....

Naturally, with zillions of sites to choose from, we could only scratch the surface, but after an hour we had a list of attributes from which to choose, and had more or less settled on a 'look' that we like, courtesy of an epiphany stunning in its simplicity and originality.

Of course the 'vision' now has to be realised so PP will have her work cut out to make the dream a reality.

I have every confidence that by the end of this summer we will have The Book published and a lovely new website in situ.

This depends on both of us buckling down and getting on with things, fine tuning our time management and banishing the displacement goblins.

Having showcased my 'Writer At Work' ethos yesterday, I thought the following might be helpful for the website side of things.......

I could be setting a trend.........


Absolutely incredible!

For the second day running I've hardly left the workroom and have been multitasking like a good 'un.

My work ethic is positively blooming, thanks in no small part to the fact that the sun is shining fit to bust and it's possible to venture outside without first piling on umpteen layers of clothing.

After a late start, Spring has most definitely sprung and is literally bursting out all over the place, which is A Good Thing.

Prodigal Son has been hard at work in the garden, repainting our little seasidey, beach hut style garden shed, which has served to show up the rather dilapidated, tatty and faded striped curtains.

Which is NOT a good thing. I may be forced to make a new pair.

However, the sun has been streaming into the workroom and I have been alternating between a marathon casting session begun last week, and preparation for some new little toy dolls and kits. All of which has been strangely satisfying.

If I can only maintain this level of concentration and dogged determination I shall power though all my outstanding tasks in no time.


Speaking of dogged determination, Small Dog has been acting in a supervisory capacity on the shed-painting project. This mostly entails her lying flat out in a patch of warm sunshine, occasionally lifting her head if she anticipates any potential squirrel incursions into her 'terriertory'. On her frequent forays back into the house to see if anything interesting has miraculously materialised in her food bowl, I have expected to see her decorated with the odd splatter of blue shed paint, but thus far she is remarkably unsullied.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Ticking along nicely..........

Mindful of the 'helpful' countdown timer on my desktop, and my propensity for time wasting displacement activity on an industrial scale, I conscientiously studied my reams of 'to do' lists this morning then promptly decided against doing any of the most urgent stuff.

Instead, as it was my first day back at work today after almost a week off, I plunged straight in at the deep end with some casting, which normally has a calming effect.

However today, FOR NO GOOD REASON, I decided to revisit a set of molds from aeons ago which have only ever been cast once, and were deemed Much Too Good to relegate to my mold sale last summer.

Almost as soon as I started casting, it all came flooding back to me.

The reason WHY they'd been gathering dust in the back of the cupboard for upwards of 15 years.

The two full pages of instructions and diagrams on the myriad greenware surgical procedures should have provided a timely clue. But of course once I'd started I just had to finish.

I'm not convinced that the resulting doll 10-piece articulated child will be successful.

In addition to a hunchback's humph it will almost definitely have one leg shorter than the other and the hole for the neck flange looks much too big so its neck will disappear down the hole so that the head goes in up to the ears. I may have to resort to glueing the whole thing together which would rather render the whole 'articulation' thing null and void.

Anyways, until all the bits are soft fired, soft-cleaned and bisque fired I won't know just how much of a pig's ear I've made of it.

Undaunted, I then continued with a goodly session of tiny toy doll casting, but not before I had accidentally dropped a mold onto the centre of a board of dried greenware pieces cast last week, and which inevitably, in their fragile, unfired, chalky state, shattered into a gazillion pieces.

I was a tad annoyed.


This afternoon, I again disdained my 'to do' list (although straight after lunch I did feel guilty enough to at least package the most urgent orders which came in over the holiday weekend then race them to the Post Office) and instead got stuck into preparing a batch of little toy dolls to dress in a new costume style, which will involve a certain amount of trial and error during the design process.

Which meant that instead of cracking straight on with the fiddly complicated bits I had to clear a space on my workdesk to pleat some length of silk ribbons.


Yes, I know.

I am my own worst enemy.

However, I do at least feel that I have had a busy, if not entirely fruitful and productive day. I'm going to re-assess my 'to do' lists now in preparation for tomorrow's work schedule.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Back from the wilderness...........

I am now back home, having spent a very relaxing 5 days camping over the Easter weekend.

Not only were the dire warnings of rain, more rain, storms, snow and torrential downpours wildly wide of the meteorological mark, we were even able to sit outside in relatively warm sunshine at several points.

Small Dog had a whale of a time on her birthday. She received not one, not two, but THREE squeaky toys, had a special birthday dinner, several walks, one fight and declared the day to have been her best birthday ever. She is now completely worn out and will spend the rest of today catching up on her sleeps.

The campsite was lovely and quiet, due in large part to the wardens having to cancel 94 bookings in the two days leading up to the weekend because of the bad weather. Quite how we managed to sneak in under the radar we're not quite sure, but it meant that we were spared the expected hundred or so children racing around the site, hyped up on Easter chocolate and generally making a nuisance of themselves. There were a few children but they were mostly very well behaved and outnumbered by adults and dogs.

So for the balance of today, we are engaged in catching up with emails, unpacking the campervan and trying to get back to what passes for normal. I've even managed to tinker about in the workroom briefly, doing some desultory tidying and assessing what to make a start on tomorrow when it's back to work in earnest.

The sun is shining, it will be light until gone 7pm and spring, although very late, is finally bursting out all over so I am feeling rather optimistic and looking forward to indulging in some creative endeavours this week.

In the meantime, here are a few snaps of the Birthday Dog enjoying herself......